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Myth
2011-11-21, 03:34 PM
I have to thank the nameless GITP poster who suggested i read Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With a Thousand Faces". The book is very well written and J. C. is a scholar. Plus the level of English used is remarkable.

I can suggest to anyone into mythology, to read (apart from the classics you'd all know anyway) P. B. Ellis's "The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends". You'll see the archetypal stories there and a lot of names borrowed by popular fantasy authors (Seanchan Torpein, Birgitte, Nyneave... need I go on? :smallwink:)

I'd also suggest "The Children of Hurin" by J. R. R. Tolkien himself, an often neglected book as opposed to the "Bible of fantasy" that is the LOTR. It's a story written in the format of Celtic/Scandinavian/Northern European myth and it's quite serious and tragic. It reminds me somewhat of the legend of Tristan and Isolde.

Naturally "The Wheel of Time", "A Song of Ice and Fire", "The Chronicles of Amber" have to be read for sure!

There is also a book for all aspiring authors I can recommend - "How to Write Science Ficiton & Fantasy" by Orson Scott Card. It's a bit dated, having been written in the early 90s, but the author gives precious insider information into the world of manuscripts, publishing, editors, agents and so on, and teaches an author to distinguish between the main types of story and stick with it (something not everyone does well)

There's also a nice book called "The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference" which is quite nice and has some good historical stuff as well as mythological.

There are some great sites that talk about medieval life, castles, warfare and heraldry, I can dig up the link (though anyone with moderate google-fu can do so himself).

What would you guys recommend in this field? Give me gems, for I am greedy :smallbiggrin:

Feytalist
2011-11-22, 03:32 AM
It might be important to note that the Children of Hurin was never finished by Tolkien himself. I don't think he ever intended it to be published, actually. It was rearranged and completed by Christopher Tolkien. It's still a good read.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces is a great essay. It's almost a must-read for anyone remotely interested in fantasy literature.

I was once in possession of a great compendium of Norse mythology. I've forgotten the name or even who compiled it, since it sadly burned down (along with everything else I used to own, but that's another story, heh). But for anyone interested in Norse literature, it's a great book. There's also the Snorri Edda and the Poetic Edda for further Norse mythologies. Some translations aren't great, but some are quite good.

For further reading of mythology and legends, epics such as Beowulf or Gilgamesh are also great.

Myth
2011-11-22, 06:31 AM
I've read parts of the Poetic Edda. It's online btw. That compendium sounds awesome. Can you remember any details from it? It should be on Amazon.

The_Snark
2011-11-22, 06:33 AM
If you like epics and sagas and Norse culture, I highly recommend Njal's Saga (also called the Story of Burnt Njal). It's not mythology—you shouldn't expect to see gods and dragons walking around—but I found the blend of traditional heroism and down-to-earth reality rather neat. And it's a fascinating (albeit slightly embellished) look at 10th-century Iceland.

Also available online; hooray for public domain!

Serpentine
2011-11-22, 08:42 AM
The Enchanted World series. It's a Time Life series of books, and it's amazing. They're worth reading for the bibliographies alone.

Myth
2011-11-22, 10:03 AM
The Enchanted World series. It's a Time Life series of books, and it's amazing. They're worth reading for the bibliographies alone.

What topics do they cover?

Traab
2011-11-22, 10:39 AM
I disliked Hurin, it just bored the crap out of me. I got halfway through it in one day and realized I couldnt remember who anyone was. I wish I could help more with mythology titles, but my mythology phase was a good 20 years ago, so I cant remember any of the titles. But I think offhand they were mostly generic collections of various mythologies, celtic, greek, roman, japanese, chinese, norse, etc etc etc. Just a big book of various stories from the creation of the world, to its eventual destruction and everything that happens in between.

Douglas
2011-11-22, 11:30 AM
This is more in the vein of books that are written well than books about how to write well, but Brandon Sanderson is doing a spectacular job of taking up Robert Jordan's mantle in epic fantasy. In addition to finishing the Wheel of Time after RJ's death, his own books are some superb epics. The Mistborn trilogy is an interesting look at a post-apocalyptic (the Chosen One failed - 1000 years ago) world and twisted prophecies. The Way of Kings is the beginning of Sanderson's own Wheel of Time-like epic, planned at 10 books, and he's doing some interesting things with it. In general, in all of his books he tends to play with standard conventions and tropes, turning them upside down or inside out or doing something entirely different, ending up with unusual plot variations and executing them well.

Serpentine
2011-11-23, 12:00 AM
What topics do they cover?The books:
Wizards and Witches
Dragons
Fairies and Elves
Ghosts
Legends of Valor
Night Creatures
Water Spirits
Magical Beasts
Dwarfs
Spells and Bindings
Giants and Ogres
Seekers and Saviours
Fabled Lands
Book of Christmas
Fall of Camelot
Magical Justice
Lore of Love
Tales of Terror
Book of Beginnings
The Secret Arts
Gods and Goddesses

Pick one, and I'll read you the contents.
What I most like about the series is it's not all Eurocentric. Sure, a lot of it's European, but there's also African, Asian, Middle Eastern, American, Polynesian and even Australian aboriginal (!) mythologies covered.
Linky. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_World_Series)

Knaight
2011-11-23, 12:06 AM
Le Morte d'Arthur
Romance of the Three Kingdoms

Those are both big, important classics.

WalkingTarget
2011-11-23, 12:34 AM
It might be important to note that the Children of Hurin was never finished by Tolkien himself. I don't think he ever intended it to be published, actually. It was rearranged and completed by Christopher Tolkien. It's still a good read.

If we can take Christopher at his word, all but a handful of the words are his father's (with a small number of changes - two I think is the number given) made to mesh the draft versions available. The story is one of the "big three" of the Elder Days (the others being the stories of Beren and Luthien and that of Tuor, Idril, and the Fall of Gondolin).

I don't think it's so much that JRRT didn't intend to publish as he just never got it finished. He had wanted, quite badly actually, to get the Silmarillion published with (or maybe even prior to - I haven't read those letters in a while) LOTR. When his publisher passed on the "older" stories in favor of the sequel he put his effort on that instead. The Children of Hurin is told in abbreviated form in the Silmarillion after all, it's just the only one of the stories that was close enough to complete in its long form to be publishable. It's unfortunate, really. I really liked the little bit of Tuor's story that's available in the Unfinished Tales.

Just my reading of things, of course.

Myth
2011-11-23, 07:28 AM
Some great suggestions here guys, keep 'em coming. Regarding Arthurian legend, that was my next thing to order off of Amazon (after or alongside with the Silmarillion and the LOTR books as I want them in English). I was googling around to see what would be a good take of the Arthurian legend, I got a told from a woman's perspective (I'd rather take the classic, unspoiled by feminism however), then a children's book, but I want something that covers the Arthurian legend seriously. Any suggestions?

The fall of Nargothrond was very well described in The Children of Hurin. In fact, there are elements in this book that really make one think about the grand scheme of things. Also, all these two-bit "life coaches" talking about the secret and the laws of attraction etc. are not discovering the wheel. It seems JRRT already knew these rules and used them for his work of speculative fiction. The scariest thing about Morgoth and the biggest power that Meilian posses are their immense will as Valar/Mayar spirits. It is their will that changes the world.

Knaight
2011-11-23, 07:59 AM
Some great suggestions here guys, keep 'em coming. Regarding Arthurian legend, that was my next thing to order off of Amazon (after or alongside with the Silmarillion and the LOTR books as I want them in English). I was googling around to see what would be a good take of the Arthurian legend, I got a told from a woman's perspective (I'd rather take the classic, unspoiled by feminism however), then a children's book, but I want something that covers the Arthurian legend seriously. Any suggestions?
I recommended Le Morte d'Arthur for a reason. It is written in early modern English, and is the closest you can get to a definitive version of the myth. However, it is one of a few important ones:

Le Morte d'Arthur
The Once and Future King
Idylls of the King
Gawaine and the Green Knight

Once you've taken a look at those, do look at the feminist reinterpretations. Some of them are quite interesting:

Idylls of the Queen
The Mists of Avalon

WalkingTarget
2011-11-23, 12:26 PM
The fall of Nargothrond was very well described in The Children of Hurin. In fact, there are elements in this book that really make one think about the grand scheme of things. Also, all these two-bit "life coaches" talking about the secret and the laws of attraction etc. are not discovering the wheel. It seems JRRT already knew these rules and used them for his work of speculative fiction. The scariest thing about Morgoth and the biggest power that Meilian posses are their immense will as Valar/Mayar spirits. It is their will that changes the world.

Tolkien's writing is full of philosophy if you want to look for it. It's that whole "applicability" thing that he talks about in his introduction to LOTR - he's not setting out to make you think about a particular real-life event (i.e. the War of the Ring is not an allegory for either of the World Wars), but you can take what he's written about and it makes you think about real events.

That's what makes myths and legends so damned interesting for me - they're stories retold, not because they're important to know for "historical" reasons, but because they tell us who we are. Modern fiction that manages the same trick is rare in my experience (although I think it's kind of what "literary" fiction is trying to evoke, if I'm understanding it right).

H Birchgrove
2011-11-23, 07:39 PM
I want to say Conan series by Robert E. Howard, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber and Elric of Melniboné series by Michael Moorcock.... Though I have only read the comic book versions.

But if the comics were so awesome, then surely the books must be awesome as well? :wink: If anything, all three have been just as important to modern fantasy as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They also inspired Dungeons and Dragons. :biggrin:

Going outside "ordinary" fantasy, I feel I must put a good word out for Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB), especially his Tarzan and John Carter of Mars series. Thrilling, entertaining novels, if you can get passed the political incorrectness. Truly modern myths for the early 20th Century.

Inspired by classic SF writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and pulp writers like ERB and Lester Dent, Philip José Farmer (PJF) created a mythology centering around a radioactive meteorite that fell in Wold Newton, England, that passed on powers and abilities over generations, including Tarzan, Doc Savage, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Nemo, Fu Manchu etc. Try Tarzan Alive: A Definitive Biography of Lord Greystoke, "Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life", A Barnstormer in Oz, "The Other Log of Phileas Fogg" and The Wind Whales of Ishmael, if you can find them.

PJF did write much more than the Wold Newton stories, for example his early short story, later expanded to a novel, The Lovers, about love that transcends between races (in this case human and alien). Controversial in the 1950's, reading it today I find it to be bitter-sweet yet beautiful.* His Riverworld and World of Tiers series are also very interesting and full of mythology.

*I think I'll write more about his sex-themed novels in the LGBTA thread. :biggrin:

Traab
2011-11-23, 09:29 PM
I recommended Le Morte d'Arthur for a reason. It is written in early modern English, and is the closest you can get to a definitive version of the myth. However, it is one of a few important ones:

Le Morte d'Arthur
The Once and Future King
Idylls of the King
Gawaine and the Green Knight

Once you've taken a look at those, do look at the feminist reinterpretations. Some of them are quite interesting:

Idylls of the Queen
The Mists of Avalon

The mists of avalon, wasnt that written by the same author who wrote the fall of troy from the point of view of the seer kassandra? Yep, just looked it up. The Firebrand. Its been a LONG time since I read that but I vaguely recall enjoying it. The once and future king was awesome.

Serpentine
2011-11-24, 12:11 AM
I was googling around to see what would be a good take of the Arthurian legend, I got a told from a woman's perspective (I'd rather take the classic, unspoiled by feminism however), then a children's book, but I want something that covers the Arthurian legend seriously. Any suggestions?The Fall of Camelot, from the Enchanted World series I mentioned before, covered a whole lot of the Arthurian legend.