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Early Irish Myths and Sagas (Penguin Classics) Reprint Edition

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140443974
ISBN-10: 0140443975
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Early Irish Myths and Sagas (Penguin Classics) + The Tain: Translated from the Irish Epic Tain Bo Cuailnge + Tales of the Elders of Ireland (Oxford World's Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)

About the Author

Jeffrey Gantz received a doctorial degree in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he works as a newspaper editor and journalist. He has also translated The Mabinogion for Penguin Classics. Jeffrey Gantz received a doctorial degree in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he works as a newspaper editor and journalist. He has also translated The Mabinogion for Penguin Classics.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (March 25, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443974
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Lisa on March 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
As a die-hard Celtophile, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Gantz's translations capture the cadences of the original tales so that the reader can get a feel for how they must have sounded to their original audiences. The selected tales also give insight into the Celtic culture, showing clearly their value of warcraft and battle while also portraying their acute sensitivity to beauty.
After having assigned this book to college-level World Lit students, however, I have to say that the translations aren't as accessible to the casual reader. Many of my students found the tales confusing and--unfortunately--tedious. With that in mind, newcomers to Irish/Celtic myth and folklore may wish to begin their exploration with a more modernized text before delving into this one.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Siobhan Olaoghaire Sannes on December 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Most mythology collections do not contain word for word translations of the myths, instead choosing to let the author retell them. Gantz' book, however, is a direct translation (making changes only where necessary) and many readers might be put off by the form in which these tales have come down to us. Accustomed to more linear storytelling, some readers might have difficulty following. However, for the serious scholar, this book is very important as it gives the student a chance to see what was actually written in the Book of the Dun Cow, etc., references we surely know by name from other mythology introductions. If you do pick up this book, be prepared to concentrate perhaps more than you are used to and you will be well rewarded.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Francine Nicholson on March 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
When people new to ancient Irish tales ask for recommendations, I usually suggest Thomas Kinsella's translation of the Ta/in, the central saga of the Ulster cycle, a collection of medieval tales about the ancient heroes of northeastern Ireland. I also recommend this inexpensive, well-done collection of tales, most of which also concern the characters found in the Ta/in. Gantz's translations are reliable and readable. His opening commentary, though short, is solid. He also includes several tales--notably "The Dream of Oengus" and the "Cattle Raid of Froech"--not available elsewhere. For further commentary, add _Celtic Heritage_ by Alwyn and Brinley Rees to your shopping cart.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Early Irish Myths and Sagas is a collection of stories revolving around a time in Ireland's history known as the Ulster Cycle. The Ulster Cycle produced many grand adventures involving heroes, giants, contests, courting and great battles. The narrations follow the lives of the Ancient Celts, who were a warrior class society, similar to that of the one in Beowulf. The collection of myths found in Early Irish Myths and Sagas, hold themes that are commonly found in other mythological texts from other cultures. Many parallels can be drawn between a character named Cu Chulaind (whom appears in many of the stories) and Hercules of the Greek tradition. The stories found in this collection are the kind that set the guidelines for modern fantasy and fiction writers today. This book is a must for anyone interested in books about: mythology, warrior based society, ancient Celts(ancestors to the Scottish Highlanders), or interesting battle tactics.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Thomas F. Ogara on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This anthology probably provides enough to satisfy the general reader regarding early Irish literature. The translations are well selected. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more commentary, but in general this book goes about as far as one can go in describing Old Irish literature without entering into the field of the specialist.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher R. Travers on January 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book contains a good selection of stories, focusing on the Ulster Cycle (the cycle centering on the exploits of Cu Chulainn), though the first story is from the Mythological Cycle. Great care was given to the selection of stories, and the translations are very vivid. Very often times, the general devices are captured, as is shown in the tale of the Destruction of Da Derga's Hostal (question, answer beginning with "that is not hard" or occasionally "that is hard"). Many renditions do not include this sort of narrative device, and its inclusion here is appreciated.

Commentary is minimal which is appropriate for a work like this.

The book contains a great deal of source material for mythological studies generally. While it certainly should not be the only book on the subject, it should be in every serious student's library.

Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Erynn Laurie on November 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
There are a lot of books out there that contain sections and retellings of early Irish myths. Most of them are more expensive and have far less material in them. This is a very good collection at an excellent price and is a great place to start for folks who are newly interested in the field. Gantz is a well-respected scholar and the pieces and translations chosen are very good for giving you a feel of the variety of material out there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Tyrakowski on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The flood of mythically inspired movies in the last few years highlights the fact that the best new stories are the old ones. And like most movies, their books are better. Gantz provides a useful preamble to each section, which is vital for newcomers. We've literally lost our imaginations and need a tutor to remind us that the people we're reading about could be gods, too. The description of Etain (page 62?) is breathtaking. Caution: The guide to pronunciation is woefully inadequate and detracts from an otherwise pleasant diversion. On to Yeats!
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