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Celtic Myths and Legends (Myths and Legends Series)
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Top Customer Reviews
However i didn't give it 5 stars for some political reasons:
1) The author tries every once in a while to "prove" the arian lineage of the celts (it seems that his favorite image of the celts is one of tall, blonde people, when everybody knows that celts were in a rather wide range of height, hair and skin colors).
2) The author blames the druids for the decline in celtic civilization (he considers them more an anchor than the engine behind technological and geopolitical advancements).
3) His vision of the world is a Western vision, not a celtic vision. He speaks about the "menacing and horrifying world of supernatural and Nature" (i'm not sure if that's the correct phrase since i have the spanish translation), something that's opposed to the point of view within the legends.
However, if you can read the book "with a grain of salt", you'll find a treasure of knowledge, well balanced by the independent view of a great researcher.
The book starts with a brief overview of the history of the Celts, where they came from, a bit about their religion, where they went, and where they are today (most of which I’ve heard is quite outdated compared with modern thinking). This section was quite interesting, as I wasn’t actually aware of the beginnings so far away, although I did know that there were Celtic peoples scattered about Europe who eventually were pushed out and migrated to the UK.
Then, however, we come to our largest, most tedious section – the myths themselves. Probably around sixty percent of the entire book revolves around Irish tales. Then, afterwards, there’s a small section of Welsh tales. Also, despite what the back-cover blurb says, there is very little to be had on Arthurian tales, as the majority of these, according to the book (although something which I’ve been partially aware of through other books), are actually imported from France. I was already aware that we had Chrétien de Troyes (called Crestien de Troyes in this book) to blame for such characters as Lancelot, who didn’t actually appear in the original tales (indeed, Mallory’s work includes much of the French translations, which are said to be a mix of the tales imported from Welsh immigrants to Brittany and French tales), but I didn’t realise how few characters that we’ve come to know through popular works actually do appear in the surviving Welsh tales. We have Owain and Peredur (Percival), even Gwenhwyvar (Guinevere) and Myrddin (Merlin), but all familiarity pretty much stops there. Of course, the Grail Quest was influenced by the spread of Christianity, even if some of the original mysticism survives in the tale, but is also unfortunately another de Troyes creation (it is said that the original tale, however, was possibly one involving a quest for a stone). And another surprise in there, for me, was that Arthur himself may be based upon a deity called Artaius? Yet some of the Welsh tales weren’t actually told, for being near identical to the Irish tales. There were no Scottish tales to be had (Scots and Irish Gaelic were once the same language, therefore the tales are pretty much the same) and none from elsewhere within the British Isles. This last part, for me, was perhaps my biggest disappointment after the pages upon pages of commentary on the Irish tales. The Irish tales are interesting, and perhaps the strongest hint of the mythology during the pre-Christian days of the Isles (even with the changes made in them during the transition and post-Christian period – Saint Patrick even makes an appearance), but I was perhaps looking for something more that I could link into on a personal level, like the tales of Bran the Blessed, mythology that still survives in the ravens at the Tower of London. I want to be able to feel the history as I walk through the lands once walked by the ancients. Ireland is interesting in being still captured by that mythology, most particularly as perceived from outsiders, yet it is not my land.
But, however, the biggest trouble was how all these tales were written. They were dry, brief, perhaps direct translations, interspersed with various comments on how the tales relate to various things. We do not simply have a list of the tales here (although I guess there are other sources for the tales themselves in full); we have more a commentary on the tales and their meaning. It should be no surprise, then, that it took me six months to finish this book! I guess that, on a reference level, there is plenty of interesting information contained within, whether for serious study or just out of curiosity (like with myself). I have heard that it’s not a bad book to be had on the shelf for either. Yet there are more modern books on the subject that could perhaps cover everything much better. Considering that I was gifted this book, more than ten years ago now, and had planned to keep it just for reference using the index rather than giving it a thorough read, a part of me thinks that maybe I should have done just that. Yet I have learnt a few things through the full read through, so perhaps I shouldn’t regret the effort required to get through it after all.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is an excellent primer in Celtic mythology, and I'd recommend it to anyone...Read more
for Celtic history is seems dated from an archaeological point of view.Read more