Traditional Epics: A Literary Companion

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, 1994 - Fiction - 732 pages
In the French chant-fable Aucassin et Nicolette originally performed by an early thirteenth-century minstrel of northeastern France, two lovers are kept apart. Yet even while enduring extreme hardships, their romantic bond cannot be broken, and they eventually reunite. And, in the eleventh-century Tibetan epic saga of Gesar, the mischievous and magical king of Ling and his wife, the beautiful Brougmo, embark on a long life of adventures challenging wicked lords, evil sorcerers, and ghostly monsters, and bringing peace, harmony, and enlightenment to Gesar's kingdom. These two epics, though quite different from each other, have one thing in common--with every retelling and subtle alteration, each advances the oral and literary traditions of generations past. Found in almost every culture, the epic is one of the world's most wide-spread and enduring literary forms. For centuries people have sung, chanted, and dramatized the world's epics, weaving together the generations in a colorful tapestry of history, belief, religion, and tradition.
In Traditional Epics: A Literary Companion, Guida Jackson brings together the world's major traditional epics and the characters who bring them to life, offering unique insight into the cultures from which they were born. Beautifully illustrated and arranged in an easy-to-use A-Z format, with more than 1,400 entries, this sweeping literary tour places all the legendary heros and heroines, courageous deeds, and phenonmenal myths in one rich and informative volume. Here are famous epics such as the Arthurian tales of the legendary ruler and his court, and the great quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon that sparked the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad. Also included are lesser-known epics, such as the the touching Chinese ballad The Orphan, about a young boy who wants to write a letter to his deceased parents "under the earth."
Focusing on epics rooted in oral tradition, from earliest Sumerian to present day African, this comprehensive work also includes a number of literary epics that incorporate traditional material. Each entry consists of the epic title, the original author, events, characters, gods, symbols, themes, terms, and cross-references to direct readers to related topics. Lengthier essays, examining the epics themselves, include summaries, descriptions of the culture at the time of the epic's inception, and an analysis of how the epic follows or breaks away from the basic hero tale. In addition, Jackson provides a thought-provoking introduction analyzing the function and content of the epic from a contemporary perspective, and appendices listing the epics by region, chronology, and sub-genre.
With epics from remote regions ranging from Java to Finland, from Mongolia to Turkestan, gathered along with more famous epics such as the Mah=abh=arata and the Odessey, this illuminating work will delight, surprise, and inform.

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Traditional Epics
Epics Listed by Geographical Region
Epics Listed by Subgenre

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About the author (1994)

About the Author:
Guida M. Jackson is managing editor of Touchstone Literary Journal and the author of the award-winning, Women Who Ruled and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Literary Epics. She lives in The Woodlands, Texas.

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