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Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs Paperback – May 23 2002
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From Library Journal
Originally published in two volumes (LJ 9/15/00), this rich compendium has been streamlined to create the first one-volume companion to medieval folklore. Gathered here is a significant body of information currently available only in widely scattered sources. The 261 alphabetically arranged entries span a broad spectrum of topics, embracing major themes in folk culture and the legends and sagas of classic European literature both oral and written dating from 500 to 1500 C.E. (Only very modest attention is paid to materials from Africa, East Asia, and South Asia.) Each essay first defines the topic and then carefully addresses context, historical development, uses, motifs, and notable research. Major entries cover death, dance, music, Christmas, lesbians, funeral rituals, taverns, spirits, food, and animals in literatures from Baltic to Welsh to Jewish. Penned by 114 academic scholars, both European and American, the narratives are often ponderous and leaden, yet it must be acknowledged that within academic limits the writing is well crafted, offering insights and dimension found nowhere else. While not exhaustive, this is an extensive and fully researched work that scholars will find valuable. Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Publisher
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Medieval Folklore" gives short articles about all sorts of topics, from specific folkloric characters (such as Prester John, the Wandering Jew, the Seven Sleepers), traditions (like Jewish, Italian, and Irish medieval folklore), motifs, works ("The Decameron," "The Seven Wise Masters"), authors (Dante Alighieri, Geoffery Chaucer), and more.
Although formatted as an encyclopedia, the writing stays lively thanks to high quality editing. Almost every page will yield an article that is interesting to the layman and the expert.
I'd recommend this book to anyone with a potential interest in medieval life, history, or literature. It would be a welcomed addition to their library.
Originally published on March 17th, 2003.
Go to BookBanter ([...] for over five hundred reviews and over forty exclusive author interviews, and more.
If you have an interest in folklore, this book is a must have. It's a handy reference for use in writing, and it's also fun to thumb through and read random entries.
What it is NOT, also, is a pretty coffee table book. Unlike many of the fairy encyclopedias out there, this one is not illustrated. It's densely packed with information.
As someone who reads this kind of stuff often, I can say I'm pleasantly surprised with the level of detail and apparent accuracy. For sake of comparison, I also purchased the Oxford Dictionary of Folklore, and was disappointed that many entries were stunted and it focused on Victorian to modern examples without going deeply into earlier medieval roots. This one, on the other hand, gives a breadth of information on topics the Oxford one only touches on.
For another comparison, there is an earlier work I recently referenced called Faiths and Folklore of the British Isles by Hazlitt. Hazlitt gave a piece of information that followed the now out-dated habit of assuming Celtic and other Northern European deities were simply versions of Greco-Roman gods, saying that farm laborers worshiped "Ceres" in the fields. When I looked up the same topic in Medieval Folklore, it said "previous folklorists often erroneously referred to the 'Corn Spirit' as 'Ceres.'" And it went on to explain why that is incorrect. I found that kind of funny :-)
One more thing worth mentioning. A lot of these other "bad" dictionary/encyclopedias on myth are written by one person. As mentioned, often the individual is really unqualified to cover the topic at a scholarly level. Even when the individual does have academic qualifications, the work is often influenced by the person's personal preferences and biases. Plus even someone with a PhD in Medieval history usually has a specialty, ergo they aren't experts on ALL aspects of the subject they're writing on.
That's what makes this book different. There are three editors and a host of contributors who are all specialists in their own field. I.e. entries on English folklore and written by an expert in English folklore, and so on. They have contributors who specialize in many disciplines from Arab-Islamic, Jewish, Scandinavian, Baltic, to name just a few. So you're getting info from real experts on many different aspects and subdivisions of folklore - not just one guy.
I can't recommend this book enough for writers, students, academics, and lovers of folklore.
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