Early English Romances in Verse
Early English Romances in Verse: Romances of Friendship
Edith Rickert (Translator)
Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1967

Too bad the title is misleading; the original is in verse, but this book is a prose translation. Additionally, this book is very poorly annotated, as the notes for each of these stories refers to the original sources by manuscript name, but give no dates. I confess, I don't know every early English manuscript, and sometimes scholarship more than thirty years old can be a little iffy on the dating, so I can't promise that all of these stories are period, but a little research could establish it for sure. Caveats aside, here are the contents. My comments as to date are pulled from the book's footnotes.

Amis and Amiloun (from the Auchinleck MS, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; first half 14th century)
Sir Amadas (also from the Auchinleck MS, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; first half 14th century)
Athelston ("first printed by Zupitza, from the unique MS in Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge")
The Tale of Gamelyn (found in ten Chaucer MS, supposedly considered for inclusion in Canterbury Tales but rejected)
Roswall and Lillian (no existing MS; first printed edition 1663, probably originally 16th century, maybe even 15th)
The Story of Gray-Steel (earliest mention of the poem 1497, when King James IV paid nine shillings to two fiddlers who sang it for him; popular printed versions available as early as 1577, and tunes by that name exist in lute books as early as 1627)

Early English Romances in Verse: Romances of Love
Edith Rickert (Translator)
Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1966

This book suffers from the same problems as the above: prose not verse, dubious dating, and bad notes. Still, it contains some hard-to-find stories. Here's a list:
Floris and Blancheflour - I earlier posted a better, verse translation of this one. (from the Auchinleck MS, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; first half 14th century)
Sir Orpheo (from the Auchinleck MS, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; first half 14th century)
Lay of the Ash (from the Auchinleck MS, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; first half 14th century)
Laufnal Miles (from the MS Cotton Caligula A ii., dating between 1446 and 1460)
The Earl of Toulouse (four MSS., two from the fifteenth and two from the early sixteenth century)
Sir Degrevant (from the Thornton MS, middle fifteenth century)
The Knight of Courtesy and the Fair Lady of Faguell (no MS known, but printed in 1568)
The Squire of Low Degree (from the Percy Folio MS, printed in 1560)

There -- I think that's enough information that if you liked the stories and wanted to make sure they were period, you'd be able to do it. [AoF]

Early Irish Myths and Sagas
Jeffrey Gantz (Translator and Editor)
Penguin, 1982

The current, revised edition of this book is an oversized paperback. I have the older, cheaper version. I'm not sure of the differences between the two. Early Irish Myths and Sagas is a collection of stories from the Ulster Cycle. Like most good period sources, it's part history and part myth -- and it's hard to tell where one starts and the other leaves off. These are, in many ways, the basis for the classic Western fairy tale, and include many elements which will be familiar to storytellers and audience alike: brave heroes, wicked giants, larger-than-life contests, beautiful maidens, and great battles. Many of the stories revolve around Cu Chulain (say: kuh-HOO-lin), and the story of his birth is a classic -- as well as the tale of Macc da Tho's Pig.

The stories probably date back to about the 8th century, but very few pre-1000 A.D. Irish manuscripts have survived the ravages of time or the attacks of the Vikings. Most of the stories in this particular book are translations of a group of maunscripts, dating from 1106 to the early 1400s, Fortunately, in the introduction Gantz is good enough to identify which tales come from which sources. [AY]
Buy Early Irish Myths and Sagas

An Early Irish Reader
N. Kershaw Chadwick
Cambridge University Press

The Story of Mac Datho's Pig, part of the Ulster Cycle, was just recommended to me. It was written in the 12th century and tells of some of the events leading up to the Cattle Raid of Cooley. The edition I just looked at is on-line at http://vassun.vassar.edu/~sttaylor/MacDatho/ and is in both English and Gaelic. The same site has a link to The Cattle Raid of Cooley. [ MW]

Egil's Saga
Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards (Translators)
Penguin Books, 1982

Let me recommend Egil's Saga, which if for no other reason is worthy of mention for the Head-Ransom episode, in which Egil composes a praise poem overnight and recites it to his old enemy King Eirik Bloodaxe to save his own skin. A Penguin edition is available. [[oF]
Buy Egil's Saga

The Elder Edda: a selection
Introduction by Peter H. Salus and Paul B. Taylor
Peter H. Salus (Editor), Paul B. Taylor and W.H. Auden (Translators)
New York: Vintage Books, 1970. 173 p

In an odd connection, the editor of this collection, Peter Salus, is the father of Emily Salus -- known to some long-time Carolingians as Emily the Spy. She lives out West now...

The Elder Edda, also known as the Poetic Edda and Sa'mund's Edda (after a famous Icelander), was collected together by person or persons unknown person around A.D. 1250. The Poetic Edda can be divided into two parts, the mythical and the heroic. There are fifteen mythical poems and twenty-three heroic lays. This is a wonderful source for tales of Norse gods, giants, dwarves, contests, and mischief of all sorts. One of my favourites is The Lay of Thrym, in which the giant, Thrym, has managed to steal Thor's hammer, and Loki devises a pretty clever scheme to get it back. Of course, part of the scheme involves dressing Thor up as a woman...;-). For spice in your Viking persona's conversation, you can't do better than "The Sayings of Har". 70 some-odd verses on how to behave. Gems like:

Cattle die, kindred die,
Every man is mortal:
But I know one thing that never dies,
The glory of the great deed
I'm particularly fond of this translation, which is done in alliterative free verse. I think it preserves the meaning and the 'feel' of the poems, without totally abadoning the sound -- not surprising, considering that Auden was both a poet and a linguist. [AY]
Buy The Elder Edda

Erec and Enide
Chretien de Troyes, Dorothy Gilbert (Translator)
University of California Press, 1992

Erec and Enide is an Arthurian romance originally in French, and it was composed about 1170. This is a verse translation (iambic fours). It's episodic, so it would be fairly easy to trim a self-contained story out of it. The premise is that King Arthur invents a courtly entertainment: a hunt for a white stag, and he who captures the stag must kiss the loveliest lady at court. Erec, a young knight, gets separated from the party and encounters all sorts of trials and dangers, as well as meeting his ladylove (the eponymous Enide). The story continues through their marriage and some relationship problems, leading to more adventures with robbers, a dwarf king, rescued maidens, and so forth. Everything works out in the end, of course, and the lovers are reunited and reconciled. One of the interesting things about this romance is that Enide, as well as Erec, undergoes character development -- she is definitely more than a prop. [AoF]
Buy Erec and Enide

The Exeter Book Riddles
The Exeter Book contains about 100 riddles and 20 or so other pieces of liturgical poetry. Written right around the Norman conquest of England in Anglo-Saxon, it's good for anyone with an English persona from about 900 until about 1200. Penguin used to publish a paperback edition that was just the riddles, but I think it's out of print. They recently published a hardcover version, which includes the poetry, translated by Kevin Crossly-Holland, which I haven't read, but is supposed to be good. [AY]
Buy the Crossly-Holland translation of The Exeter Book

Eymund's Saga
Vikings in Russia
Hermann Palsson and Paul Edwards (Translators)
Edinburgh University Press, 1989

Eymund's Saga is another tale of the Vikings in Russia. In it, young Eymund is driven from his home after King Olaf siezes his father's lands. He heads east to Russia, where three kings are at war. He offers assistance to one king, but later changes sides, and, in the end, proves himself a hero by defending Russia against enemy attack. It was written down in A.D. 1380, but is certainly older than that, although not as old as Yngvar's Saga, from which it draws material. Its authorship is unknown, and, although there is an historic king named Eymund Hringsson, it is pretty clear when the text is compared to what is known about actual history, that the hero of Eymund's Saga is a fictional character and wholly an invention of the author. That being said, it is pretty clear that there is some historical accuracy in the work: King Jarisleif is pretty clearly King Yaroslav of Russia, and the depiction of the political tensions going on at the time seem to mirror what we know from the Russian Primary Chronicle. [AY]
Buy Vikings in Russia
 
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