The Fables of Avianus
David R. Slavitt (Translator)
Hardcover - 55 pages
Johns Hopkins University Press, First edition (1993)
ISBN: 0801846846

Aesop is the name usually associated with the word "Fable" and modern history has pretty much forgotten about Avianus. Not so during the Middle Ages, when Avianus' translations of Babrius' fables were very popular, and even helped re-kindle an interest in other fabulists (i.e., Aesop).

This book contains 42 elegiac fables, each short enough to be easily learned. Unlike Aesop, who in modern translation can come across as preachy and heavy-handed, the fables of Avianus are funny, quirky, and don't end with a moral. These translations are poetic translations, but it would be easy enough to turn the stories into prose if that was more to your liking. [AY]
Buy The Fables of Avianus

The Fabliau in English
John Hines
Longman Medieval And Renaissance Library, 1993
Paperback, 336 pages
ISBN: 0-582-03733-6

Although some of the material in this book has been covered (it includes a translation and analysis of five of the Canterbury Tales), it also includes some pieces I've never seen elsewhere: some French fabliaux, and Dame Sirith. There's also an excellent essay on the history and spirit of the genre. Since a typical fabliau plot includes a faithless woman or a misbehaving (or at least foolish) member of the clergy, as well as a great deal of bawdy behavior, these stories are usually winners with a modern audience -- as well as being a lot of fun to read. [AY]
Buy The Fabliau in English

Five Middle English Arthurian Romances
Valerie Krishna (Translator)
Volume 29, Series B, Garland Library of Medieval Literature
Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991
ISBN 0-8240-6427-7

These 14th- and 15th-century English Arthurian romances are less courtly than their French equivalents. They are swift-moving and emphasize action, rather than the intricate psychological conflict of courtly love. This is a modern English verse translation, and while it can be a little clunky in places it's pretty good overall. The volume contains the following stories:

The Stanzaic Morte Arthur
Mid- to late-fourteenth-century
3,969 lines (but can be broken down into smaller sections for telling)

The Adventures of Arthur at Tarn Wadling
Late-fourteenth or early fifteenth-century
715 lines

The Vows of King Arthur, Sir Gawain, Sir Kay, and Baldwin of Britain (The Avowing of King Arthur)
Early fifteenth-century
1,148 lines

The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (yet another version of the Wife of Bath's tale)
852 lines

Sir Gawain and the Carl of Carlisle

This is a great resource for those of us who like to tell adventure stories in verse. [AoF]

Floire and Blanchefleur
The Romance of Floire and Blanchefleur
a French idyllic poem of the twelfth century

Merton Jerome Hubert (Translator)
University of North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, number 63
Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1966

Floire and Blanchefleur are two lovers, one Muslim and one Christian but raised together as children. They are cruelly parted at fourteen by Floire's father, King Fenix, who is afraid that their love will make it difficult when it comes time to find a wife for Floire. Through various trials of body and character, they are reunited and marry despite the odds. It's a good story. The translation I mention above is very courtly in character, and the story is looooong, but since much of it is detailed description (fifty lines to describe his horse alone), it could surely be edited, though even so it might require more than one installment to tell the whole thing. [AoF]

Folktales From Around the World
Jane Yolen

This is, like the Tales From Tartary source, not strictly speaking in period, but most of the stories in it do not contain any blatantly out-of-period references. It is also conveniently organized by type (e.g. Trickster Tales, Animal Tales) so one can leaf through and go straight to the section one is interested in. It's a great source for a beginning storyteller who isn't really certain what s/he is interested in telling because it has such a variety of types and cultures in it. [TbIaI]
Buy Favorite Folktales from Around the World

Folk Tales from The Soviet Union: Vols. I-IV
1 - The Baltic Republics: R. Babloyan and M. Shumskaya, ISBN: 5050015596
2 - The Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Moldavia: R. Babloyan and M. Shumskaya, ISBN: 5050015618
3 - Central Asia and Kazakhstan: R. Babloyan and M. Shumskaya, ISBN: 5050015642
4 - The Caucasus: R. Babloyan and M. Shumskaya, ISBN: 5050015634
All published by Raduga Publishers, Moscow.

The wonderful thing about this four volume set is that, although it does not attach dates of origin to the stories, it does connect them with very specific ethnicities within Russia. The regions themselves have very different "flavors", and these books are a delight for someone who wants their persona to be more specific than "Russian". Each of these books contains between five and twelve stories and are probably large enough to be counted as an individual source -- but I'm feeling generous. ;-)

Volume 1 contains two Latvian, two Estonian, and a single Lithuanian folk tale, each retold by a different author and illustrator. The stories have a very American Indian or Eskimo feel to them.

Volume two contains five folk tales: The Flying Ship, an old Russian folk tale which is the basis for some of the Baron Munchausen stories; The Poor Man and the Tsar of the Crows; Teeny-Tiny, a very Russian version of "Tom Thumb" which includes an appearance by the witch, Baba-Yaga; How Ionike fet-Frumos freed the Sun, a retelling of a pre-Christian legend; and The Pot of Gold.

Volume 3 contains eight stories, divided by tribal origin: Uzbek, Kirghiz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kazakh. There are some riddle stories and also "The Mountain of Gems", which appears as one of the voyages of Sinbad in the Arabian Nights.

Volume 4 contains Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijan folk tales, including the medieval "The Poor Man and the Knight's Three Pomegranates" and several stories with a very Middle-eastern feel. [AY]
Buy Folk Tales from The Soviet Union: The Baltic Republics
Buy Folk Tales from The Soviet Union: The Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Moldavia
Buy Folk Tales from The Soviet Union: Central Asia and Kazakhstan
Buy Folk Tales from The Soviet Union: The Caucasus

Forty Old Icelandic Tales
W. Bryant Bachman, Jr.
University Press of America, 1992
ISBN 0-8191-8499-3

I've been thinking back over stories I've told -- you'll notice I haven't innundated the list with obscure Russian references (although that may change soon) -- and discovered I've missed one of my favorites.

The Tale of the Volsi is a thattur (short story in the saga style) about good King Olaf's encounter with a weird family on the fringes of his kingdom. If you know what a Volsi is, you can guess what this story's about. If you don't...while here's a good incetive to learn. This story, and 39 others are available in this book. [AY]
Buy Forty Old Icelandic Tales

French Folktales
collected by Henri Pourrat
selected by C.G. Bjurstrom, translated by Royall Tyler

Warning these stories were collected out of period, and the purists on this list may wish to blackball this entry. But many of the stories work for our period, and if one keeps one's eyes open (and heeds the good advice of one's collegues) one can weed out the glaring problems. (In one story I turned a tobacco pouch into a money pouch, for instance. Worked fine.) This is my favorite source, because I like the feel of the stories: peasanty stories, devil stories, animal stories. Playful stories. It's published by Pantheon books. [AD]
Buy French Folktales

The Chronicle of Jean Froissart
Viking Press, 1977 (there may be a more recent edition)

Jean Froissart was born in the 1330s and died in 1400 or 1401. Although he was formally a clergyman and held various eccesiastical posts, he devoted himself to literature. His works include romance, poetry, and history, and could easily have be written by a layman -- there is nothing particularly "clerical" in his point of view or method of expression. Indeed, Froissart's most famous and significant work, his Chronicle, was aimed at a knightly and aristocratic audience -- presumably the same folks we're telling stories for in the Society.

Froissart's historical efforts won him the patronage of the highest nobility during his own lifetime and his works were often copied afterwards. For centuries, Froissart's Chronicle and poems has been recognized as the chief expression of the chivalric ideal of fourteenth-century England and France. His history is also one of the most important sources for the first half of the Hundred Years' War, and certain events of the era, such as the battles of Crecy and Poitiers and the English Peasant Revolt of 1381, are best known through his accounts of them.

Excerpts of Froissart's Chronicle (which is very long) are available in print (notably in a recent Viking edition) and on the World Wide Web. I'm particularly fond of "The Knight who is Felled by a Butcher". [AY]
Buy The Chronicle of Jean Froissart
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Contents © 1999-2006 Alex Newman for the Carolingian Storytellers Guild