Laxdaela Saga
Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson (Translators)
London: Penguin Books, 1977

A saga that links together a number of stories about the early settlement of Iceland. It is worth reading just for the sense it gives of early Icelandic culture; most of the stories center around concerns about farming and families; many of the stories explain the history of some of the more prominent families in Iceland and explain how they came to occupy the territory they held. It is sometimes difficult to keep the many family relationships clear, but there are many episodes that make good stories. Since many of the stories involve disputes between family members, it isn't hard to find tales that will resonate with everyone. [AF]
Buy Laxdaela Saga

Layla wa Majnun
Ganjavi Nizami, Colin Turner (Translator)

The story of Layla wa Majnun was a popular Bedouin oral tale given its most famous form by the 12th Century Perisan poet Ganjavi Nizami. The translation I used was done by Colin Turner and is the only one which shows up when I plug "Layla wa Majnun" into Amazon.com. Other translations exist, I've leafed through them and liked Colin Turner's best (although it could be because I read Turner's first) but again, I don't speak Farsi so I cannot comment on fidelity to Nizami's original. [TbIaI]
Buy Layla and Majnun
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A Legend of Holy Women
A translation of Osbern Bokenham's Legends of Holy Women
Sheila Delany (Translator)
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, London, 1992
ISBN 0-268-01294-6

Osbern Bokenham was an Augustinian friar at Clare. His Legends of Holy Women dates from 1447. This is a collection of women saint's lives. Much of this collection is way too gory for modern audiences (even for me!), but some of them are OK. Take the example of St. Agnes, who is consigned naked to a brothel, but angels intervene to clothe her in her own unbound hair and raiments of light. Or Mary Magdalene, who properly speaking doesn't get martyred at all. Despite their enduring popularity in period, religious stories are underrepresented in SCA storytelling, for a number of reasons I won't enumerate here. But I do think that, handled properly, they have a place and are very successful. [AoF]
Buy A Legend of Holy Women

Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural
Howard Schwartz
This is another fine book by one of the authors of The Diamond Tree, Howard Schwartz. Although the stories in here are not specifically pre-1600, they are annotated with time and place (i.e., "Germany, 16th century") so you can know which ones are which. The book also has extensive notes and commentary on the sources, which range from the 12th century to the 18th century, and from the Middle East through all of Western Europe. Most of these stories are quite short, and despite the title, few rely on a knowledge of Jewish folklore or tradtion. This is a good book for a beginning storyteller (Oxford University Press, $14.95; it's still in print, Amazon.com has it). [AY]
Buy Lilith's Cave

The Lais of Marie de France
Glyn S. Burgess, Keith Busby (Translators)
Penguin, 1986 -- about $10

The Lais are short "stories", originally written in verse. They are from Breton around the 13th century. There are a dozen stories, each dealing with the issues of love -- particularly a crisis in love. Some of the stories play better to a modern audience than others. This particular translation does its best to stay close to the original meaning of the poems, and as a consequence is sometimes a little dry or confusing. I don't believe any of these are ready to go without a little work, but there is some extremely good material here. I'm fond of "Bisclavret"; hard evidence that werewolf stories are perfectly acceptable material. [AY]
Buy The Lais of Marie de France

Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius
The Twelve Caesars
Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Robert Graves (Translator)
Penguin Books, 1979

Written circa A.D. 120, The Lives of the Caesars was well-known in the Middle Ages, Einhard's Charlemagne (circa A.D. 900) was modeled on it, as was Petrarch's Lives. It is the biographies of the first 12 emperors of Rome, from Julius Caesar to Domitian (who met a bad end -- come to think of it, most of them did...). Although it's biography, it reads like an issue of the National Inquirer, full of scandal and secrets. For anyone who has heard me tell of the Death of Agrippina (Nero's mum), this is the source. This was also the source for Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God (and the issue of Sandman called "August" starring Augustus).

The edition I like the best is the Penguin, entitled The Twelve Caesars, which was translated by Graves. [MW]
Buy The Lives of the Twelve Caesars

Lives of the Saints
Saints Preserve Us!: Everything You Need to Know About Every Saint You'll Ever Need
Sean Kelly & Rosemary Rogers
Paperback - 343 pages (November 1993)
Random House (Paper)
ISBN: 067975038X

A very funny, tongue-in-cheek, lives of the saints. [AY]
Buy Saints Preserve Us!

The Penguin Dictionary of Saints
Donald Attwater (Editor)
Penguin, 1973.

The lives of saints are frequently colorful tales of miracles, temptations and spectacular martyrdoms. While this is usually a morass of raw data, which you must string together into a flowing story, the effort is frequently repaid. Sometimes you may find an interesting lead which you can research elsewhere in greater depth. Moreover this book gives you an absorbing introduction with details of the process of canonization, feast dates and some emblems. (PS: I'm not in it.) [MI]
Buy The Penguin Dictionary of Saints

The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints
Jacobus De Voragine, William Granger Ryan (Translator)
Paperback
Princeton Univ Press, 1995
ISBN: 0691001537

[From the back cover...but accurate] Depicting the lives of the saints in an array of both factual and fictional stories--some preposterous, some profound, and some shocking --The Golden Legend was perhaps the most widely read book, after the Bible, during the late Middle Ages. It was compiled around 1260 by Jacobus de Voragine, a scholarly friar and eventual archbishop of Genoa, whose purpose was to captivate, encourage, and edify the faithful, while preserving a vast store of information pertaining to the legends and traditions of the church. These stories have the effect of bringing the saints to life as real people, in the context of late thirteenth-century living, but in them the saints do things that ordinary people can only wonder at. There is St. Juliana, who, fed up with the propositions of a dull-witted demon, gives him a sound thrashing and tosses him in the sewer; St. Hilary, who challenges the authority of a corrupt pope and foresees the prelate's death; and St. James the Dismembered, who, with the chopping off of each body part by the Roman executioner, joyfully proclaims yet another reason for loving God.... [AY]
Buy The Golden Legend

The Lord of the Panther-Skin
Shota Rustaveli, R.H. Stevenson (Translator)
Hardcover
State Univ of New York Press, 1997
ISBN: 0873953207

I must give credit to Morwenna for digging in the dusty tomes of the Brandeis library until she actually found an extant copy of this work.

The Knight in Panther Skin (also called The Lord of the Panther-skin, The Knight in the Tiger Skin and any other permutation possible) was written by Shota Rustaveli (also Shot'ha Rust'haveli) during the reign of Queen Tamara of Georgia (1184-1213). Supposedly based on a Persian story (can you see where this is going?), there is no extant Persian story that Rustaveli adapted, but he was apparently influenced by the Shah-nama, Vis and Ramin, and Layla and Majnun (in fact at one point the poem claims that Tariel's woes are even greater than those of Majnun -- having heard Tahira's synopsis of Majnun's story, I am inclined to doubt that).

This is the great work of Georgian literature. The story concerns Avtandil, the greatest knight of King Rostevan of Arabia and lover of Queen Tinatin (Rostevan's daughter). He quests for Tariel, the mysterious knight for whom the poem is named, who is in deep despair over his lost beloved, Nestan-Darejan, daughter of the King of India. The two become brothers and adventure together to find and then rescue Nestan.

This is a very romantic story with everyone continuously sighing, fainting (and having water poured on them) and weeping over the cruel hand that fate has dealt them to separate them from their beloved. I'm serious about the weeping -- Tariel weeps pretty much continuously from his first appearance until the happy ending (when he isn't fainting or raving like a lunatic). It consists of 1669 quatrains (with the rhyme scheme AAAA) and each line contains 16 syllables (for those interested in such technical matters).

I think the woman who translated Five Middle English Arthurian Romances, Valerie Krishna, is the same woman who is doing a translation of the Knight of the Panther Skin [AY]
Buy The Knight in the Panther's Skin
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