Jeffrey Gantz (Translator)
Penguin Classics, 1985.

Is anyone interested in Welsh sources? Try the Mabinogion. Very Celtic, despite Arthurian overtones. Translation not bad for a Harvard man. Beware of Welsh names if you wish to tell these stories, as they are all but unpronounceable, especially "ll". But this edition has a note on the pronunciation of Welsh names for the intrepid. [MI]
Buy Mabinogion

William Buck
University of California Press

I'll add the Mahabharata, the source of another story I've told, Nala and Damayanti. I have not read the entire Mahabharata, which is "an Indian epic," written, I believe, argueably before our period, and I suspect it's the sort of source where finding nice compact stories with clear beginnings and endings is tough. The story I told was a story told within the epic, and it was still so long that I tried telling it in installments. The version I have, an old University of California Press edition, is "retold" by William Buck, which may or may not mean that it would compare unfavorably to a literal translation, but it's nice as a source of stories with a very different feel than many I tell. [AD]
Buy Mahabharata

Medieval Comic Tales
Derek Brewer

This is a good collection of a smorgasbord of humorous folktales, all period. The cultures covered are: Spanish, Italian (with Boccaccio deliberately left out because he's easy to find), Dutch, German, English, French, and Latin. That's off the top of my head so if it's not 100% accurate, I apologize, although Dutch is the only one I'm not positive is included. Again, this is a good source for a storyteller who wants to sample a variety of different types--although not a good source, if said storyteller wants to try high epic or sorrow *grin*. There's an introductory essay on the use of humour in medieval folktales, but I have to confess to skipping it so I don't know how good it is. [TbIaI
Medieval Comic Tales

Medieval English Verse and Prose
Medieval English Verse and Prose in modernized versions
Roger Sherman Loomis and Rudolph Willard
Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948

This anthology contains good alliterative verse translations (that is, I like their sound) of the following:

The Brut by Layamon, an early thirteenth century Arthur poem. Well, actually long excerpts, but they'd make a good story.

The Alliterative Morte Arthur

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

As well as a bunch of other stuff that's common to such anthologies and has been mentioned by other people in other posts. [AoF]
Buy Medieval English verse and prose

Medieval Russia: a sourcebook, 900-1700
Basil Dmytryshyn (Editor)
Dryden Press, 1973
ISBN 0030864410

I find it interesting that the definition of "Medieval" goes up to A.D. 1700 in Russia and about A.D. 1500 anywhere else. This is a collection of basic sources on political, social, economic, and cultural life in medieval Russia, and is aimed at the "general" reader, as opposed to a dedicated scholar of the topic. As such, it's not a great source for fantastic stories or folktales. However, the sources in this book a divided into two losse groups: excerpts from the Chronicles and commentaries on Russian culture by European (or, in one case, Arabic) contemporaries. This includes some particularly good material: the Tale of Olga's Revenge (one of Morwenna's favorites), excerpted from The Russian Primary Chronicle; a description of 10th century Russia by the Arab traveller ibn-Fadhlan; the story of how Christianity was introduced into Russia; and Ivan the Terrible's account of his own childhood. [AY]
Buy Medieval Russia: a sourcebook

Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales
Serge A. Zenkovsky (Editor)
Meridien, 1974
ISBN 0452010861

This is an updated version of the 1963 publication of the same name, completely revised "in light of recent scholarship". I have a copy of the 1963 edition also, if anyone really wants to do a compare and contrast.

There are some 75 different pieces translated and commented on in this book, presented in chronological order from the 11th century into the 18th century (the book says until the 17th century, but the last two or three selections are out of period). The best thing about the collection is that it present the individual pieces as stories -- "Stories of the Saints", "Stories from the Russian Primary Chronicle", etc -- rather than simply presenting the work as a whole and letting the storyteller dig the material out. Some of the stories are a little dry, more chronicle than story, but there are some real winners in here. A particular favourite of mine is the account of the battle on the River Kalka. This collection also includes a good and well annotated translation of The Lay of Prince Igor's Campaign, mentioned in another posting. [AY]
Buy Medieval Russian Epics, Chronicles, and Tales

Medieval Slavic Manuscripts: A Bibliography of Printed Catalogues
David Djaparidze
Medieval Academy of America, 1957
ISBN 0910956383

Unless you're an absolute bibliophile -- and a Russophile -- do not get this book. It's deadly dull. The one high spot is the frontspiece, a lovely colour (well, black, white, and red) reproduction of a manuscript page from the 15th century. There are a few other pages reproduced throughout, but they're not nearly as interesting. Collections of Slavic manuscripts are few and fairly scattered. This book does an admirable job of cataloging several of the largest collections, with comments on the most interesting manuscripts where appropriate. Although the commentary is in English, the titles of the manuscripts are in Cyrillic.

As an aside, this is one of many extremely scholarly books from the Medieval Academy of America, which can be found locally (in Cambridge) or on the web at [AY]

Medieval Song
James J. Wilhelm (Translator)
E.P. Dutton, NY, 1971
ISBN 0-525-47297-5

As Marcus asserts, the lines between song, poetry, and story were certainly blurrier in ages past. This book certainly seems to bear that out, since very few of the works in it would be "song" by any modern definition. There is little discussion (if any) of music in the book and it contains no notation. What it does contain, however, is a terrific survey of medieval poetry from the end of the classical period to the beginning of the secular period. There are 230 lyrics, grouped by time and place: Late Classical poems, Christian hymns, Latin lyrics of 600-1050, Carmina Burana (yes, the one Orff set to music -- the symphony is well out of period, but the lyrics aren't), Provencal songs, Italian, German, and North French songs, and songs of Great Britain (mostly Old- and Middle-English). A select number of the pieces are presented in the original at the end, and all of the pieces are accompanied by brief commentary, including time and place of origin. Many of the pieces contained in this collection would make good short performance pieces. [AY]
Buy Medieval Song

The Metamorphoses of Ovid
Rolfe Humphries (Translator)
Indiana University Press, 1955
ISBN 0-253-33755-0

Ancient Roman, but printed in translation in England in the 16th century. Ovid was popular -- Christopher Marlowe translated his Amores. I like the Humphries translation (which I'm not sure is in print). The original was written in dactylic hexameter [6 feet to a line in dactyls (long-short-short) and spondees (long-long)]. The translation is done in an unrhymed "loose ten-beat line". I've also heard good things about Mandelbaum's verse translation (which you can get from Amazon). [MW
Buy the Humphries translation of
Ovid's Metamorphoses
Buy the Mandelbaum translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses

Mirror of the Invisible World: Tales from the Khamseh of Nizami
Peter J. Chelkowski (Translator)

The Khamseh were poetic romances which Nizami wrote and which then served as frequent sources for illumination. According to the review I read for this book, the translation is supposed to be engaging and it has pretty pictures (*grin* reproductions of illuminations based on the stories). Translations abound for Layla wa Majnun, but this is the only book I've seen which contains translations of the OTHER Khamseh (except for a really horrible book of Persian poems). [TbIaI]
Buy Mirror of the Invisible World

Monkey: A Journey to the West
David Kherdian
Shambhala Publications, 1992.

Hsi Yu Chi was written by Wu Cheng'en (c. 1500-82) as a retelling of the monk Huang-zen's rather serious narrative of his journey to obtain Buddhist scriptures from India and bring them back to China. But Wu Cheng'en took things a little less seriously. He pushed Huang-zen aside and made the main focus the Monkey King, a trickster who gains magic power enough to force his way into Heaven, destroy Si-Wang Mu's banquet, devour some golden pills of immortality, and piss on Buddha's own hand... and that's JUST the beginning. The overall plot arc is thin enough that it would be VERY easy to pull almost any chapter and tell it as a story complete in and of itself.

The book was powerful enough that the Monkey King evolved into a popular Buddhist deity and (apparently) still influences anime and manga to this day [like -- AY]. Pretty good for a book that was probably written as religious satire.

According to, the above version is out of print *sniffle* so you'll need to check local libraries for it, but there is another version still in print--which I haven't read--titled Journey to the West, translated by Anthony C. Yu (University of Chicago Press, 1980). This one is a multi-volume work and is apparently the only non-abridged English translation. Multiple translations also abound on the Web although most of these are in synopses format. [TbIaI]
Buy Monkey: A Journey to the West
Buy Journey to the West, Volume 1
Buy Journey to the West, Volume 2
Buy Journey to the West, Volume 3
Buy Journey to the West, Volume 4

The Essays and Travel Journal of Michel de Montaigne
From June 22, 1580 to November 30, 1581 Michel de Montaigne travelled from France, through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. This was not a voyage of discovery -- the route was very well-travelled and Montaigne would have rather gone to Greece or Poland -- but that's the way his friends were going and Montaigne was, ostensibly, travelling for his health as well.

While travelling, Montaigne collects stories, histories, and anecdotes from all the places he visits. Some or amusing, some scandalous -- other are just weird.

Two caveats:

1) The travel journal was published long after Montaigne's death; he wasn't writing it to be published, and it got hidden away with a bunch of his other personal papers until it was re-discovered in 1770 and first published in 1774. So you can't refer to it directly in period.

2) Montaigne is better known as an essayist and most of the current collections in print just reprint his essays, which are wonderful, but not terrific story material. this two recommendations in one?

I strongly recommend the translation by Donald Frame (published by Stanford Univeristy Press throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s). It's out of print. My copy cost me about $50.00 -- and was well worth it. Frame annotates the journal, as well as breaking it down by day and geography (e.g., "Italy: From Rome to Loreto" or "Germany, Austria, and the Alps"). This allows you to quickly read the sections that just pertain to your persona (although only a barbarian would miss out on the rest...). [AY]
Buy Montaigne's Travel Journal

Le Morte Darthur
The Works of Sir Thomas Malory
Eugene Vinaver (Editor)
Clarendon Press, 1967

This is a 15th century compilation of the ancient Arthurian cycle, and is thus quite late. The action is very linear (heading to Arthur's death) and does not wander. The whole cast of heroes and villains is here. Pick the ones you like.

If the above is not available, then I know I have seen a Penguin version out there. [MI]
Buy The Works of Sir Thomas Malory
Buy Le Morte Darthur

Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript
Helen Copper (Editor)
Oxford Univ Pr , 1998
ISBN: 0192824201

The book of which Marcus speakes is based on the Caxton manuscript of 1485 -- most of the editions of Le Morte Darthur are. This is the mass-produced edition, published by William Caxton a dozen or so years after Malory's death. There's a copy of the Caxton MS in the Pierpont Morgan library in New York -- with some wonderful illumination. However, recent scholarship has decided that the Caxton MS is probably not what Malory originally intended the book to look like -- that is, Caxton did more than just publish. The Winchester manuscript is a hand-written manuscript, probably a copy of Malory's original (incidentally, Malory wrote Le Morte... while spending three years in prison -- much like Cervantes).

There is (finally!) a paperback version of this out. This is a terrific version of the story, with extensive annotations and marginalia. [AY]
Buy The Winchester Manuscript

The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin
Morwenna mentioned World Tales by Idries Shah. I have a copy of Shah's collection The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin that I have found quite enjoyable. Alexx tells me that Shah has published several of these collections, some of which are out of print. I have no idea whether this one is or not. It claims to be a "Dutton Paperback Original." The stories in this book (I cannot speak for any of the other collections), often more like anecdotes in terms of length, can be useful tidbits for extending bardic circles, or for entertaining bored people standing in line, etc. The book includes some of the old standards, but also some which seem to be less common. [AD]
Buy The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mullah Nasrudin
Buy The Exploits of the Incomparable Mulla Nasrudin / The Subtleties of the Inimitable Mulla Nasrudin

Muslim saints and mystics: episodes from the Tadhkirat al-auliya' ("Memorial of the Saints")
A.J. Arberry (Translator)

Christians were not the only ones interested in the lives of saints; Sufis chronicled the lives of Sufi saints as well. The Tadhkirat al-auliya' is Attar's biography of the great Sufi saints. This work is not to be read literally--from what I've read, the Sufis are big believers in miracle work, but even more so in allusion and metaphor. [TbIaI]
Buy Muslim Saints and Mystics
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