Francois Rabelais
Les Oeuvres Completes
editions Pleiades, 1974.

Gargantua and Pantagruel
J.M. Cohen (Translator)
Penguin, 1974.

Should you ever encounter a drunken, filthy Russian Noble, staggering about, bellowing bawdy tunes and frightening ladies and clergymen alike, than you may describe him as "Rabelais"...

The source of this great adjective, Francois Rabelais, was a failed priest, a better physician, aŻ well-known classical scholar, and a brilliant comic genius of Renaissance France. Originally initiated as a Franciscan Friar, his fondness for Greek scholarship and humanistic learning in general (so typical of this brilliant 16th Century) earned him the opprobrium of his ecclesiastical superiors. Transferred by papal dispensation to the Benedictines, a competing order, he eventually tired of them as well (doubtless a mutual feeling), broke his vows, and began to study medicine. Eventually he became an authority on early Greek medical texts. (See what we mean by the phrase "Renaissance Man"? He was talented in many areas.)

Yet his real love soon became satirical writing. Best known for his novels Pantagruel and Gargantua, these two giants of the same names poke fun at university teachers, clerics, students with pretentious vocabularies (is that still, like, you know, kinda like a problem today?), philosophers and the establishment in general. The chapters are bite size, and a story teller may borrow anecdotes and stories, individually or string them together in several ways. Much scatology: the invention of arse wipe, the giant standing on Notre Dame and pissing torrents into the streets below. Much bawdiness and deflating of the Church: why does monks have bigger...noses? Read it for yourself. [MI]
Buy Gargantua and Pantagruel

The Rat-catcher of Hamelin
You all know the story and I don't currently have a favourite version of it. I will tell you what elements are in the original story and what elements were added by the Brothers' Grimm. The story about the Pied Piper of Hamelin goes back to some obscure historical event that occured in the town of Hamelin (or Hameln, which is the German name) in Germany on June 26, 1284. The oldest remaining source is a note in Latin prose, written down 150 years later (1430-1450) as an addition to a 14th century manuscript from Lüneburg.

There are also reports of a glass picture in the church of Hamelin dating from before 1300, depicting the exodus of the children. The picture has been missing since the window was replaced in 1660. However, there are reconstructions of a rhyme included in this picture reporting that a piper, dressed in many colours, led 130 of Hamelin's children away. A similar rhyme is inscribed on the wall of the Rattenfängerhaus ("Pied Piper house") in Hamelin:

Anno 1284 am dage Johannis et Pauli
war der 26. junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet
gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen gebo[re]n
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren

Or (roughly):

In the year of our Lord 1284, on John's and Paul's day
was the 26th of July
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
130 children born in Hamelin were deduced
and lost at the "calvarie" near the "koppen"

"calvarie" is apparantly the word for a place of execution. Researchers don't agree on what could be meant by the "koppen"; there are several hills in the surroundings of Hamelin that have to be considered.

Interestingly, the rat-catcher motif was added was added as much as 200-300 years later. A comprehesive collection of the different elements of the story was written down in 1816 by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: Die Kinder zu Hameln. (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are known from the Grimms' fairy tales -- but this story appears in a different book, about German legends). They drew upon 11 sources and their version includes, among others, the following motifs:

1) a blind and a lame child could not follow the piper and were left behind;
2) the piper and the children entered an underground passage that lead to Transylvania;
3) a street in Hamelin was named after the event (the Bungelose Gasse "Drumless Lane"), and it is forbidden to sing or play an instrument in it.

The poem has inspired a lot of different versions. If you want to tell it in an SCA context avoid using the Browning version -- it's the most famous. Goethe (the author of Faustus) has a good version of it -- although he is also out of period. [AY]

The Renaissance in England: Non-dramatic Prose and Verse of the Sixteenth Century
Hyder E. Rollins and Herschel Baker (Editors)
Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1954.

This huge book contains pieces of many works from sixteenth century England. This includes chronicles from Grafton, Holinshed and Hall. These are the works from which Shakespeare got most of his details for the Henry plays. There are also parts of More's Utopia, several Bibles before the King James verson, Broadside Ballads, tons of poems, translations of the Greeks and Latins, letters between authors, and stories.

Of the stories, one will find some Merry Tales by Skelton, Underdown, Gascoigne, Sidney, Nashe, and Deloney. The latter provided the tale of Thomas Cole of Reading, who was murdered one night at an inn.

There are works in this book I haven't seen elsewhere, especially for poetry. There's plenty of commentary by the editors at the start of each section. However, I wish they had used sidebars or footnotes for the definitions of words instead of cramming everything in the back. C'est la vie. [CvJ]
Buy The Renaissance in England

The Romance of Reynard the Fox
The version I have is translated by D.D.R. Owen, published by World Classics, Oxford University Press. I have no idea if it's a better or worse translation than any other; it's just the version I happened to pick up cheap at an event. A quick scan through Owen's introdution and notes did not produce a date, but I am under the immpression it is period. [Yes, it first appeared in the 12th century -- AY]

I have not made nearly as much use of this source as it deserves, but a very few of you will remember a story I told a while ago, in which Reynard teaches an obnoxious wolf how to sing. I pulled most of the plot from the Reynard book, but the words to the song I sang (the tune was "Conditor Alme Siderum" (spelling probably wrong) by Guillame Dufey) came from French Folktales [AD]
Buy The Romance of Reynard the Fox

Robin Hood
Robin Hood was very popular through-out the Middle Ages and Renaissance, although many of us would not recognize the cast of characters. The earliest surviving reference to Robin Hood appears to be Adam de la Halle's (ca. 1235-ca. 1288) "The play of Robin and Marion" (Le jeu de Robin et Marion), a Medieval Folk Comedy, written and composed for the court of Robert, Count of Artois. He also appears in the poem by William Langland, "Piers the Plowman, circa 1377. A more developed version appears around 1500 in the "Lyttle Geste of Robyne Hode". Neither King Richard I or the Sheriff of Nottingham appear in these early sources. The "Lyttle Geste" places Robin in the reign of King Henry III (1216-72), who succeeded his brother John 17 years after Richard's death in 1199. There was no Sherrif of Nottingham until 1499. Little John appears early in the "Geste", but Maid Marian and Friar Tuck do not. The first mention we have of Maid Marian comes from a poem by a fourteenth century French monk. The poem has her as a shepherdess and Robin as a shepherd.

There was an important Benedictine Monastery at Blyth, built in 1088 by the Norman knight Roger de Busli. The priory belonged to St. Katerine's priory in Rouen and was manned chiefly by Norman monks. Friar Tuck it seems would not have been out of place there. Dom David Knowles in "The Religious Orders in England" describes how in 1287 a "criminous monk" from Blyth was sent back to Rouen, followed by another "undesirable" the following year. Blyth was on the northern fringe of Sherwood in Robin's time. It lays on old Great North Road, the main road between London and York and on the route of "Stone Street", the ancient track way running to Nottingham. Blyth is also on the main route between Sherwood and Barnsdale, Robin's other famous forest haunt. Blyth appears as a place name in many Robin Hood stories, ancient and modern.

The dates of the earliest written sources for Robin Hood correspond well with the Medieval development of the Arthurian romances from their original sources. "The Alliterative Morte d' Arthur" appeared in about 1360, followed about ten years later by "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". The culmination of the process was Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte d'Arthur", printed by Caxton in 1485. From a literary standpoint, the parallels between the Robin Hood and King Arthur are striking. Separated by perhaps six centuries, both may well have been real people.

All of that being said, I'm not going to recommend one of the extant period sources, but rather a juvenile edition. The stories in this collection, though sometimes a little Victorian in their flavor, offer a wide selection of the legend, and contain some wonderful language. Among my favorites are the very creepy "Witch of Paplewick" and the two related stories featuring Sir Richard of Legh.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
Roger Lancelyn Green
Puffin Classics, originally 1956 -- still in print, I'm sure. [AY]
Buy The Adventures of Robin Hood

The Poems of Pierre Ronsard
Thanks to Jehan du Lac, I'm now enamoured of the works of Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585). Ronsard was a French poet, smitten near the end of his life by a lady-in-waiting to Catherine de Medici named Helene. There is a brief bio and a selection of his works (in French with English translations by D.B. Wyndham Lewis) at Le Poulet Gauche's webpage: I'm particularly fond of "Si c'est aimer, Madame" (If to love, Madame....). [AY]

The Song of Roland
The Chanson de Roland was written somewhere in Northern France around 1100 and is based on events that happened two- to three-hundred years earlier. Although the story is full of blood and fighting, at its heart it is a story of faith, strategy, betrayal, and pride. The Song of Roland is like the television shows "Law & Order" or "Homicide", as opposed to the 16th century Italian imitators, which are more like WWF Wrestling (sorry Alessandro).

There are several good translations of this 11th century French epic. There's one currently in print by Gwyn Burgess which is very readable, if a little simple. There's also an on-line version, the 1919 translation by Charles Scott Moncrief. It's available at oland/ It's a "forsooth-speak" translation, full of "haths" and "feareths" -- but it's easier than going to the local bookstore. [ AY]
Buy the Sayers translation of The Song of Roland
Buy the Burgess translation of The Song of Roland

The Original Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam
Robert Graves and Omar Ali-Shah (Translators)
Doubleday and Company, 1967

The standard translation of the Rubaiyyat is the one done by Edward Fitzgerald, an amatuer Orientalist. This is a new translation based on a 12th Century manuscript of Omar Khayaam's Rubaiyyat in the keeping of the Shah family. Omar Ali-Shah supplied the translation into English and Graves set it into poetry under Ali-Shah's supervision.

Both Graves and Ali-Shah supply an introduction in which they discuss the historical background of Khayyam and Fitzgerald as well as ways in which they believe the Rubaiyyat has been mistreated by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald advocated that Khayyam was an atheistic hedonist who wanted to drink and be merry before death. Graves and Ali-Shah argue instead the Khayyam was a Sufi, writing with Sufi technical terms that a person who had not studied Sufic philosophies and writins would easily misinterpret (wine is a very common metaphor for divine love in Sufic writings). In their translation, they number each quattrain according to where it appears in the 12th Century manuscript they are working off of, where each quattrain appears in Fitzgerald's first edition, and where it appears in his second and subsequent revision for ease of comparison.

Having read both Fitzgerald and Graves/Ali-Shah, I can say that the flow from quattrain to quattrain is much more sensible in the Graves/Ali-Shah version. I also think individual quattrains are also clearer in this one (there are some really convoluted quattrains in Fitzgerald!)

In interests of accuracy, a person working with Fitzgerald's translation would probably be well-served by looking at this one as well. [TbIaI]
Buy The Rubaiyyat

Russian Fairy Tales
Collected by Aleksandr Afanas'ev, Norbert Guterman (Translator)
Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library, 1975

There is a great deal of material here -- almost two hundred stories. Unfortunately, they are thrown together without regard for style, time period, or content. Both skakzi and bylini (folktales and "hero stories") are related without distinguishing one from the other. The translations are good, but not the best I've seen (I'll get to those). The real joy of this collection is an essay on Russian folklore by Roman Jakobson, which explores the place of folklore at various points in Russian history, and the impact of tradtional stories on modern Russian literature (most notably Pushkin). [AY]
Buy Russian Fairy Tales

The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text)
Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Translators and Editors)
Medieval Academy of America, 1973
Lib of Congress No.: 53-10264

I have mentioned a few places which offer excerpts from The Russian Primary Chronicle. This is the whole shebang, should someone be interested in such. This is an advanced storytellers source -- the Chronicle can be exceedingly dull and very convoluted, even with the excellent annotations and supplemental notes in this edition. Finding story material in here can be work. That being said, the stories are most certainly there: otherwise they wouldn't have excerpted them in other places.

Until the 19th century, The Russian Primary Chronicle was believed to be the work of one man, a legendary monk named Nestor. Recent scholarship has determined that it is in fact a homogeneous work of several authors. Nestor, who is the undisputed author of two period Russian pieces (The Life, Death, and Mircles of the Martyrs Boris and Gleb; The Life of the Venerable Throdosius -- both of which are still available), did contribute to the Chronicle, but is not its sole author. The Chronicle dates to around the year 6624 (A.D. 1116), during the reign of Prince Vladimir of Kiev. In the late 1600s, Peter the Great ordered all of the extant chronicles gathered and copied into a single whole, that they might not be lost.

This is an excellent translation of The Chronicle and contains a great deal of useful and supplemental material, such as maps, a comprehensive index, and a huge fold-out lineage chart of the Russian noble houses. [AY]
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