The Table Talk of a Mesopotamian Judge
D. S. Margoliouth (Editor and Translator)
London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1922
I should have saved this one to put up against one of Tahira's.› Al-Tanukhi was a tenth century judge in the Abbasid Caliphate.› As such, he heard a *lot* of stories -- some fictional, some not.› He found that the anecdotes people were telling were not as good as the ones he remembered› from his youth, and decided to do something about it.› I *think* this is the source of Caridoc's story, The Honorable Thief.›› The book is full of stories and gossip, some "traditonal" but much of the material about real people the author knew. Sort of like a period "People's Court". [AY]
Tales from Tartary
This is one of my favourite collections and a source for several tales I make good use of, including Shaitan's Youngest Daughter (won me my first storytelling competition), Woe, and Yevsha's Forty Fables (although he gets the name wrong...).
These stories fall into the "periodoid" type that so many collections
of folktales do. It's possible that many of these stories are pre-1600
(some of them appear in one form or another in the Arabian Nights), but
there is no documentation to support this. Nonetheless, it's a great source
for someone living in Russia during the time of the Mongols, or anyone
with a Tartar or Mongol persona. Sadly, this is out of print. [AY]
Buy Tales from Tartary
The Thousand Nights and a Night,
more commonly known as The Arabian Nights
Written and compiled by Diverse Hands
While this didn't arrive in a European language until well out of period, enough stories from here demonstrably made it over individually that I have no problem using this as a source.
The most famous translation is by Sir Richard Francis Burton,
and runs many, many volumes. A more managable size can be found in a selection
from his translation edited by Bennett A. Cerf, and available from Amazon
for just over $15. The Penguin edition is also a good selection, with a
more modern translation. [AtS]
Buy The Arabian Nights
Buy Tales from the Thousand and One Nights
Alf-Laylah wa Laylah (The Arabian Nights -- 9 vols.)
Alf-Laylah wa Laylah (The Supplemental Nights -- 6 vols.)
Collected and translated by Richard Burton
The Burton Club (no date or ISBN)
Early on, Alessandro posted the Tales from the Arabian Nights -- mentioning, I think, two collections of selected works (the one edited by Cerf and, I believe, the ubiquitous Penguin edition). This is a real deal, for compleatists. I own a set, I believe Alesandro does as well. There is no complete Arabian Nights currently in print, however I've seen this set at used bookstores for anywhere from $150 to $450.
The advantages of the complete set are pretty obvious: The Penguin edition has a dozen stories in it -- good stories to be sure, but only a dozen and most people have heard them all. The full edition has 15 volumes, each of which contain between 30 and 40 stories, somewhat less than the 1000 there are supposed to be, but certainly more than I can tell on a good day.
The disadvantages are more subtle. Burton was a pretty good translator, and his work was fairly shocking to the Victorian age. In trying to be true to his originals, he leaves in a great deal of verse, which your listener probably isn't used to. Then there is the simple problem of the volume of stories: it's difficult to chose one to tell, when you have five hundred stories to work through. Some people have the patience and dedication to work their way through all 15 volumes. Me, I haven't made it yet -- mostly I skip around. [AY]
Tirant lo Blanc
Joanot Martorell and Marti Johan d'Galba, Robert Rudder (Translator) ftp://uiarchive.cso.uiuc.edu/pub/etext/gutenberg/etext95/whitk10.txt 1995
This is (I think) my first "electronic" recommendation. For those unfamiliar with Project Gutenberg, it's an effort to use the Web/Internet to store and distribute electronic texts. Project Gutenberg is dedicated to increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed in machine readable form.A remarkable resource. If you *must* have a paper edition of this, there's one at the end.
No less a literary figure than Cervantes described Tirant lo Blanc ("The White Knight") as "the best book in the world", and yet it's almost unknown today. How come? Some speculate it's because the original language, Catalan, has all but vanished. Others suggest that some of the erotic scenes were just too erotic. Regardless, this is an epic on scale with the Orlando -- and roughly contemporaneous. The work dates to 1490 and was a remarkable success when it was first written (the first printing sold out -- admittedly it's only ~700 copies, but it was a big deal for the late 15th century).
Although the introduction to Tirant lo Blanc says that it's a
translation from an English original that he is translating into
Portuguese, and from the Portuguese into Catalan -- you guessed it --
there's no evidence that the story existed before Martorell published
it. And what a story it is: eloquent challenges and responses; dramatic
death scenes; the intervention of saints; and did I mention the sex? The
Rudder translation is a "good parts" translation. Rudder admits to
having "slightly abridged [the storyline], but the most dramatic change
is that most of the rhetoric has been eliminated. If the reader's
literary palate is tickled by this version, and if he would like to read
the entire manuscript in English, he is referred to the version by David
Rosenthal". The information on that translation (currently in print)
Tirant Lo Blanc
Joanot Martorell and Marti Johan d'Galba, David H. Rosenthal (Translator) Paperback
Johns Hopkins Univ Press, 1996
ISBN: 0801854210 [AY]
Buy Tirant Lo Blanc
The Legend of Tristram
Gottfried von Strassburg, A.T. Hatto (Translator)
Penguin Classics, 1970
The Tristan (or Tristram) legend has appeared in more than one medieval
manuscript, and a fine German rendition was told by Gottfried von Strassburg
(fl. 1210). A magic potion and doomed love are the highlights, along
with various vignettes including a dragon. This version may be the most
artistically polished of the lot. And if you still do not have the
courage to listen to Wagner, just try the Liebestod overture to the last
act of Tristan und Isolde...the lovers' yearning is a spell binding dominant
7th chord that takes forever to resolve. [MI]
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult
by Joseph Bedier, Hilaire Belloc (Translator)
Paperback - 205 pages Rei edition (June 1994)
The Romance of Tristan and Iseult is one of the most resonant works of Western literature, as well as one of the bases for our modern idea of romance. The story of the Cornish knight and the Irish princess who meet by deception, fall in love by magic, and pursue that love in defiance of heavenly and earthly law has inspired people from sci-fi/fantasy writers to classical music composers. There are several versions, including the German one mentioned by Marcus already. The earliest version is purported to be written by Thomas the Rhymer in the mid-1100s. The Middle English poem Sir Tristrem survives only in the great anthology of Middle English literature known as the Auchinleck Manuscript.
[On a complete side note, the Auchinleck Manuscript received its name from Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck (the father of James Boswell, Samuel Johnson's biographer), who "rescued it in 1740 from a professor of Aberdeen University who had been tearing out leaves to make covers for notebooks". Boswell gave the manuscript to the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh. It remained there until 1925 when it was given to the newly established National Library of Scotland. Originally this vellum manuscript, compiled about 1330-1340, contained "considerably more than 386 leaves, of which there survive 331 leaves and 14 stubs in the main part" as well as ten other leaves identified as having belonged to the manuscript but now in three different libraries.]
This particular telling of the legend, created post-1600 from several
medieval sources (Old Norse, German and Middle English) is a good edtion
for a someone interested in the story, but who is willing to read with
a literary dictionary close at hand. The annotations are a little
Buy The Romance of Tristan and Iseult
Songs of the
Something beautiful which touches the heart.
And who could do it better than the Troubadours?
These are lyric poets and musicians who composed in a language known as ProvenŃal from the late 11th century to the late 13th century. Based in southern France and feeling no love whatsoever for the court in faraway Paris, these artists catered to powerful aristocrats in Aquitaine, Auvergne, Provence and Languedoc. Eventually this robust culture spread into parts of Spain and Italy as well.
A good place to start is with an anthology, Bonner's Songs of the Troubadours. Some of my favourites include William of Aquitaine's poem about "women of evil intent" in which he poses as a speechless lunatic. Taken in by lusty wenches believing that he will never be able to report their misdeeds, they use him in various ways which I cannot mention for fear of breaking my vow of chastity. Sound familiar? Yup...this story appears in Boccaccio and elsewhere.
Then there is Bernart de Ventadorn, who is too frankly sensuous for me. I identify more with the Monk of Montaudon who goes to heaven, naturally, and starts to debate with the Lord on the merits of women wearing makeup...
Songs of the Troubadours
Anthony Bonner (Editor and Translator)
Shocken Books, 1972
There is some musical annotation that goes with my reference (Bonner), but it lacks any rhythmic indications apart from the rests. This is a huge problem with Troubadour sources in general, and scholars are still debating what rhythm and accompaniment were originally used.
More comprehensive sources for the music of the troubadours (trouveres, et al) might be:
Songs of the Troubadours and Trouveres
Samuel N. Rosenberg (Editor)
Garland Reference Library, 1997
Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay
Cambridge University Press, 1999
Music and Poetry in the Middle Ages: A Guide to Research on French and Occitan
Song, 1100 - 1400
Margaret L. Switten
Garland Medieval Bibliographies, 1995 [MI]
Buy Songs of the Troubadours
Buy Songs of the Troubadours and Trouveres
Buy The Troubadours
Buy Music and Poetry in the Middle Ages
Two Medieval Outlaws: Eustace the Monk and Fouke Fitz Waryn
Glyn S. Burgess
Hardcover, 196 pages
DS Brewer, 1997
This is a small hardcover and each of the stories could be read at a sitting (with patience, the whole book could be read in one sitting). Eustace the Monk is the 'hero' of the 13th Century "Wistasse le Moine", a verse story in which the warrior-monk goes to Toledo, learns sorcery, and uses it to cause all sorts of mischief (terrorizing cloisters, avoiding his tavern bill, etc.). Eventually, he decides to ssettle down and join a monastery, but he finds this life too boring. He starts using his magic again, until he attracts the attention of a local abbot. He defeats and humiliates the abbot, but this attracts the attention of the king of England, who presses him into service. Eustace is sent to the Isle of Guernsey, to fight French pirates, which he does with zeal. Unfortunately, by the end of the poem, he's managed to offend the King of England, who sends 20 warships after him and they, eventually, defeat him. Some scholars say Eustace is the model for Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood stories, but it seems unlikely to me. Eustace was apparently a historical figure, who may have actually been a monk at one time, and may also have been admiral of the French navies. He was captured near Dover in 1217.
Fouke Fitz Waryn (or Fulke Fitzwarin) was an English noble who rebelled against the tyranny of King John. Fouke's father, also named Fouke, was a confident and contemporary of King Henry's -- father of Richard, John, and Geoffrey. According to legend, when John and Fouke the younger were boys, Fouke caught John cheating at chess, and John nearly killed him with the stone chessboard. As they grew, Fouke forgot this slight, but John never did, and when John came to power, he stripped Fouke of his lands and titles. The story, written in Old French prose, survives in a miscellany of works in Latin, French, and English, dating from c. A.D. 1325-40.
Fouke was apparently based on a real person and his real life adventures
may have provided a model for the legends of Robin Hood. The Fouke
stories have manay similarities to the Robin Hood legends, although they
include more fantastic elements, such as giants and dragons. Fouke
rebelled in 1200, and operated largely on the Welsh borders. He was
eventually pardoned, married to Matilda of Caus, the widow of the Irish
baron Theobald Walter, and lived a long life. Fouke sometimes appears
as a character in the Robin Hood cycle, so this story is good for any
English persona from about A.D. 1200 on. [AY]
Buy Two Medieval Outlaws
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Contents © 1999-2006 Alex Newman for the Carolingian Storytellers Guild