Stories and Texts

This page is designed to give students easy access to full texts and critical readings related to class topics. Where possible, multiple links are listed, and (I hope!) alternative translations. Always be aware that this field is rife with charletains and crackpots. Stick with solid, scholarly sources when conducting research for this course.

The main places to look for topics and stories not covered below is Folklore and Mythology Electronic Texts (by D. L. Ashliman) and the Internet Sacred Text Archive (a huge compilation which also includes some scholarly critical works).

 


The nature of myth, archetypes, mythic cycles

The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion by Sir James George Frazer is one of the foundational works in the field of mythology and religion. Scroll down the page for chapter headings. The website's introductory blurb is helpful: "A monumental study in comparative folklore, magic and religion, The Golden Bough shows parallels between the rites and beliefs, superstitions and taboos of early cultures and those of Christianity. It had a great impact on psychology and literature and remains an early classic anthropological resource."

In Search of Myths and Heroes. The venerable Michael Wood has produced many television series on mythical subjects over the years. This one explores the nature of myths, archetypes, and heroes, focusing on four stories: the Queen of Sheba, the search fro Shangrila, King Arthur, and Jason and the Golden Fleece.

In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature is a course page from Rutgers that deals with a particular archetype: the beast marriage. The site includes many texts of different versions and many critical readings. Particularly helpful is the instructor's inclusion of "The Structure of Myths" from Mircea Eliade's Myth and Reality.

Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns and Homerica: Fragments of the Epic Cycle (Online Medieval & Classical Library)

Homerica: Fragments of the Epic Cycle, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White (1914): War of the Titans to the Epigoni.

Proclus, The Epic Cycle (ed. Gregory Nagy) from the Center for Hellenic Studies.

The Wikipedia article on Wagner's Ring Cycle will get you started if you don't know anything about it.

Alex Ross's piece for the New Yorker on the relationship between Wagner's Ring and Tolkien's trilogy: The Ring and the Rings.

Tolkien's Ring and Der Ring des Nibelungen from One Ring to Rule Them All, A Study of the History, Symbolism and Meaning of the One Ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth by David Harvey.

Both Rings Were Round and There the Resemblence Eases: Tolkien, Wagner, Nationalism, and Modernity, by Bradley J. Birzer. A lecture for a conference on opera.

Gilgamesh

Book of Genesis (Revised Standard Version)

Notes for the Translation of Gilgamesh, and a translation by Yanita Chen for MythHome. The MythHome pages also include some comments on the need for mythology.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Translated by Maureen Gallery Kovacs) from Academy for Ancient Texts.

Information on the text and background of Gilgamesh from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Flood narrative from the Gilgamesh Epic translated by E. A. Speiser.

Enuma Elish: the Epic of Creation, translated by L. W. King (1902). From The Seven Tablets of Creation.

L. W. King's Legends of Babylon and Egypt in Relation to Hebrew Tradition--a series of lectures on the parallels.

Samuel Noah Kramer's Sumerian Mythology--a seminal work in Ancient Near Eastern religious studies. The introduction to the page reads as follows: "The Sumerians were a non-Semitic, non-Indo-European people who lived in southern Babylonia from 4000-3000 B.C.E. They invented cuneiform writing, and their spiritual beliefs influenced all successive Near Eastern religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They produced an extensive body of literature, among the oldest in the world. Samuel Noah Kramer spent most of his life studying this literature, by piecing together clay tablets in far-flung museums. This short work gives translations or summaries of the most important Sumerian myths."

The Chaldean Account of the Deluge, by George Smith (1873). "This paper, which was read before the Society of Biblical Archaeology in London on December 3rd, 1872, caused a sensation . . . Smith started to find bits and pieces which suggested an account of a flood. In 1872, Smith found a large fragment covered with a thick deposit which, when removed, revealed a large part of the flood narrative. Reportedly, he exclaimed, "I am the first man to read that after more than two thousand years of oblivion," put the tablet on a table, and ran around the room maniacally, taking off his clothes! . . . The tablet had the story of a deluge, which resembled the account in Genesis, but which was obviously older than the Bible. Today, we know this as the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh epic."

Plato

Timaeus: Internet Classics Archive (from MIT; trans. Benjamin Jowett)

Critias: Internet Classics Archive (trans. Benjamin Jowett)

Active Mind's page on Plato & Atlantis (uncredited translations of both dialogues, plus additional information)

Jowett's translation of the Critias with notes & commentary from Ancient Texts

Truth Lies and History in Plato's Timaeus-Critias by Thomas K. Johansen (University of Bristol/Center for Hellenic Studies; .pdf)

Additional textual resources for other mythic traditions

Theseus

Ovid, Aegeus, and Theseus (Metamorphoses Bk.7)

The Perseus Project's translation (edited by Brookes More) of the Minotaur section of Book 8

Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, etc., translation of Metamorphoses, Book 8 (second from top)

Plutarch's Life of Theseus

The Heroes. Or, Greek Fairy Tales for my Children. By Charles Kingsley (1901)

Theseus: Legendary King of Athens (from Prof. Bernard Suzanne). The focus of the website is Plato's dialogues, and his times.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's version of the Minotaur story from Tanglewood Tales.

Other Classical (Greece & Rome)

Theoi Greek Mythology: Exploring Mythology in Classical Literature. This is a general site, but it has a library of eTexts.

The University of Pennsylvania Library page of online books has a section on Greek mythology that includes both eTexts and commentary.

E. M. Berens, Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome (Project Gutenberg), first published in 1880 and "Illustrated from Antique Sculptures." These aren't exactly primary sources, but they provide an interesting look into nineteenth-century sensibilities about myth.

The simplest source with readily understandable translations of Classical texts is the Internet Classics Archive; I've linked the list of authors. If you need information on where to look for a story, I can probably help.

Arthur

Texts on Arthur from the Camelot Project.

King Arthur: Tales of the Round Table. Edited by Andrew Lang (from Sacred Texts). This is not properly a primary source, but is rather a compilation of some of the tales by a well-regarded scholar of fairy tales and legends.

Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur from the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library.

The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (1877). Sacred Texts.

India

The Creation of the World According to the Upanishads from Mircea Eliade's Myths of Creation and of Origin (in From Primitives to Zen)

The Bhagavad Gita Translated by Ramanand Prasad (From Exploring Ancient World Cultures)

The Historical Context of The Bhagavad Gita and Its Relation to Indian Religious Doctrines by Soumen De (EAWC)

The Bhagavad Gita Translated by Edwin Arnold (1885). From Sacred Texts.

Also from Sacred Texts: an introduction to the Gita, with a section-by-section gloss.

Indian Fairy Tales and Jakata Tales from Sacred Texts (two compilation/translations, both from 1912 of Indian stories).

Miscellaneous Short Buddhist Texts includes both Indian and Chinese examples.

Scandinavia/Anglo-Saxon

Comparisons between South Asian and Scandinavian stories would seem unlikely, but Lauren Wells Hasten's article, "Eddas and Vedas: Comparative Mythology and the Aryan Invasion Hypothesis" (Department of Anthropology, CCNY Brooklyn, 1996) offers some insights both into linguistic mythology, and they way in which two seemingly disparate traditions might well be related.

The Volsung Saga translated by William Morris. For other Morris translations, see the Translations page at Morris Online Edition.

The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturlson. Translated by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur (1916)

The Nibelungenlied (trans. Georg Henry Needler)

Northvegr (Iceland): primary texts, translations, folk & fairy tales, lots more.

Beowulf in Cyberspace (Beowulf on Steorarum): terrifically cool online edition of the poem.

The Kalevala (Finland) by Elias Lönnrot, translated by John Martin Crawford (1888) from Sacred Texts. More Scandinavian texts are available on this page devoted to Tolkien's sources for Lord of the Rings.

The Ring Cycle is a page devoted to Wagner's series of operas, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

China

The Chinese Classics, from Sacred Texts, includes most of the central religious texts of China

Miscellaneous Short Chinese Texts, also from Sacred Texts; see also Miscellaneous Short Buddhist Texts.

The Sacred Books of China - The Texts of Confucianism. Translated by James Legge (1879). Part I (Sacred Books of the East, Volume 3).

For more texts from both China and India, see the Sacred Texts index of Sacred Books of the East.

C. G. Jung's forward to the I Ching (Jung's own analysis of one of China's sacred books; very long, but very informative).

Illustrated Works from various sources

Nathanial Hawthorne, Tanglewood Tales, illustrated by Virginia Frances Sterett. The Penn Press, 1921 (Digital). This edition of Hawthorne's adaptations of Greek myths has gorgeous pictures by an artist whose work is reminiscent of Erte (Roman de Tirtoff). Download the .pdf version. The stories include those of Theseus, Proserpina (Persephone), Circe, and The Golden Fleece.

Project Gutenberg often reprints books with their original illustrations, so if you're interested in a particular story, you might look at the main site for links to out-of-print books with wonderful old images.

If your phone or tablet allows book downloads, free books with illustrations are often available. Check bookshelf apps for options. I've found several old books that I downloaded from FreeBooks and iTunes.

I'll add more of these when I find them.

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