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Bulfinch's Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch

Bulfinch's Mythology (original 1881; edition 2010)

by Thomas Bulfinch

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3,430181,572 (3.91)30
Title:Bulfinch's Mythology
Authors:Thomas Bulfinch
Collections:Your library
Tags:read, own, myth/religion

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Bulfinch's Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch (1881)


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To round out my self-education of Ancient Greek history, along with "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey", several history and philosophy books on the period, I also obtained 2 books on mythology- Robert Graves’ "The Greek Myths" and "Bulfinch’s Mythology" written by Thomas Bulfinch.

Although Bulfinch’s work has been described as “one of the most popular books ever published in the United States and the standard work on classical mythology for nearly a century”, I found it lacking in my particular area of interest. Of the Modern Library edition’s 857 pages, approximately 285 are dedicated purely to Greek mythology. The book also includes a vast range of other myths including a section on Hindu myths and Beowulf, several hundred pages on the Age of Chivalry (King Arthur, Lancelot, Tristram and Isoude), plus the adventures of Robin Hood. Bullfinch also provides several hundred pages on the Legends of Charlemagne.

Bulfinch uses the Latin/Roman names for Gods and Goddesses rather than the traditional Greek names, hence: Venus rather than Aphrodite, Ulysses rather than Odysseus, and Jupiter rather than Zeus, etc., etc. And if the reader has little previous knowledge of mythology, it appears unorganized and confusing. Bulfinch writes brief descriptions of various Gods and Goddesses, moving through time at a brisk pace, sharing anecdotes of interest, but he makes little sense of how the stories tie together. Also somewhat confusing, there are so many immortals, it boggles the mind how they all relate to one another.

Robert Graves’ "The Greek Myths" is also a book of great length. There are 782 pages plus a lengthy introduction… all narrowly limited to the Greek myths. Here you will find a lot more detail about each of the Gods and Goddesses, and the nice thing about Grave’s approach is that the immortals are introduced as they are born. He begins with the 4 original mythical variations.. introducing each God and Goddess as they enter the immortal world, providing details about their birthright, their nature, and their deeds. 50 pages are dedicated to explaining how the signs of the Zodiac evolved from the 12 labors of Heracles. Over 100 pages relate to the lives of the participants of the Trojan War- it’s causes, the outcome, and finishing with Odysseus’s return home from Troy to his native land of Ithaca.

Differing from Bulfinch’s Latin version, Graves uses the traditional names for all Gods and Goddesses. This coincides nicely with my editions of "The Iliad" and "The Odysseus" translated by Robert Fitzgerald which- unlike many other popular translations- also uses the more familiar Greek names.

In conclusion, if you are looking for general data on all myths throughout the ages, you might prefer "Bulfinch’s Mythology". Rated 3 Stars.

If you are strictly looking for information on Greek Mythology, go for Robert Graves‘ "The Greek Myths". Rated 5 Stars. ( )
  LadyLo | Nov 20, 2015 |
The definitive collection of mythology, although from a decidedly Anglo Christian perspective. It's actually interesting to ferret out the slant Bulfinch brings to a text which would benefit from a less biased perspective. It is helpful to have a basic knowledge of the myths that have informed culture, both classical and popular over the years. It's also very useful for doing crosswords. ( )
  EmScape | Apr 18, 2015 |
I worked my way through this thick volume over the course of a few weeks in August, wanting to take my time with it and dig in a bit. I didn't find Bulfinch's summaries all that interesting, in the end, but I suspect it will be useful to have this book around for the occasional reference need. It's certainly a handy thing to have so many different mythologies highlighted within two covers. ( )
  JBD1 | Aug 18, 2014 |
Thoroughly enjoyable. That is, if you love ancient tales. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
A very interesting read. A lot of the myths I read elsewhere are completely different than the ones I read elsewhere. I'm not sure which myths are the more prevalent, but the differences were very interesting.

As I like to include some mythology and mythological stories into my writings, I think this will be a very helpful tool. My copy of "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" brings in the whimsical, while "Bulfinch's" bring in a more practical view. ( )
  HarperKingsley | Nov 13, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Bulfinchprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blaisdell, ElinoreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, Richard P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, SabraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which helps to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in society, then mythology has no claim to the appellation. (Preface)
The religions of ancient Greece and Rome are extinct. (Chapter One)
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This unabridged work consists of The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry and The Legends of Charlemagne - it should not be combined with works that do not include all parts.
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Book description
Contains Three Volumes
The major contents of which are retained in this abridgment for the student and general reader

The Age of Fable
The Gods and Goddesses of Greece and Rome
Mythology of the Germanic Tribes, England & the Near East.

The Legends of Charlemagne
Accounts of the reign of the first Great French Emperor, his wars and conquests

The Age of Chivalry
King Arthur and his court,
Launcelot and Guenever,
And the death of Arthur
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375751475, Paperback)

For almost a century and a half, Bulfinch's Mythology has been the text by which the great tales of the gods and goddesses, Greek and Roman antiquity; Scandinavian, Celtic, and Oriental fables and myths; and the age of chivalry have been known.
        The stories are divided into three sections: The Age of Fable or Stories of Gods and Heroes (first published in 1855); The Age of Chivalry (1858), which contains King Arthur and His Knights, The Mabinogeon, and The Knights of English History; and Legends of Charlemagne or Romance of the Middle Ages (1863). For the Greek myths, Bulfinch drew on Ovid and Virgil, and for the sagas of the north, from Mallet's Northern Antiquities. He provides lively versions of the myths of Zeus and Hera, Venus and Adonis, Daphne and Apollo, and their cohorts on Mount Olympus; the love story of Pygmalion and Galatea; the legends of the Trojan War and the epic wanderings of Ulysses and Aeneas; the joys of Valhalla and the furies of Thor; and the tales of Beowulf and Robin Hood.
The tales are eminently readable. As Bulfinch wrote, "Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of our own language cannot be understood and appreciated. . . . Our book is an attempt to solve this problem, by telling the stories of mythology in such a manner as to make them a source of amusement."

Thomas Bulfinch, in his day job, was a clerk in the Merchant's Bank of Boston, an undemanding position that afforded him ample leisure time in which to pursue his other interests. In addition to serving as secretary of the Boston Society of Natural History, he thoroughly researched the myths and legends and copiously cross-referenced them with literature and art. As such, the myths are an indispensable guide to the cultural values of the nineteenth century; however, it is the vigor of the stories themselves that returns generation after generation to Bulfinch.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:34 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Retells the tales of the heroes and heroines that emerged during the Age of Chivalry in Europe and provides historical, theological and literary insights.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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