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Bulfinch's Mythology (1881)

by Thomas Bulfinch

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,120341,574 (3.95)49
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."… (more)
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English (31)  Spanish (2)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
This 1967 version of Thomas Bulfinch's textbooks on mythology (finished in 1863) is a chronicle of myths that have influenced Western civilization and literature for hundreds of years. It is divided into three sections: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, and The Legends of Charlemagne.

The Age of Fable takes up more than half of the book and is a great look at the myths of Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. The vast majority of this section (33 out of 40 chapters) is spent on the myths of Greece and Rome. Fuller chooses to follow Bulfinch in naming the characters of the myths in their Roman names, rather than the Greek names, although translations are given. Stories included in this section include the creation of the world, Hercules, The Iliad, The Oddesy, and the Anead, as well as many Norse myths, the druids of Europe, and Beowulf. This section is easy to follow and gives insight into any myth you'd want to read about (or take inspiration from for your games, particularly from Mythic Odysseys of Theros).

The second section, The Age of Chivalry, revolves around the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. This section is where the "Abridgement" in the title starts to rear its ugly head. While not as bad as in the following section, this is where the fact that this book was originally a textbook comes out in the storytelling. Unlike the former section, where there were stories like the Iliad but quickly move on to other characters, this section is more or less about the same group of people throughout. This means that while we have these characters for a longer amount of time, we still do not get very much elaboration on their character traits outside of being told that they love people or are virtuous knights. Because we are with these characters for longer, I would expect more elaboration on them. This section also summarises Le Morte d’Arthur (1485), by Sir Thomas Malory, which is also located in the recommended reading of Appendix D of the 5e Dungeon Master's Guide (2014).

In my opinion, the last section, The Legends of Charlemagne, was the hardest to get through, even though it was only around fifty pages. Maybe this is due to the fact that it is around half the length of The Age of Chivalry, or due to the fact that Charlemagne was an actual historical figure, but this section dragged along quite a bit. It was also, especially in chapters four and five, very insistent on a mentality of "us Christians versus those Muslims," which while understandable for the time, was not exactly the most palatable depiction for me, as I am not a Christian.

All in all, this is a great reference book, but I would stick to using it as just that and not reading it cover-to-cover like I did. ( )
  WillChildress | May 3, 2023 |
This exquisite hard cover story covers a multitude of topics retelling short stories of Greek mythology, in a nonfiction format. It includes a glossary that explains important terms used throughout the series. Stories are told about mythological persons and events including: The Trojan War, Ulysses, King Midas, Hercules, Pegasus and the Chimera, Daedalus, Icarus, Cupid and Psyche, Atlanta, and Baucis and Philemon. These stories are written in a way that draws in young readers and gives critical information relating to the time period of Greeks and Roman mythology. The illustrations hold a special importance as they assist in conveying a more detailed picture of era and events relating to the specific Gods or Goddesses and settings involved. ( )
  AshleyNettleton | Feb 19, 2023 |
A benchmark in the Mythology world. What can you say about it that has not already been said. If you read Mythology it is a must to have on your shelf. However I would consider Edith Hamilton's volume just as pertinent. ( )
  JHemlock | Nov 17, 2022 |
This was not a fun mythology read. I kind of liked it, but I'm just glad I finished the whole thing. Keep in mind this book was published in the late 1800s and keep in mind this is not about all kinds of mythology. If you have an interest in Greco-Roman (mostly Roman) mythology, King Author, and Charlemagne you might enjoy this, but even I found Bulfinch's writing tedious. It's worth the read, but it's dated compared to some modern mythology books.

At times this book tries to cover other types of mythology, but briefly. Clearly he cared more about Roman and King Author mythology. Maybe he didn't know too much about the other stuff, but to call this "mythology" is kind of misleading. The third part of this book is more history/lore than mythology. Not sure if Charlemagne truly belongs in this book or not.

Besides the fact that this focuses on mythology the only reason I read this was because it was referenced in the comic book Fables with "Bulfinch" Street. Not only that, I can see Fables used some of this books ideas on knights and chivalry...which this book goes into more than mythology in my opinion.

Overall I'm glad I read this, but most of this was a review thanks to college. ( )
  Ghost_Boy | Aug 25, 2022 |
Fair/good
  GoshenMAHistory | Mar 29, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Bulfinchprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blaisdell, ElinoreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, Richard P.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, SabraIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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."

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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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