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May 20, 2012


Oh thank you for this, what a wonderful offshoot, and those illustrations are splendid, kind of familiar but fresh, I can see why Clive likes them.

I downloaded 'Roland' too, and I stick a bit on it too. I asked my brother if he had his Oliphaunt to blow in case he was in trouble, and we agreed his mobile phone was probably the nearest thing. But he told me that in fact it was the Basques who attacked Charlemagne's rearguard, not the Moors, because Charlemagne had promised not to damage Pamplona then reneged on that promise, since he didn't want it to fall into Moorish hands. The Basques were naturally incensed, and pursued him over the Pyrenees in vengeance. But I kind of like the Roland story because there's something a bit archetypal in it; the brave retainer forced into an action that he knows to be unwise and fatal by the pride and stupidity of his commander, the malice and treachery of a less worthy rival, and by his own pride and loyalty in being unable to turn down the challenge. It crops up in other places, like The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, for example.

I think my first encounter with that cycle of legends was in a book of stories and legends about animals I had as a child, about the brothers Aymon, enemies of Charlemagne, and their magical horse Bayard. It was never really clear in any of those tales who were the goodies and who the baddies; everything was big and savage and barbaric and magical.

The basis of much of the pilgrimage is uncomfortable for us in many ways now, St James the Moorslayer, etc, though perhaps quite a bit of that was hyped up later, after the Crusades and again with Ferdinand and Isabella...

Thanks again Beth!

What gorgeous illustrations - never seen or heard of this book.

The tale of Roland, I agree - ugh! Still, I've rarely felt as spooked as I did walking through the oak forest where he's said to have died. I guess it's just the power of a story so old.

What a treat! Thank you Beth. Always good to see the Provenesens remembered and appreciated. Good too to recall all those years on how diverse and fresh that list off contents from The Golden Treasury of Myths and Legends appears. Hard to imagine a children's book editor today agreeing to 'The Battle of Ronceveaux: the guile of Blancadrin' as subject matter. Indeed harder still to imagine a subtitle being used, let alone one with the word 'guile' in!

Testing my modern-day French against the poem; I'd have been very hard-pressed without the crib. I like the way olifant is dropped in casually but then, as the poet must have said at the time: no description necessary, everyone knows what an olifant is. I wonder if your mind is something of a battlefield when it comes to sagbut, shawm (spelling?) etc. The names are romantic, it's nice to transport oneself back to hear Sumer is Icumen In played as Henry VIII might have heard it, but oh how much more rewarding to dwell on how and why - especially why - musical instruments have evolved.

I've never done the Santiago route, but friends of mine are there right now. I am very happy looking at this book and thinking about my impressions of Spain.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.