Guide to Fantasy Authors and Tales

compiled by George Jelliss

Part 1 — The Age of Myths and Legends

This first section of the Guide tries to cover everything from the earliest records, including archaeological evidence, to beyond the invention of printing, after which the first printed syntheses of the oral and hand-written traditions, were compiled. It seems appropriate that we conclude with the retellings of folk and fairy tales by Charles Perrault and Madame D'Aulnoy in the 1690s. The treatment of the myths and legends is from the point of view of a modern secular reader interested in tracing themes of imaginative fiction back to their sources, or seeking new inspiration from old stories. Many modern writers (Dunsany, Lovecraft, Tolkein come to mind) have tried to create extensive new myths to provide motivation for their fantasies.

It is of course possible to find many similarities and correspondences between myths and legends from different regions. For example stories of creation designed to explain how and why the world came to be the way it is. Parables to guide the morality of human behaviour and explore taboos. Attitudes to death, with ideas of ghosts, spirits and lands of the dead. Legends of survival of past disasters such as great floods, famines, plagues and wars. But there are also notable differences to be seen. I feel that attempts to achieve a unified viewpoint, amalgamating all myths into one scheme, as for instance exact matchings between diverse pantheons of gods, have often been taken too far; perhaps the differences and incompatibilities are of more interest. Certainly many attitudes to life and the world exhibited in folklore are difficult for modern minds to comprehend. As has been often said, the past is in many ways a foreign place.

Modern Knowledge of Ancient Times
Modern science of course now provides detailed theories, often well substantiated with evidence, that provide us with alternative stories of creation and explanations of natural phenomena; and many of these ideas are expressed in names that are redolent of myth. For example the geology of plate tectonics traces the continents back to a single land-mass known as Pangaea, which began to break up some 200 million years ago into Laurasia (N. America (Laurentia), Greenland, Europe, Asia) and Gondwanaland (Antarctica, S. America, Africa, India, Australia, named from an area in Northern India). And geological time provides us with an impressive chronology, in units of ‘millions of years ago’, from origin of Earth: 4600 Precambrian, 570 Cambrian, 500 Ordovician, 435 Silurian (life comes onto the land), 395 Devonian, 345 Carboniferous (forests that formed coal), 280 Permian, 225 Triassic (reptiles), 193 Jurassic (dinosaurs), 136 Cretaceous (birds and mammals), 65 Eocene, 38 Oligocene, 26 Miocene, 7 Pliocene, 2 Pleistocene (which covers the evolution of man from earlier hominid forms like australopithecus), 0.01 (i.e. a mere 10,000 years ago) Holocene (which covers everything from the first domestication of plants and animals). Going back even further, the big-bang theory traces the very origin of the Universe to a mere 13.4 ±1.6 billion years ago, and provides detailed evolutionary history of stars and galaxies. And from the stars come the more complex chemical elements needed for life. Nevertheless there is much that is yet unknown, and that may be unknowable, and it should be recalled that only a few years ago other ideas were popular.

Sumeria — The Epic of Gilgamesh before 2000BC
Gilgamesh was an historical king of Erech or Uruk on the River Euphrates (now Warka in Iraq); he lived c.2700BC. Oral traditions about Gilgamesh, were written down c.2100BC in the Sumerian language on clay tablets. The fullest surviving version is derived from twelve stone tablets, in the Akkadian language, scribed by Shin-eqi-unninni (Sin-leqe-unnini), c.650BC, which were found in the ruins of the library of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria 669-633BC, at Nineveh. The library was destroyed by the Persians in 612BC, and all the tablets are damaged.
— Besides Gilgamesh the other major character is Enkidu, a wild man of the forest, who becomes his friend after being beaten by him in a fight. Gilgamesh battles with and kills Humbaba, ruler of the cedar forests, who breathed fire and had an eye that could petrify. As punishment for destroying the forests, the gods set the ‘Bull of Heaven’ on Uruk, which causes rifts in the earth (i.e. an earthquake) and drought. Enkidu falls ill and dies, and Gilgamesh goes on a pilgrimage to find Utnapishtim and his wife, who were the only survivors of an earlier Great Flood, by building a boat to preserve themselves and their animals. The ferriman Urshanabi takes him over the Waters of Death. From Utnapishtim he learns of a plant that will give eternal life. He retrieves it from the bottom of the sea, but before he can test it, it is eaten by a snake (which is why snakes can shed their skins and renew themselves). There are evident themes in these stories that have been stolen or reinvented by later authors; we will see this throughout this account of myths and legends.
— The first translations were by Henry Rawlinson (1810-1895) and George Smith (1840-1876) and a popular edition by Stephen Langdon The Epic of Gilgamesh 1917.

Egypt (1500bc or earlier)
There are several Egyptian creation myths. The most well known names being probably: Amon-Ra sun-god, ruler over the other gods, Anubis jackal-headed god of the dead, Osiris and Isis male and female principles, Horus and Set representing good and evil, Thoth ibis-headed god of knowledge. The main myth, explaining the rights of the pharaohs and their burial practices, is that of the murder of Osiris by his brother Set. The necrophilic conception of Horus by Osiris's sister/wife Isis. The dismemberment of Osiris's corpse by Set and its reassembly and reanimation, to become the ‘god of the dead’ (taking over that role from Anubis who becomes his scribe). Then the battle of Horus with Set, i.e. of good and evil, which continues for ever.
— A hero-legend is that of Setna, a scribe/son of Rameses II (1304-1237bc), who steals the Book of Thoth from the tomb of Nefrekeptah, son/scribe of Amenhotep II (15th century bc), but later returns it and closes and conceals the tomb. This is after a horrific dream in which he becomes enamoured of a lesser goddess Tabubua, after sacrificing his wife and children, only to find himself embracing a corpse.
— None of these myths and legends seems to have been preserved in a single source but have been reconstructed from diverse fragments.

India — The Vedas 1500BC
One of the difficulties I find in following the Indian myths is that every principal hero is always seen as an incarnation of the sun-god Vishnu and every heroine as an incarnation of the fortune-goddess Lakshmi. Thus they can be identified with Krishna and his consorts Radha and Rukmini, or with Rama and Sita, and yet they can also appear, in the same story, as separate from these incarnations – it's all very confusing. Also, perhaps because of this cavalier attitude to time, it is very difficult to date Indian texts. — The Rig Veda in early Sanskrit dates from 1500bc, but the three other Vedas may be considerably later. Vedas are mantras (rhythmic ceremonial recitations) addressed to personifications of natural forces. In later centuries commentaries (Brahmana) were added and some names changed to those of new gods. — The Upanishads are some 150 mystical works in prose and verse, composed between about 600 and 200bc, some very long, others only a few pages.

Jewish before 925BC
The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament of the Bible; the author is sometimes called the Yahwist. Genesis i: the creation of the universe including plants, animals and man; ii: creation of first man and woman, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden; iii: the serpent pursuades them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as a result of which they are expelled from Eden; iv-v: birth of Cain and Abel, murder of Abel, birth of Seth and further genealogies to Noah; 'translation' of Enoch; vi-x: the story of Noah building the Ark to save his family and creatures from the Flood, the rainbow as a covenant against any future destruction. xi: The tower of Babel is built to reach the sky, but Yahweh brings it down, and garbles the builders' speech, so they can no longer cooperate: a myth of origin for the world's many languages; xii-xxxv: Jewish proto-history, including the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the near-sacrifice of Isaac; Jacob's ladder, Joseph interpreting the Pharaoh's dreams, exile in Egypt. Exodus i-ii: Moses in the bullrushes; iii: Yahweh appears to him in a burning bush; iv-v: Magical duel in which staffs turn into serpents; vi-xii: the plagues of Egypt; xiii-xl: the exodus from Egypt, guided by pillars of cloud and fire; parting of the Red sea; Manna from heaven; the ten commandments, tabernacle etc. Leviticus detailed laws; Numbers and Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses within sight of his promised land.

Hesiod — Theogony before c.700BC
The oldest Greek myths are those in the Theogony by Hesiod which deals with the origin of the universe out of chaos, and the history of the gods. From primal nature, Sky Ouranos and Earth Ge are born the Titans headed by Time Kronos and Flow Rhea, who in turn give way reluctantly to the Olympians headed by Zeus and Hera. The earliest of these myths were borrowed by the Greeks from Sumer and elsewhere; Hesiod attempts to fit them into some sort of rational pattern.
— He is also author of Works and Days. This includes the optimistic myth of Prometheus, a Titan, who stole fire from the gods and returned it to men (who were it seems all males at that time); and the mysoginistic myth of Pandora, the first woman, created from clay by Hephaistos the craftsman of the gods, and who's box when opened released all woes upon men, leaving behind only Hope. It also includes the idea of a lost Golden Age in the past.
— Also attributed to Hesiod is the Catalogue of Women which traces the supposed ancestry of the Greek races and heroes.

Homer — Iliad and Odyssey before c.700BC
The Iliad is set at the seige of Troy (around 1200BC), and centers on the high-handedness of the Greek leader Agamemnon which causes his main ally Achilles to sulk in his tent at a critical stage of the battle. The doings of the gods provide a sort of comic relief, and there are many hints of other hero legends.
— The Odyssey tells of the wanderings of the wily hero Odysseus after the Trojan war on his way back to Ithaca.
— Also attributed to Homer are the 33 Homeric Hymns (similar to the Indian Vedas) in praise of various gods. The longest are to Apollon, Demeter, Hermes, and Aphrodite.

Aesop before 560BC
Fables. It is difficult to determine which of the Greek fables originated with Aesop and which may be by later Greek writers, including Gaius Julius Phaedrus (15BC-50AD), Claudius Aelianus (170-235), Aulus Gellius (117-180), Babrius (2nd c AD), Flavius Avianus (4th c AD). They use talking animals to convey points about human nature.

Aeschylus (c.525-456BC)
Of 60 plays attributed to him 7 are extant: Persianse; Seven against Thebes, Prometheus Bound, Suppliants, The Oresteia (458BC a trilogy of plays – Agamemnon, Choephoroe, Eumenides) tragedies, including the death of Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan wars.

Pindarus (c.522-440BC) also known as Pindar
Lyric poet. His Epinikia or Triumphal Odes survive complete. They celebrate the victories won in the Olympian, Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian games. The background is in those legends which form the Greek religious literature; he protests against myths dishonouring to the gods. [CBD]

Bacchylides (c.510-c.450BC)
One of his poems mentions the youthful exploits of Theseus.

Sophocles (c.496-405BC)
Of over 100 plays, 8 survive. Ichneutae, Ajax, Antigone c.441, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus, Trachiniae, Philoctetes, Oedipus Coloneus.

Euripides (485-406BC)
Of 80 dramas, 18 survive complete. Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Hecuba, Andromache, Supplices, Heraclidae, Troades, Helena, Phoenissae, Orestes, Bacchae, Iphigenia in Aulis, Ion, Hercules Furens, Iphigenia in Tauris, Electra, Cyclops, Rhesus. “The oldest manuscripts known to us go back only to the 12th century and are very corrupt.” [CBD]

Aristophanes (c.448-c.388BC)
Of 54 plays 11 are extant: Acharnians, Knights, Clouds includes a role for Socrates, represented unfairly as a Sophist; Wasps; Peace, political satire; Birds; Lysistrata; Thesmophoriazusae; Frogs; Ecclesiazusae; Plutus; satirical plays and comedies, including 'Cloud Cuckoo Land';.

India — The Puranas
The Puranas are versified narratives of the origin of the world and the mythical lives of various gods and heroes. They are divided into 18 greater Maha-puranas religious and philosophical in nature and a number (one source says 18, another 46, and a third that they are ‘countless’) of lesser Upa-puranas on history and legend. — Lin Carter in an appendix to Thongor at the End of Time (1968) says there are 46. He mentions a translation into English rhymed couplets by the Rev. W. Clinton Hollister, Bombay, 1896 (but I can find no mention of this on the internet). Carter says: "... according to occult scholars ... where the Puranas discuss Sveta-Dwipa (the Sacred Land or the White Island) they are talking about that lost continent or group of islands we know as Atlantis ... and where they mention Hiranya-Dwipa (the Golden Land) they are recording some of the lore of the mythic continent we know as Lemuria or Mu." Further: "The Puranas are very, very difficult to read and almost impossible to make sense out of. They do not even seem to tell a connected story in the proper time-sequence or order of events." which he puts down to centuries of poor translation and copying by idle monks; but more probably they come from separate local traditions and do not fit together. Carter's Thongor stories are based on "a divine hero called Mahathongoyha ... a sort of wandering hero of mysterious and probably divine origin. He encounters a great Rishi (sage, saint or wizard ...) named Sharajsha ... they wage a sacred war or quest against the Nagarajahs, the Kings of the Serpent people, whom they destroy with a magic sword given by the god Indra ... There is also a subplot. Thongoyha the Great rescues the Maharani Soomaia from a band of wicked fire-worshipping priests who have usurped her city of Patangha; later in the Puranas, the hero returns to overthrow these priests ... by means of the magical vahan vidya or flying car, which had been stolen from the god Indra by another Maharaj Palitahooridya."

India — The Mahbharata 400BC
— The Mahabharata is the most voluminous single work, though composite in structure. The title means ‘great heroes’. Bharata also refers to a particular King whose descendants most of the heroes in the epic were. It is an epic of over 200,000 lines, said to have been completed no later than the 4th century bc, though composed over a long period, and with later additions. It tells of the war between the Pandavas five brothers and the Kauravas a hundred villains. The final editor is simply known as the ‘Compiler’ (Vyasa). It has 18 books, some containing only dialogue, others dealing exclusively with morality and good manners. One of the books is the Bhagavadgita (Song of Krishna). [Main source for these Indian notes: Jan Knappert Indian Mythology Aquarian Press 1991.]

India — The Ramayana 250BC
The Ramayana which has 48,000 lines, of 8 syllables each, was composed in Sanskrit around 250bc by the poet Valmiki. It overlaps with later parts of the Mahabharata. (See also Tulsi Das 1574.)

Apollonius of Rhodes (c.295-c.215BC)
Argonautica. The first complete written version of an oral legend from before 800BC. Commissioned by King Pelias to obtain the Golden fleece from King Aeëtes of Colchis (modern Georgia), Jason has a state-of-the art ship built, the Argo, and gathers a motley crew that includes Orpheus and Heracles. The expedition enters the Hellespont (which was named after Helle who drowned there after falling from the flying golden ram whose fleece is the McGuffin) proceeds round the Black Sea and back, with many happenings (in my abridged copy of Robert Graves' Greek Myths it covers 20 pages). At Colchis the fleece is guarded by a dragon, but Jason is aided by the local princess and sorceress Medea. The dragons teeth, sowed into the ground, transform into ferocious warriors, who are made to fight themselves. Jason marries Medea, and on his return deposes Pelias, but later he abandons Medea who takes terrible revenge.

Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso 43BC-c.17AD)
Fasti (Festivals) surveying Roman myths associated with the calendar; Metamorphoses, a comprehensive account of Latin mythology, from creation to his own time, emphasising transformations.

Plutarch Plutarchos (c.46-c.120)
On the Apparent Face in the Moon's Orb (c.100AD) despite its title more a treatise than a fantasy; includes some discussion of the moving Earth theory of Aristarchus.

(Lucius?) Apuleius (2nd century AD)
Metamorphoseon sue de Asino Aureo (The Golden Ass), c.165AD "the only complete Roman novel that has survived" [CBD], (English translations by William Adlington 1566, Robert Graves 1950, P.G.Walsh 1994) The narrator, Lucius, is a sort of sorcerer's apprentice, who converts himself into an ass and must eat a rose to become human again, but before he can find one he is stolen and becomes involved in bawdy and terrifying satirical adventures; one episode recounts the tale of Cupid and Psyche.

Lucian (of Samosata) (c.117-c.180)
Greek satirist. "The absurdity of retaining the old deities without the old belief is brought out in:" Dialogues of the Gods; Dialogues of the Dead; Charon. "The old literature had been displaced by novels or romances of adventure of the most fantastic kind, parodied in his:" True Histories [CDB]. "the narrator is suddenly snatched up by a whirlwind and thrown into a water spout that dumped him upon that 'shining island', the moon".

Aulus Gellius (117-180)
Attic Nights a multivolume compilation of stories. Includes the fable Androcles and the Lion.

Gildas (c.493-570)
De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (c.540) "The earliest portrait of Arthur is of a British commander of Roman descent repelling Saxon invaders at the siege of Mons Badonicus (c.500). Gildas depicts such an unnamed leader, probably Ambrosius Aurelianus whom he elsewhere praises and who is made Arthur's uncle in later chronicles." [CGL]

Japan — The Kigi (712/720)
“The main body of the mythology is contained in two of the oldest Japanese books still in existence: the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) and the Nihonshoki or Nihongi (Chronicles of Japan) completed in AD 712 and 720 respectively. Together they are often called the Kigi. Both these compilations were started some 50 years earlier on the instructions of the Emperor Tenmu.” The principal cycles of myths come from three different geographical regions: (1) the Takamagahara or Yamato myths which concentrate on the sun-goddess Amaterasu (from whom the ruling dynasty claimed descent) and her conflict with the Storm god Susano; (2) the Izumo myths dealing with Susano's exploits on earth and the adventures of Okuni-nushi who, after being killed twice by his horrid brothers and resurrected twice through his mother's efforts, visits Susano in the land of Yomi and is put through numerous severe tests before marrying Susano's daughter Suseri-bime; (3) the Himuka or Tsukushi myths. The Moon god Tsukuyomi was created along with Amaterasu and Susano by an earlier god Izanagi who, together with his sister Izanami (pro)created Oh-yashima-guni (the great eight-isle land, i.e. Japan). Izanami died as a result of giving birth to fire, and Izanagi made an unsuccessful attempt to recover her from the underworld. Warned not to look upon her he did so, and found her possessed by maggots and snakes. He fled pursued by by hags. Izanami vows to strangle 1000 of his people per day, but he counters by causing 1500 to be born. Earlier more abstract gods relating to cosmology derive from Chinese influence. [Most details from Susumu Takiguchi in MIE].

Nennius (fl.769)
Historia Britonum (c.769) "gives a mythical account of the origins of the Britons ..." [CBD] "has the first direct mention of Arthur, depicted as a Christian warleader winning 12 battles against the Saxons; the last of these at Mons Badonis. ... also tells the story of the British king Vortigern and a marvellous boy, Ambrosius, the original of Merlin. ... The Welsh triads, which preserve early, pre-Norman traditions about Arthur depict him, accompanied by his principal warriors Cei and Bedwyr." [CGL] "Merriman, in summarising the mythic origins of the legend and the early Welsh matter such as the Gododdin or The Spoils of Annwfn, notes those characters and motifs that can be said to exist prior to the eleventh century: Gawain, Guenevere, Cei and Bedwyr; the wounded Grail King, the pagan warriors who are traditionally Arthur's enemies, the mortal wounding of the king by his nephew, and the tradition of his survival." [J.J.Doherty]

Arabian (10th century)
Alf Layla wa-Layla (One Thousand Nights and a Night), the ‘Arabian Nights’ began to be assembled from Egyptian, Syrian and Persian sources in the 10th century. The frame story is that the Sultan Shahriyar, betrayed by an earlier wife, resolves henceforth to take a new wife each day and behead her in the morning. Sheherezade volunteers for the role, in place of a friend, and postpones the execution for 1001 nights by telling cliff-hanging stories. The actual number of stories in the collection have varied over the years but some of the best-known have no known precursors in Arabic manuscripts. The first translation was by Antoine Galland 1715.

Somadeva (fl.1000)
During the middle ages several large collections of long narrative Indian songs were composed, the best-known being the Katha-Sarit-Sagara (Story-River-Ocean) by the poet Somadeva around ad 1000.

Geoffrey of Monmouth (c.1100-c.1154)
Historia Regum Britanniae (1139). "a totally fictitious history of Britain ... which traced the descent of British kings back to the Trojans and claimed to have based on old Welsh chronicles that he alone had seen." [CBD] "His section on King Arthur is the longest, filling more than a fifth of the book." ... "The Arthurian section in the Historia starts ... with the discovery of the boy Merlin, who is the first really otherworldly element in the book ... Geoffrey tells of his [Arthur's] conception, brought about as the result of Merlin's magic. ... Arthur's conception is the traditional start of the legend. Arthur succeeds Uther when he is fifteen, and he fights twelve battles with the Saxon invaders to free Britain, in which he is aided by King Hoel of Brittany. He then marries Guinevere and sets about establishing his Empire by effortlessly conquering most of Northern Europe. When the Roman Emperor demands tribute, Arthur and his vassal kings and knights decide to fight him instead, and they depart for Gaul leaving the kingdom in the hands of Modred. When the Roman army finally meets Arthur and the Britons, there is a great battle that Arthur wins. As he prepares to march to Rome to receive the Imperial crown Arthur hears that Modred has usurped his throne, has spread a rumour that he is dead, and has announced his intention of marrying Guinevere. He returns home, attacks Modred at Camlann in Cornwall, killing him, but being wounded himself. Before being taken to Avalon so his wounds can heal, Arthur passes his kingdom on to Constantine." [J.J.Doherty 1997] "The plenary court at Caerleon could be an early version of the Arthurian Round Table, and the role of Hoel would become that of Lancelot." [JJD]

Robert Wace (c.1115-c.1183)
Roman de Brut (1155) "a free Norman-French version of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History" [CBD] "Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann traces the evolution of the Round Table in the [Arthurian] legend, and says that it first appeared in Wace's Roman de Brut (1155), though, as she concludes, not in the form that it now has: a democratic device where no knight, not even the king, has precedence over his fellows." [JJD] "Layamon (late 12th c) is the first to put the legend of Arthur into English in his Brut a free and expanded adaptation of Wace." [CGL]

Chretien de Troyes (-1183)
Yvain et Lancelot; Le Chevalier de la Charrete; Erec et Enide (c.1160); Cliges (c.1164); Perceval, ou Le Conte du Graal (c.1180). "His works enjoyed huge popularity throughout medieval europe". [CBD] The Grail and Lancelot do not appear in Arthurian Romance until Chretien de Troyes. "The emergence of the Romance, and of courtly love, gave Lancelot a prominent role in the tales that followed from Chretien, when the Arthurian stories began to concentrate on these attitudes and ideals. When the legend was Christianised, and the Grail became a part of it, Lancelot's love for Guinevere led to his downfall, and, subsequently, to Arthur's death. With the Vulgate Cycle (c.1215-1235) the two characters became inseparable from the legend, and the tragedy of the love triangle, adapted from the early matter to include Lancelot and courtly love, took on its final form." [JJD] "In 1191 fraudulent 'discoveries' of Arthur and Guinevere's tombs at Glastonbury sought to identify it with Avalon" [CGL]

Robert de Boron (-)
Joseph of Arimathea (c.1200). "... it is Robert de Boron in his Joseph d'Arimathie (c.1191-1202) who first specifies that the Grail is the cup of the Last Supper and a vessel containing Christ's blood." [JJD]

Saxo Grammaticus (c.1150-c.1220)
Danish chronicler. Gesta Danorum; legend and history of Denmark down to 1186; a source for Norse legend.

Snorri Sturlason (1179-1241)
Icelandic historian, poet and chieftain, Heimskringla history of the kings of Norway to 1177; Prose Edda (or Younger Edda) c.1220. A prose account of Norse mythology. (The anonymous Verse Edda or Elder Edda, a poetic account of Norse myths, was found in an Icelandic farmhouse in the 17th century.)
— In the beginning was a vast open void, Ginnungagap. In the south a region of fire and heat, Muspell, and in the north a region of ice, Niflheim. How the gods came to be is unclear. The abode of men, Midgard, was fashioned by the gods from the corpse of a primeval giant Ymir, and men and women from Ash and Elm (or Alder) trees. The gods made a home for themselves called Asgard, reached only by crossing the rainbow bridge Bifrost. The mountain and frost giants in Jotunheim are a continual threat to the gods. The structure of the world is held together by the organic growth Yggdrasil which is more than a mere tree. The most popular of the gods was Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir represented the thunderbolt, and when thrown would return to his hand. But his temper is so quick and his strength so great as to sometimes endanger the cosmos. The most feared of the gods was the more cerebral Odin, creator of the twig-like alphabet of runes, which (cut into pieces of wood) were cast for purposes of divination. He appears as a one-eyed old man in a cloak, rides an eight-legged horse Sleipnir and is attended by ravens and wolves. Paradoxically Odin is supposed to have stabbed, hung and starved himself, as a sacrifice to himself, so as to gain power over death. His hand-maidens the Valkyries take the souls of fallen warriors to Valhalla, Odin's hall in Asgard. When they ride forth their armour sheds a strange flickering light: the Aurora Borealis. The brother and sister gods Frey and Freya preside over fertility and beauty. Another god Logi, meaning ‘wildfire’, plays tricks on and causes trouble between the other gods. This god seems to have been confused with the much nastier Loki, one of the original giants, associated with a giant wolf Fenrir and the Midgard Serpent in the ocean, who causes the death of Baldur a son of Odin, representing all that is Good, and the gods combine to bind Loki and Fenrir with iron chains until the end of time. At the end of the world, Ragnarok, Fenrir will be loosed upon Odin, Thor battle the venomous Midgard Serpent, Heimdall the watchman of Asgard will blow his horn and grapple with the giant Loki, and the world will revert to its original state. But perhaps a new world will arise. [Main sources: [Eric J. Sharpe in MIE] and [BUL].]

German Myths 13th century
“The German version of the same myths [as in the Scandinavian Verse Edda] is contained in the Nibelungslied, a 13th century compilation based on much older material.” [Francis King in MIE].

Guillaume de Lorris (13th century)
First part (c.4000 lines) of the Roman de la Rose before 1260; "an allegorical account of a lover's pursuit of his beloved. In a dream-vision he visits a delightful garden in which he sees a rosebud and is pierced by one of Cupid's arrows. With the aid and hindrance of various allegorical personifications he attempts to win the rosebud" [CGL].

Jean (Clopinel) de Meung (c.1250-1305)
Second part (c.18000 lines) of the Roman de la Rose. "substituted for tender allegorizing his own satirical pictures of actual life ... inspired many later authors to write in support of or in opposition" [CBD]

Moses of Leon (c.1250-1305)
Sepher ha Zohar al ha Torah (Book of Splendour on the Law) published in Spain between 1264 and 1290 and purporting to be by Simon ben Jochai a 2nd century rabbi. This was the first book to collect the mystical Jewish tradition known as cabala. A definitive three-volume edition was published at Mantua 1558-60, and a Latin translation by Baron Rosenroth at Sulzbach in 1677-8. “Its ideas, images, and vocabulary permeated European language and literature, often unannounced and unattributed.” [Norman Davies, Europe A History 1997 pp.396-7]

Dante (Dante Alighieri 1265-1321)
The Divine Comedy (begun c.1307 a poem). Narrating a journey through Hell and Purgatory, guided by Virgil, and finally to Paradise, guided by Beatrice. [CBD]

Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca 1304-1374
"the earliest of the great humanists of the Renaissance" [CBD] Africa, epic about Scipio Africanus; Canzoniere Italian sonnets, madrigals and songs.

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375
Teseide, mediaeval romance of Palamon and Arcite (used in Chaucer's Knight's Tale), Filostrato about Troilus and Cressida, before 1350; The Decameron 1358; De Genealogia Deorum on mythology.

The Gawain Poet c.1370
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, alliterative verse romance: 2500 lines. The Green Knight challenges King Arthur's court to deal him a blow with his own axe. Gawain beheads him, but he replaces his head and requires Gawain to visit his Green Chapel. The second part describes Gawain's preparations and journey, including the significance of the pentangle on his shield. In the third part, while his host, Sir Bertilak de Hautdesert, hunts deer, boar and fox, Gawain resists the seduction of his host's wife, but accepts her green girdle as a protection. In the fourth part his host is revealed to be the Green Knight, swings his axe three times but only nicks Gawain's neck. He explains the whole episode was planned by Morgan le Fay to frighten Guinevere. On his return to court, the knights adopt the green girdle as a badge of honour. Cleanness, Patience, Pearl, these in the same MS are more explicitly religious. [Notes based mainly on CGL]

Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1345-1400)
Book of the Duchess 1369; The Parliament of Fowls, The House of Fame, Troilus and Cressida (translation of Boccaccio), The Legend of Good Women, all before 1387; The Canterbury Tales 1387.

Luigi Pulci (1432-1484)
Il Morgante Maggiore (Morgante the Giant) 1481, a burlesque epic with Roland for hero.

Thomas Malory (-1471)
The Death of Arthur (Le Morte Darthur) (written 1470, edited William Caxton 1485). "a happy attempt to give epic unity to the whole mass of French Arthurian romance." [CBD] "Malory's story begins with Merlin magically transforming Uther so the king can enter Tintagel and beget Arthur. Elements such as the Sword in the Stone, which first appeared in Robert de Boron's Merlin (c. 1200), the Round Table, the Grail quest and the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere are all present. Malory also adds the story of Tristram and Iseult, a tale more Romantic in its tone than any of the others he tells, and which prefigures the tragedy to come." ... "In Geoffrey, Modred is Arthur's nephew, but not his son. It is the Vulgate Mort Artu (c.1215-35) that makes Mordred, as he is renamed, both nephew and son: the incestuous offspring of the king and his half-sister Morgause. This incest motif, however, does not appeal to Malory. He gives the events surrounding Mordred's conception the briefest of tellings, and seems to largely ignore him until the plot against Lancelot and Guinevere brings the character to the fore." [J.J.Docherty]

Pope Innocent VIII (-)
Issued the papal bull Summis Desiderantes 1484, against witchcraft. This was followed by the standard handbook for witch-hunters, published by the Dominican Order, the Malleus Maleficarum 1486. After which, witch-hunting and persecution of pagans and heretics obsessed Europe for 250 years or so.

Matteo Maria Boiardo, Count of Scandiano (1434-1494)
Orlando Innamorato 1486, a long narrative poem in which the Charlemagne romances are recast into ‘ottava rima’. He also made translations for instance of Herodotus and Apuleius among other works.

Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533)
Orlando Furioso 1516, the Roland epic that forms a continuation of Boiardo's work (1486). He also wrote sonnets, comedies and satires.

Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim 1493-1541)
Opus Paramirium (Work Beyond Wonders) 1531, and many other works. He was a wandering barber-surgeon-mystic and pioneer of holistic medicine.

Alcofribas Nasier (Francois Rabelais c.1494-1553)
The pseudonym, under which he first published, is an anagram of his name. Pantagruel (1532), “serious ideas set side by side with overwhelming nonsense” [CBD]; Gargantua (1534), “fuller of sense and wisdom” [CBD]; Pantagrueline Prognostications almanacs published over several years, few of which survive. Pantagruel's utopian community, the Abbey of Thelema, from the Greek for will, with the motto ‘Fais ce que voudras’ (Do whatever you wish), was stolen or revived by Aleister Crowley in the 20th century. It was Rabelais who wrote “To laugh is to be human.”

Giovan Francesco Straparola (-c.1557)
Piacevoli Notti (Nights) 1550-53, a collection of 74 stories in the style of the Decameron.

Luis de Camoes (1524-1580)
The Lusiads 1572, Portuguese national epic.

Tulsi Das various dates given, e.g. (1532-1623) [CBD]
Ramacaritamanas a late-medieval Eastern Hindi version of the Ramayana epic, begun in 1574. Composed by the poet Tulsi Das (whose name in the form Tulasi Dasa means ‘Servant of Lakshmi’). It relates the history of Rama, Sita and the flying monkey-god warrior Hanuman.

Jean Bodin (1530-96)
French political philosopher who wrote on the limits of sovereignty and for religious tolerance, yet was most influential in his polemical work against witchcraft and sorcery: De la Démonomanie des Sorciers (1580).

Torquato Tasso (1544-1595)
Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) 1581, an idealised story of the first crusade.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93)
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (written c.1588, performed? c.1592 a play). Dr Faustus, despite the warnings of the devil's agent Mephistopheles, sells his soul to learn the secrets of the universe. But unlike Goethe's Faust (1808) cannot escape the bargain. [HBB] The legend is based on a real-life entertainer ‘Magister Georgius Sabellicus Faustus Junior’ (died 1541), who became notorious for his blasphemous conjuring tricks such as changing water into wine and his claim to be in league with the devil, and has inspired many other writers. One of the more recent being Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus 1947.

Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599)
The Shepheard's Calender 1579; The Faerie Queene 1590-96.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)
Don Quixote (part 1, 1605; part 2, 1615), Persiles y Sigismunda (1616).

Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639)
"He evolved an empirical ... philosophy (1591) for which he was imprisoned and tortured by the Inquisition. From prison he wrote his utopian work" City of the Sun (1602). [CBD]

Francis Godwin (1562-1633)
Man in the Moone or a Voyage Thither, by Domingo Gonsales (1638); "From internal references, it appears to have been written between 1596 and the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 ... the lunar monarch sends his greetings to the Queen Elizabeth ... 25 editions appeared ... [to] 1768. ... the hero trains a flock of wild swans to fly in formation along with a kind of aerial chariot ... but his aerial steeds take the bit between their teeth and hijack him to the moon." [F.A.Ridley]

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Shakespeare's plays besides including some horror and fantasy have inspired much other work. Narrative poems: Venus and Adonis 1593; The Rape of Lucrece 1594. Plays: We mention only the most obvious, with dates of first performance: A Midsummer Night's Dream pf c.1595; includes Oberon and Titania king and queen of the fairies, Puck a mischievous spirit of the woods. Romeo and Juliet; Hamlet (pf c.1600, expanded 1604); King Lear; Macbeth (pf 1606); Pericles (pf c.1608); The Winter's Tale (pf c.1610); Cymbeline (pf c.1611); The Tempest (pf c.1611) the exiled magus Prospero engages air-spirit Ariel and earth-monster Caliban as servants, uses magic to call up a storm to wreck his usurpers' ship and test their characters, but finally reconciles all and relinquishes his magical powers.

King James VI & I (1566-1625)
King of Scotland from 1567 (served by several regents) and also of England from 1603. James himself was author of a work on witchcraft Demonologie 1597, and gave his name to a translation into English of The Holy Bible for Protestant Christians, known as the ‘Authorised Version’, published 1611 and still widely in use. It is based on translations by William Tyndale (c.1494-1536) and Miles Coverdale (1488-1568), and influenced of course by the earlier work of the German protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the Dutch humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536) who edited the Greek New Testament 1516.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
In Mysterium Cosmographicum (1596) He relates the proportions of the orbits of the planets to a nesting of the five regular polyhedra. This was a Pythagorean fantasy (related to the ‘harmony of the spheres’), though the regularities of the proportions, later expressed in Bode's Law, remain unexplained. In his later works he published the three genuine laws of planetary motion now known as Kepler's Laws. Despite being Imperial Mathematicus he had some difficulty around 1616 in saving his eccentric mother from being burnt at the stake as a witch. In his posthumous Somnium (1634) a boy Duracotus is sent by his witch mother Fiolxhilda to Lavania (the Moon) by means of demonic power, experiencing weightlessness on the way. There he meets the Subvolvans who live on the Earth-facing side, and the Prevolvans on the other hemisphere, in contrasting conditions. Arthur Koestler [The Sleepwalkers 1959] wrote "It is the first work of science-fiction in the modern sense - as opposed to the conventional type of fantasy utopias from Lucian to Campanella. Its influence on later authors of interplanetary journeys was considerable."
Kepler's Somnium
Kepler's Somnium

Giambattista Basile (1575-1632)
Pentamerone 1634-6, a collection of 50 Neapolitan folk tales.

John Smith (1580-1631)
The True Travels, Adventures and Observations of Captaine John Smith 1630. As a colonist in Virginia he was captured by the Indians and twice saved by the Princess Pocahontas Matoaka (1595-1617) who later married John Rolfe (1585-1622) and travelled to England.

John Milton (1608-74)
Paradise Lost 1667 (a poem) "... the last books are tinged with despair. God's kingdom is not of this world. Man's intractable nature frustrates the planning of the wise" [CBD].

John Wilkins (1614-72)
Discovery of a World in the Moon (1628?) "discusses the possibility of communication by a flying-machine with the moon and its supposed inhabitants" [CBD] Discourse Concerning a New Planet (1640) "argues that the earth is one of the planets" [CBD].

Cyrano de Bergerac (Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac 1619-55)
Comic History of the States of the Moon and the Sun (1654?) translated Aldington 1923.

John Bunyan (1628-88)
The Pilgrim's Progress (1679) "essentially a vision of life recounted allegoricaly as the narrative of a journey"; 'Christian's travels take him to places such as the 'Slough of Despond', the 'Hill Difficulty', the 'Valley of Humiliation', 'Vanity Fair', the 'River of the Water of Life', 'Doubting Castle', the 'Enchanted Ground' and the 'Celestial City', encountering on the way such personages as 'Faithful', 'Hopeful', 'Apollyon', 'Lord Hategood', 'Giant Despair', 'Mr Worldly Wiseman'. The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1680); The Holy War (1682); The Pilgrim's Progress, Second Part (1684) In Part II his wife 'Christiana' and children follow on the same journey. [CBD,CGL]

Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)
Fables choises mises en vers (Selected fables set in verse) 1668, expanded 1678 and 1693.

Charles Perrault (1628-1703)
La Belle au Bois Dormant in Le Mercure Galant February 1696 was the first fantasy story to appear in a magazine. Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé, avec des Moralitez 1697 includes the stories of: Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Cinderella (to which he introduced the glass slipper), Tom Thumb, and others. Verses at the end of each story explained what principle of good behaviour was to be learnt from it. The stories were possibly written, in part, by his son Pierre Perrault (1678-1700).

Madame D'Aulnoy (nee Marie-Catherine le Jumel 1650?-1705)
L'ile de la Felicite (The Isle of Happiness) in L'Histoire d'Hippolyte, comte de Douglas 1690. Les contes de fées 1696-8, origin of the term 'fairytales'; Contes nouveaux, ou les fées a la mode ('Fashionable fairytales') (1698). These contain 25 stories; unlike Perrault's fairytales they are satirical, intended for adult readers. They include: L'oiseau bleu (The Blue Bird); Le naine jaune (The Yellow Dwarf); La chatte blanche (The White Cat); Finette Cendron (Finetta the Cinder-girl), i.e. cinderella. Some English translations 1699.