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Would you also like to submit a review for this item? Celtic Literature. Of Brython origin is the cycle of King Arthur Artus , the adopted national hero of the mixed nationalities of whom the "English" people was composed. Here he appears as a chiefly mythical personality, who slays monsters, such as the giant of St Michel, the boar Troit, the demon cat, and goes down to the underworld. The original Welsh legend was spread by British refugees in Brittany, and was thus celebrated by both English and French Celts. From a literary point of view, however, it is chiefly French and forms "the matter of Brittany.
Speaking generally, the Celtic heroes are differentiated from the Teutonic by the extreme exaggeration of their superhuman, or rather extra-human, qualities. Teutonic legend does not lightly exaggerate, and what to us seems incredible in it may be easily conceived as credible to those by whom and for whom the tales were told; that Sigmund and his son Sinfiotli turned themselves into wolves would be but a sign of exceptional powers to those who believed in werewolves; Fafnir assuming the form of a serpent would be no more incredible to the barbarous Teuton than the similar transformation of Proteus to the Greek.
But in the characterization of their heroes the Celtic imagination runs riot, and the quality of their persons and their acts becomes exaggerated beyond the bounds of any conceivable probability. Take, for instance, the description of some of Arthur's knights in the Welsh tale of Kilhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion. Along with Kai and Bedwyr Bedivere , Peredur Perceval , Gwalchmai Gawain , and many others, we have such figures as Sgilti Yscandroed, whose way through the wood lay along the tops of the trees, and whose tread was so light that no blade of grass bent beneath his weight; Sol, who could stand all day upon one leg; Sugyn the son of Sugnedydd, who was "broad-chested" to such a degree that he could suck up the sea on which were three hundred ships and leave nothing but dry land; Gweyyl, the son of Gwestad, who when he was sad would let one of his lips drop beneath his waist and turn up the other like a cap over his head; and Uchtry Varyf Draws, who spread his red untrimmed beard over the eight-and-forty rafters of Arthur's hall.
Such figures as these make no human impression, and criticism has busied itself in tracing them to one or other of the shadowy divinities of the Celtic pantheon. However this may be, remnants of their primitive superhuman qualities cling to the Celtic heroes long after they have been transfigured, under the influence of Christianity and chivalry, into the heroes of the medieval Arthurian romance, types--for the most part--of the knightly virtues as these were conceived by the middle ages; while shadowy memories of early myths live on, strangely disguised, in certain of the episodes repeated uncritically by the medieval poets.
So Merlin preserves his diabolic origin; Arthur his mystic coming and his mystic passing; while Gawain, and after him Lancelot, journey across the river, as the Irish hero Bran had done before them to the island of fair women--the Celtic vision of the realm of death. The chief heroes of the medieval Arthurian romances are the following.
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Arthur himself, who tends however to become completely overshadowed by his knights, who make his court the starting-point of their adventures. Merlin Myrddin , the famous wizard, bard and warrior, perhaps an historical figure, first introduced by Geoffrey of Monmouth, originally called Ambrose from the British leader Ambrosius Aurelianus, under whom he is said to have first served. Perceval Parzival, Parsifal , the Welsh Peredur, "the seeker of the basin," the most intimately connected with the quest of the Grail q.
Tristan Tristram , the ideal lover of the middle ages, whose name is inseparably associated with that of Iseult.
Lancelot, son of Ban king of Brittany, a creation of chivalrous romance, who only appears in Arthurian literature under French influence, known chiefly from his amour with Guinevere, perhaps in imitation of the story of Tristan and Iseult. Gawain Welwain, Welsh Gwalchmai , Arthur's nephew, who in medieval romance remains the type of knightly courage and chivalry, until his character is degraded in order to exalt that of Lancelot.
Among less important, but still conspicuous, figures may be mentioned Kay the Kai of the Mabinogion , Arthur's foster-brother and seneschal, the type of the bluff and boastful warrior, and Bedivere Bedwyr , the type of brave knight and faithful retainer, who alone is with Arthur at his passing, and afterwards becomes "a hermit and a holy man. Another series of heroes, forming the central figures of stories variously derived but developed in Europe by the Latin-speaking peoples, may be conveniently grouped under the heading of "romance.
Of all heroes of romance Alexander has been the most widely celebrated. The Romance of Alexander. More important in the West, however, was the cycle of legends gathering round the figure of Charlemagne, forming what was known as "the matter of France. Just as Arthur was eclipsed by his companions, so Charlemagne's vassal nobles, except in the Chanson de Roland , are exalted at the expense of the emperor, probably the result of the changed relations between the later emperors and their barons. The character of Charlemagne himself undergoes a change; in the Chanson de Roland he is a venerable figure, mild and dignified, while later he appears as a cruel and typical tyrant as is also the case with Ermanaric.
The basis of his legend is mainly historical, although the story of his journey to Constantinople and the East is mythical, and incidents have been transferred from the reign of Charles Martel to his. Charlemagne is chiefly venerated as the champion of Christianity against the heathen and the Saracens. The most famous heroes who are associated with him are Roland, praefect of the marches of Brittany, the Orlando of Ariosto, slain at Roncevaux Roncevalles in the Pyrenees, and his friend and rival Oliver Olivier ; Ogier the Dane, the Holger Danske of Hans Andersen, and Huon of Bordeaux, probably both introduced from the Arthurian cycle; Renaud Rinaldo of Montauban, one of the four sons of Aymon, to whom the wonderful horse Bayard was presented by Charlemagne; the traitor Doon of Mayence; Ganelon, responsible for the treachery that led to the death of Roland; Archbishop Turpin, a typical specimen of muscular Christianity; William Fierabras, William au court nez, William of Toulouse, and William of Orange all probably identical , and Vivien, the nephew of the latter and the hero of Aliscans.
Another famous hero and centre of a 14th-century cycle of romance was Amadis of Gaul; its earliest form is Spanish, although the Portuguese have claimed it as a translation from their own language. There is no trace of a French original.
Calaméo - Marginalia 73
Slavonic Heroes. It is not known whether he was an historical personage; many of the achievements attributed to him border on the miraculous.
A much-discussed work is the Tale of Igor , the oldest of the Russian medieval epics. Igor was the leader of a raid against the heathen Polovtsi in ; at first successful, he was afterwards defeated and taken prisoner, but finally managed to escape. Although the Finns are not Slavs, on topographical grounds mention may here be made of Wainamoinen, the great magician and hero of the Finnish epic Kalevala "land of heroes".
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The popular hero of the Servians and Bulgarians is Marko Kralyevich q. Ker, Epic and Romance 2nd ed. Symons, "Germanische Heldensage" in H. Paul's Grundris der germanischen Philologie , iii.
Strassburg, , 2nd revised edition, separately printed ib. Grimm, Die deutsche Heldensage , 3rd ed. Jiriczek, Deutsche Heldensagen , i. Robertson, History of German Literature Petit de Julleville, Hist. Rhys, Celtic Britain 3rd ed. Morfill, Slavonic Literature Hero, the beautiful priestess of Aphrodite at Sestos, was seen by Leander, a youth of Abydos, at the celebration of the festival of Aphrodite and Adonis. He became deeply enamoured of her; but, as her position as priestess and the opposition of her parents rendered their marriage impossible they agreed to carry on a clandestine intercourse.
Every night Hero placed a lamp in the top of the tower where she dwelt by the sea, and Leander, guided by it, swam across the dangerous Hellespont. One stormy night the lamp was blown out and Leander perished. On finding his body next morning on the shore, Hero flung herself into the waves. The story is referred to by Virgil Georg. The beautiful little epic of Musaeus has been frequently translated, and is expanded in the Hero and Leander of C.
Marlowe and G. It is also the subject of a ballad by Schiller and a drama by F. See M. A careful collection of materials will be found in F. This is the more modern view, in contrast to the earlier theory most generally accepted, according to which he flourished about B.