What we have here are nine traditional tales of adventure:
Tale of Florent
Wife of Bath's Tale (the Chaucer classic)
Thomas of Erceldoune
Floris and Blanchflour
and then two bonus ones - Sir Libenus and the Lamie and Tam Lin.
Let's make one thing clear first - these are not "traditional romance" stories as we now think of them, written primarily for women, where a heroine falls madly in love with a hero and, after some trials and tribulations, have a happy ending. That's not what romance meant back in Medieval days. Rather, these were often about a male having an adventure where he solves a quest or is tested on his vow or so on. Occasionally there might be a woman he falls in love with - but that's not the point of most of these stories.
It's also important to note that these stories approach relationships from a far different point of view than many modern people. This was nearly a thousand years ago, remember, and the way people viewed life was often much different. The "heroes" in these stories sometimes rape women. They do a variety of things we modern readers might find disgraceful.
We have a line about the hero, a knight in King Arthur's court:
"... riding along the river, just for sport,
he chanced, alone as he was born, to see
a maiden walking there before him. He
assaulted her, however much she pled,
and robbed her roughly of her maidenhead."
When the locals got grumpy about this, the knight was "woeful" that "his former pleasures he must not pursue" and instead he now had a quest to fulfill as penance. Poor, woeful knight! It's a bit hard for me to feel sorry for him.
So you have to be prepared that this isn't a relaxing set of love stories to cuddle up with. This book is a more of an intellectual look into the way stories were written during this time period and the type of world view people had.
It's important to note that, even with these poems being written in "modern language", they still use the archaic words for feel, which means you have situations where footnotes are required. For example, in one situation the word "mistress" is used. In modern times we might assume this means a cheating woman or even just a young woman. But in that time mistress and master were about expertise. So a mistress was one who had skill with or expertise with something.
I'm a little iffy on the cover for this. I do ADORE the painting they used - that is the classic La Belle Dame de Merci painted by Sir Frank Dicksee in 1902. I have a copy of that myself here at home. It is a scene from a Keats poem. But, that being said, the "Nine Medieval Romances of Magic" make it sound like these are magical romances in the modern sense. The title is apparently meant to lure in young, modern readers who have been raised on all the Young Adult tales of magic and romantic adventure. But this isn't what this book has! It has classic Medieval tales of quest and honoring vow. It's an entirely different type of story than what the cover phrase portrays. Even the blurb plays into that, promising "All nine tales contain elements of magic: shapeshifters, powerful fairies, trees that are portals to another world, and enchanted clothing and armor." - as if these are delightful Cinderella style faerie-tales. But they aren't at all. So the book loses a star for that. I'm just not a fan of bait-and-switch types of efforts. Surely there is a way to market what the book ACTUALLY presents in a way that's authentically appealing to a modern audience?
So, that being said, I do highly recommend the book. It's NOT about modern-style romance. It's not Outlander-portals to dashing, handsome Scotsmen in kilts. It's not magical ball gowns. The stories are powerful, yes, but they are stories that showcase how our ancestors of 1,000 years ago viewed men and women. How they viewed what was "right action" to take. In many cases, it reminds us of how blessed we are to live in modern times.
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books about the Middle Ages and Medieval times
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