Discover the roots of fantasy in Medieval Romances. Review by S.K. Slevinski

Book Cover
This anthology, edited by Roger Sherman Loomis and Laura Hibbard Loomis, is an excellent source book for modern fans of fantasy, who are interested to discover fantastical entertainments from an earlier era.

As the editors explain in the introduction, the term "romance" held in the middle ages a different connotation than it does for modern literature. The editors define this meaning as: "a tale of knightly prowess, usually set in remote times or places and involving elements of the fantastic or supernatural" (x). The stories included in this anthology are very real predecessors of modern speculative fiction. They were forms of popular entertainment, spun by bards and later read aloud. These stories bridge the gap from oral literature to written literature, betraying their folkloric roots at the same time they display emerging literary sensibilities.

This volume contains eight medieval stories including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Tristan and Isolt, The Youth of Alexander the Great, and more. The translations from medieval languages are well done. Casual readers will find them easy to follow, as the narratives are presented in clear modern English. Don't worry if you're a fan of "medieval speak," the dialog preserves the flavor of the original medieval language with plenty of "thou" and "hast" and "thine." But it is selectively chosen to be accessible. The book also provides its share of Arthurian legends, including Gawain and The Book of Balin. This volume also contains a brief introduction with a discussion of medieval storytelling habits and history.

Fantasy fans will enjoy this glimpse back into the historical roots of their favorite genre.

S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.

Alternative Reality Web Zine: ISSN# 1559-3037

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