Hero Tales by James Baldwin

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Page 1

Chief among these masterpieces of imagination are the tales of gods and
heroes that have come down to us from the golden age of Greece, and
particularly the tales of Troy that cluster around the narratives of
old Homer in his "Iliad" and "Odyssey." Three thousand years or more
have passed since they were first recited, and yet they have lost none
of their original charm. Few persons of intelligence are unacquainted
with these tales, for our literature abounds in allusions to them; and
no one who pretends to the possession of culture or learning can afford
to be ignorant of them.

Second only in interest, especially to us of Anglo-Saxon descent, are
the hero tales of the ancient North and the stirring legends connected
with the "Nibelungen Lied." Of much later origin than the Greek
stories, and somewhat inferior to them in refinement of thought and
delicacy of imagery, these tales partake of the rugged, forceful
character of the people among whom they were composed. Yet, with all
their austerity and sternness, they are replete with vivid action, and
they charm us by their very strength and the lessons which they teach
of heroic endurance and the triumph of eternal justice.

Scarcely inferior to these latter, but not so well known to
English-speaking people, are the tales of knighthood and chivalry that
commemorate the romantic deeds of Charlemagne and his paladins.
Written in various languages, and at periods widely separated, these
tales present a curious mixture of fact and fiction, of the real and
the marvellous, of the beautiful and the grotesque, of pagan
superstition and Christian devotion. Although there were, in truth, no
knights in the time of Charlemagne, and the institution of chivalry did
not exist until many years later, yet these legends are of value as
portraying life and manners in that period of history which we call the
Dark Ages; and their pictures of knightly courage and generosity,
faithfulness, and loyalty, appeal to our nobler feelings and stir our
hearts with admiration.

To know something of these three great cycles, or groups, of classic
and romantic stories--the hero tales of Troy, those of the ancient
North, and those of Charlemagne--is essential to the acquirement of
refined literary tastes. For this knowledge will go far toward helping
its possessor to enjoy many things in our modern literature that would
otherwise be puzzling or obscure. The importance, therefore, of
placing some of the best of such tales early within the reach of school
children and all young readers cannot be disputed.

In three volumes somewhat larger than the present one--"A Story of the
Golden Age," "The Story of Siegfried," and "The Story of Roland"--I
have already endeavored to introduce young readers to the most
interesting portions of these great cycles of romance, narrating in
each the adventures of the hero who is the central figure in the group
of legends or tales under consideration. The present volume, made up
of selections from these earlier books, has been prepared in response
to repeated suggestions that certain portions of them, and especially
some of the independent shorter stories, are well adapted to use in
reading-classes at school. Of the seventeen stories herein presented,
nine are from the "Golden Age," four from "Siegfried," and four from
"Roland." They are, for the most part, episodes, complete in
themselves, and connected only by a slender thread with the main
narrative. Their intrinsic value is in no way diminished by being thus
separated from their former setting, and each tale being independent of
the others, they lend themselves more readily to the demands of the

It is well to observe that in no case have I endeavored to repeat the
story in its exact original form. To have done so would have defeated
the purpose in view; for without proper adaptation such stories are
usually neither interesting nor intelligible to children. I have
therefore recast and rearranged, using my own words, and adding here a
touch of color and here a fanciful idea, as the narrative has seemed to
permit or as my audience of school children may demand. Nevertheless,
in the end, the essential features of each tale--those which give it
value in its original form--remain unchanged.


How Apollo Came to Parnassus
The Hunt in the Wood of Calydon
The Choice of Hercules
Alpheus and Arethusa
The Golden Apple
Paris and Oenone
Paris and Helen
The Hoard of the Elves
The Forging of Balmung
Idun and Her Apples
The Doom of the Mischief-maker
The Hunt in the Wood of Puelle
Ogier the Dane and the Fairies
How Charlemagne Crossed the Alps
What Happened at Roncevaux

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Mon 16th Dec 2019, 10:21