Osprey Adventures – Books One and Two
Sometimes it’s nice to be able to take a break from my regular reading schedule. I stick almost exclusively to genre fiction, but I also like to be able to mix things up from time to time. When the following couple of books popped through my letterbox I realized I could have my cake and eat it.
It’s time to take a look at some myths and legends, and learn the fact behind the fiction.
Jason and the Argonauts by Neil Smith
The voyage of Jason and the Argonauts and their hunt for the Golden Fleece is one of the most enduringly popular of all of the Ancient Greek heroic myths. Accepting the quest in order to regain his kingdom, Jason assembled a crew of legendary heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, Atalanta, and the twins Castor and Polydeuces. With this band of warriors and demi-gods, Jason set sail in the Argo on a journey across the known world. During their quest, the Argonauts faced numerous challenges including the Harpies, the Clashing Rocks, the Sirens, Talos, the bronze giant, the sleepless dragon that guarded the fleece, and, of course, the fickle will of the gods of Olympus.
Like a lot of people, I’ve seen the 1963 movie charting the travels of Jason multiple times. So many times, in fact, that I feel like the legend of Jason and his Argonauts is indelibly etched onto my psyche. That’s why this first book is such a delight to discover. The content here expands significantly on the story of Jason that I was already familiar with. There is just so much here, that I’ll admit, I didn’t know. Also dotted throughout, there are some fantastic paintings and photographs. The double page image depicting the entire crew is particularly striking. The various stories are brought to life in an truly engrossing fashion and there is a plethora of information to discover.
Dragonslayers: From Beowulf to Saint George by Joseph A. McCullough
With its fiery breath, scaly armour, and baleful, malevolent stare, the dragon became the ultimate symbol of evil and corruption in European folklore and mythology. Often serving as a stand-in for Satan, or the power of evil gods, dragons spread death and hopelessness throughout the land. Only heroes of uncommon valour, courageousness, and purity could hope to battle these monsters and emerge victorious. Those that did became legends. They became dragonslayers. The list of dragonslayers is small, but it is filled with great and legendary names. Hercules, Beowulf, Sigurd, and Saint George all battled to the death with dragons. Other heroes such as Cadmus, founder of the city of Thebes, Dieudonné de Gozon, the Knight of Rhodes, and the Russian warrior Dobrynya Nikitich might be less well known to western readers, but also fought and defeated dragons. This book retells the greatest legends of this select group of warriors, while examining the myth of the dragonslayer in historical, mythological, and even theological contexts.
The second book covers all things dragon related. There’s a good mixture of legends from across the world, some I’d heard of while others were entirely new to me. I’d certainly never come across the tale of The Lambton Worm before. The chapters exploring the Norse dragons and dragon slayers were also a real favourite. I’ve always been a fan of Beowulf.
My young nephews came to visit last weekend and the older of the two quickly spotted both books. Needless to say they were immediately re-appropriated and he spent the next hour in utter silence. I reckon his undivided attention is better than any compliment I could ever give. In the strangest of coincidences, the books have magically disappeared at the approximately the same time that my nephews went home. Curious, no?
Joking aside, I can easily imagine that these books will grow into quite a wonderful collection. A series that I’m sure anyone who is a fan of ancient myths and legends would be pleased to own. It’s the sort of thing that would appeal to bibliophiles of all ages.
Both books are published by Osprey Adventures as part of their Myths and Ledgends line and are available now. Book Three – The War of Horus and Set is due for release in May. I had a look on the Osprey Adventures website only this morning and it appears there will also be books featuring King Arthur, Hercules and Thor as well.