>Thomas Bulfinch – The Age of Fable

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The Age of Fable is book 1 in a 3 book compilation collectively known as Bulfinch’s Mythology. The other 2 titles are The Age of Chivalry & Legends of Charlemagne.  I already had a copy of this compilation, but it was an abridged version and I wanted an unabridged version.

The majority of The Age of Fable (~290 out of 331 pages) is about Classical (Greek and Roman) mythology or Pagan mythology as Bulfinch puts it.  Right away we see that Roman names for the gods are used which I am not too happy about.  For the more popular gods, when they are first introduced, their Greek names are written in parenthesis beside them.  I wish this would have been continued throughout the whole book, but I guess it might make it too cluttered.  At least have a reference guide at the back with the god’s names but there was none.  Sometimes this use of parenthesis is even abandoned such as in the case of Hercules; most people with know this hero turned god as Hercules, but his Greek name is actually Heracles.  Oh well, minor details that should not be used to detract from the rest of the book.

The Age of Fable is both in depth and not at the same time.  It pulls material from many of the poets of antiquity: Homer, Hesiod, Ovid, Virgil, etc.  The author, Thomas Bulfinch, takes stories from all these forms and puts them in a very readable format for The Age of Fable.  Each story ranges from 1/2 page to 5 pages long which allows the author to fit every single story and god in the book.  For example, I think Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey each only occupied about 15 pages in this book. In addition, at the end of each story the author includes 1 or 2 poems from modern (modern being 19th century and earlier) poets referencing these stories.  I remember telling a friend from university how I hated poetry and that it just didn’t make any sense to me.  His response was,

“you are reading the wrong type of poetry”.

Well it turns out he was so right.  I absolutely loved the poetry of these modern poets referencing classical mythology.  It was extremely helpful in understanding them with Bulfinch’s brief explanation of each.  Back when Bulfinch wrote the book (mid 19th century) with no access to internet and the printing press only beginning to be used, I can’t even imagine how the author managed to find all these references.  The abridged version of the book omits all these poems from the modern poets which is a shame in my opinion.

The rest of the book briefly looks at myths from other parts of the world.  This section wasn’t done badly, but it’s clear from the amount of pages alone allotted to this section that Greek and Roman mythology is where the author’s interest lies.

The indexing in this particular version is absolutely amazing.  Despite the vast amount of stories in the book, all are indexed so you can easily find your favourite stories.  This is definitely a book I see myself reading over and over again.

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