Mabinogion Tetralogy, by Evangline Walton. Overlook. 2003.
This is an under-appreciated work of fantasy. It’s based on the Mabinogion, a set of Celtic myths found in Welsh documents. The version I bought 25 years ago was in four separate volumes, but I’ve linked to a recent version with everything in one volume.
The Prince of Annwn tells of a prince who helps a mysterious Gray Man. A few years later, the druids blame him for troubles in the land, and he vows to take a wife. (Throughout these stories, you see interplay between old tribes and new tribes, men and women.)
The Children of Llyr starts with a time when people are starting to figure out how men are involved in procreation. Inheritance had passed down to one’s sister’s children, since you knew they were related. This is a story of brothers and the troubles between them that resulted in death and change.
The Song of Rhiannon ties the first two stories together, following the story of one of Llyr’s children.
Finally, The Island of the Mighty tells of a sorceress who tried to control someone’s destiny but found she could not.
If you enjoy fantasy, or would like to sample it without picking up something as intense as Tolkien, these are an excellent read.
Mythology, by Edith Hamilton. Back Bay Books, 1998.
Hamilton works through the basic myths, mostly from Greek and Roman sources. Topics include “The Gods, the Creation, and the Earliest Heroes”, “Stories of Love and Adventure”, “The Great Heroes before the Trojan War”, “The Heroes of the Trojan War”, “The Great Families of Mythology” (Atreus, Thebes, and Athens), and “The Less Important Myths”. She closes with about 15 pages of Norse myths (just a taste). The stories are typically brief, easy reads in a fairly modern style. I was struck by how she describes the difference between different authors (though I’m not to the point of distinguishing them myself).
Transformation: Understanding the Three Levels of Masculine Consciousness,
Robert A. Johnson, HarperOne, 1993.
Johnson uses three myths to talk about masculinity: Don Quixote represents simple consciousness, living in the inner mythical world; Hamlet represents “modern existential life”; and Faust represents man moving to enlightenment. There’s a sub-theme of the idea of 3 moving to 4 representing a move to complete consciousness. It’s a thin volume (105 pages), but interesting material as usual for Johnson.
Want a taste of Jungian psychology but don’t want to spend $100+ and wait 3 months for The Red Book? Robert A. Johnson gives a quick taste of a Jungian approach.
He: Understanding Masculine Psychology, by Robert A. Johnson. Harper, 1989.
“He” tells the story of the search for the Holy Grail as a myth of the masculine side of psychology. Johnson decodes the myth as the story of how “modern” man faces alienation in going from childhood to adulthood. We suffer, we sense there’s something transcendent, but we have no cure.
We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, Robert A. Johnson. HarperOne, 1985.
In “We”, Robert A. Johnson develops a Jungian interpretation of the myth of Tristan and Iseult to look at the idea of romantic love. This myth is a criss-crossing story of forced love, betrayal, and recovery, exploring “being in love” vs. “loving.”
Ways to think about your life as a story. (Reviewed Nov., ’02)