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Eng  2 23 5
Readings & Resources


This page lists the textbooks and links for this course.  Some of the required books must be purchased, and will be available about one month in advance of the course's beginning.  A few required textbooks are ONLINE--you cannot find them anywhere except on the Web.  Links to them are below.  In addition, there are other links below that may be helpful. 








        This page lists required textbooks, optional ones, and other resources and readings.  If you want to see a list of each of the weekly readings required as homework, go to the weekly Schedule in this Web site.  If you want to see how to do each type of homework paper, go to Homework.

NOTE: Please read the weekly "Schedule" and the different options available in some weeks before you choose what to buy!  (You may not have to buy all of these books.)



        The bookstore should have most or all of the books below two to four weeks before class starts.  However, if you're making a special trip to school just to buy the books, you might want to call the bookstore first to see if the books are all in.   

        Some people prefer to buy from a supplier other than Inver Hills.  For example, some people like to buy from Amazon.com.  This is fine, if you prefer it.  It may even save you money, especially if you order used books and/or order your books all at once (to decrease shipping costs).  However, please be aware that you are expected to keep up with the weekly work even if your books haven't arrived.  If you're intent on ordering books online, it may be better to buy the books you need during the first two weeks from the IHCC bookstore, and buy the rest online.  For Week 2 of class, you will need to start reading several chapters (not the entire two books) of Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces and Classic Fairy Tales edited by Tatar.  Then you must write about the chapters you have read.  Now, the schedule does allow you to be up to a week late in getting your writing assignments in.  As a result, your writings about these first several chapters can be turned in as late as Thurs. midnight of Week 3.  However, anything later than that will be considered too late for credit.  So, be sure you have these first two books by Week 2 of the course.  Others can arrive a week or two later than that.

        If you're ordering from Amazon.com or the like, another thing to watch out for is the editions.  All the books required for the class are available in low-cost paperback or "trade" paper format.  In particular, watch out for prices and editions for Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar: I chose the "Norton Critical Edition" trade-paper version with no illustrations; but last year some people ordered the book online and ended up buying, unnecessarily, a much more expensive, color-illustrated version.  Also, watch out for which edition you purchase of Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces.  The one I have ordered, the Bollingen/Princeton edition, is the cheapest.  The IHCC bookstore will have the correct, inexpensive editions of this course's books.

        Here's one more note.  Near the end of the course, you may choose between Tolkien's Hobbit (the book about his Lord of the Rings world that comes before the Lord of the Rings Trilogy), three books in C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, and the Wizard of Oz.  I just added this last one because there is a big, two-day, student-faculty Wizard of Oz Conference this spring on campus.  You may even attend parts of this conference for extra credit, if you wish.  However, I don't know when--if at all--the Wizard of Oz books will be available in the bookstore, so if it's available now and you want it, grab it up quickly, as copies may go quickly as we get near the conference time.  Otherwise, feel free to this one, too, elsewhere.  

        If you want to ask me any questions ahead of time, feel free to contact me!  Email me at richard@jewell.net or call 612.870.7024.  Good luck, and I'll see you at the first in-person meeting on campus on the first Thursday night of classes!                   

NOTE: Please read the weekly "Schedule" and the different options available in some weeks before you choose what to buy!  (You may not have to buy all of these books.)

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(Note: The least expensive options have been chosen; most will be available from the IHCC bookstore 2-4 weeks before the course begins--call the bookstore before making a special trip there just for your books.)

  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (Spring 2009: The cheapest is a paperbound, perhaps only used copies available for $10-15: publ. by Princeton/Bollingen, 2nd edition, 1968.  The only new version available is now what the IHCC Bookstore has, a New World Library hardbound for $22.  However, any edition is fine.)  Some people find this book difficult to read or understand.  If this is you, get help!  You can find help by scrolling down or clicking here to see other Web sites on Hero.  These other web sites can be tremendously helpful to some people.  You also may get extra credit for reading these additional sites, so write a brief summary of what you read (200+ w.) and send it to me with a statement of how much time you spent both reading and writing, and I'll give you extra credit.  Please also look at the "NOTE ABOUT HERO" in the HOMEWORK page.

  • Myths of the Ancient Greeks by Richard P. Martin (Publ.: New American Library/Penguin, 2003, trade/paper bound.)

  • (However, if you wish, you may instead buy a book that will not be available at the IHCC Bookstore: the paperback version of Robert Graves' Greek Myths: Vol. 1 (not Vol. 2).  Most people consider it too dry, but it is a more detailed accounting of Greek myth that a few students have preferred.)

  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles.  (Publ.: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books Classic/Enriched Classic, revised edition, 1994; paperback bound; in other editions, the title sometimes is Oedipus Rex)  

  • The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar (Publ.: Norton, Norton Critical Edition, 1998; trade/paper bound.  WARNING: Do not get the large, illustrated hardbound edition.  It does NOT have the same stories!)

  • Microsoft Word (or Office) Software, any version 1995 or older.  You must use it to write and send me the term paper by attachment, to read my comments that I send back, and to make your revisions on the term paper You can NOT use an .rtf attachment to send it, as this will not retain page number inserts, it will not show my comments and markings properly, and it will not let you make revisions as I require them.  Word is a common and expected software program in almost all 3000 and 4000 level classes in college  If you are an IHCC student, you may buy Word for $66 (as of 4-09) by going to www.inverhillsbookstore.com and, at the bottom of the page, clicking on "Microsoft Promo."

    (a) The Hobbit
    by J.R.R. Tolkien (any edition)
    (Or  you may buy it and one or two of the other books listed here, and read a little from each for three weeks.) 
    (b) The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum (any edition--may not be available in IHCC bookstore)
                 (Or  you may buy it and one or two of the other books listed here, and read a little from each for three weeks.) 
    (c) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, 3 only of the 7 books: 
            The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    by C.S. Lewis
            Prince Caspian
    by C.S. Lewis, and 
            The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    by C.S. Lewis
    (any edition OK; the one ordered is published by HarperCollins/HarperTrophy, 1994, paperback bound.  In the HarperTrophy editions, they are books 2, 4, & 5.  This numbering might differ in other editions.)
    (Or  you may buy it and one or two of the other books listed here, and read a little from each for three weeks.) 
    (d) Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney.  You may use a different translation, but this new version by Heaney may be, by far, the most readable.  I would recommend seeing the movie/DVD Beowulf or the TV movie Grendel first (see below in "Movies"), for which you can get extra credit (but this is not required).  If you do see one of these movies, be sure to highlight in your comments on your reading what is different about the book.
    (e) The written version of any live play, on stage, that we see as a group or that I specifically recommend to you for individual viewing.  These plays will be announced sometime in the first several weeks of the class.

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 (free and online; purchase not required)

Directions to Events: You'll need this page of directions to our museum and play visits to find the locations easily and in some cases get better parking.



Directions: This list of theories available online will help you later in the term when you must use a theory each week to write a rough-draft interpretation.  When exploring theories to use when interpreting literature, your best bet is to look for theories that you already know, either from reading about them and/or, better yet, from living or experiencing them.   While you are free to play with these theories, be sure that you do understand what they mean before you try to use them.


Find Your Own: Use www.Google.com and write "_____ theory" with the name or type of theory written in the blank.

General List of Theories: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_theories


Creation: www.crystalinks.com/creation.html

Criminology: www.crimetheory.com/explorations.htm

Feminism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_theory

Literary Criticism (advanced): www.kristisiegel.com/theory.htm#phenom

Nursing: http://healthsci.clayton.edu/eichelberger/nursing.htm

Political Science: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_science

Psychology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Psychological_theories, www.psy.pdx.edu/PsiCafe/KeyTheorists, http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/perscontents.html (personality theories)

Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/contents.html, www.rep.routledge.com/signpost-articles, www.iep.utm.edu,

Religion/s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups

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Help with Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces
(updated 16 Jan. 2013)Hero can be a difficult book to read.  Here are some Web sites that may help.  You're welcome to claim extra credit time for reading them.  Also, you may find assistance by simply reading carefully what other people have to say each week on our own class' bulletin board site about the contents of that week's Hero reading.  Yet another help is the chart of the hero's journey at the very beginning of Part I, Chapter 4: in my opinion, it should be at the beginning of Part I, not the end.  You can also see a slightly more visual version of it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Heroesjourney.svg.  The entire book is divided into two "Parts": "Part I" and "Part II."  Here are websites that can help you understand either or both.  I highly recommend their use, especially when you are starting Hero.

Hero, Part I.  Here are additional websites that can help you with Part I:

Hero, Part II.  Part II is harder to understand at first--it has a higher reading level--but it gets a little easier after two weeks of assignments.  Here are some websites that may help, especially at the beginning:

Help with Myths.  Do you need a reference source listing thousands of mythic beings and events throughout the world?  See the links at http://www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/humanities/LinksToHumanities.htm#MYTHOLOGY.  

National Geographic article on the origin of Red Riding Hood (as of 1-'14): Both the article and the comments from readers after it are interesting.  If you want to read it and write 200+ w. about it, Ill be glad to give you extra credit for it: email the writing with a note at the top telling me how much time you spent reading and writing about it: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131129-little-red-riding-hood-folktale-tehrani-anthropology-science/.

Comic Books: A comic book series called Fables by Bill Willingham might be an enjoyable way to learn more myths, or more about the ones you already are aware of. You can search for them used or new at www.Amazon.com.

NoodleTools: an automated Web bibliography-entry maker.  I have a subscription to use it in my classes.  It is free for you to use.  You simply type in the author's names, titles, publisher, etc., and it will create a perfect bibliography entry (in MLA or APA) for you.  Correct bibliography entries will be required in your final papers.  Just click here on NoodleTools to start.

Email: (1) Please be sure the school has a record of your current email address.  It is to this email address that school emails--and Eng 2235 emails--will go. Check it at least once per week! 

(2) For our own class email, if you want to use something different (or use two email addresses), you may send me a different email address: tell me if it is to replace or be added to your school-listed email address. 

Online Bulletin Boards: Click here or access them on the home page by clicking on the "Bull. Boards" box.

Experiencing the Humanities: "Mythology" and other chapters.  This is an online textbook arranged by humanities subjects (e.g., "Mythology," "History," "Philosophy," "Art," etc.).   

Links to Literature: Web Links to Mythic Literature.  This is another collection of dozens of links leading to thousands more, all of them literary texts or related subjects.  You will find some links to mythic literature among them.

Links to the Humanities: Web Links to Mythology.  This is a collection of hundreds of links leading to thousands more, all on humanities subjects.  One section in particular is on "Mythology."  These links may help you find materials for your assigned "Practice Activities" and resources for your final project.   See http://www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/humanities/LinksToHumanities.htm#MYTHOLOGY.  

"Find in a Library"--for your term paper: You can go to Google or Yahoo to find your choice of books in a library.  Follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to www.Google.com or www.Yahoo.com.

  2. Use its search engine as normal, except start with "find in a library."  For example, if you were trying to find Shakepeare's Hamlet this way, you would type into the search engine box
                    find in a library hamlet shakespeare

  3. Then when the book name comes up, click on "Find a Library."

  4. And then, in the new window, add your zip code.  You'll get a list of libraries having your book (including the Inver Hills Community College Library).  More details are available at http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/open/about.htm.

http://CollegeWriting.Info: Chapters on writing literature papers.  This is a complete college writing textbook.  The section on "Writing to Literature" has several chapters that you can use during the course to learn how to write the required weekly papers and the final paper.   

Literary Terms:

http://bedfordstmartins.com/litgloss (Bedford St. Martin's literary glossary of over 200 terms)
http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/ (short dictionary of terms)

Online Grammar Handbook: A grammar handbook of Web links. It will help you find answers to questions about grammar, spelling, punctuation, quotations, bibliographies, and many related editing and revising items.

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Books    Movies    King Arthur    Odyssey Pwr.Pt.     Judeo-Christian Bible

(Click on the above or scroll down.)


Misc. Books:


Request to have me put these on reserve if you wish to see them:

  • On reserve in IHCC library: Beowulf, A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney. 218 pp. Somewhere around 650-1000 AD, one of the greatest epic poems ever written was composed by an unknown author.  Nobel prizewinner and Harvard teacher Heaney, in this new translation, "accomplish[es] a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem..." (New York Times Book Review). 

  • On reserve in IHCC library: Classical Myth, 5th ed. by Barry Powell. 732 pp., lavishly illustrated with an index at the end.

  • On reserve in IHCC library: The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology, 211 pp. by Paul Radin with commentaries by Karl Kerenyi and C.G. Jung.  "The myth of the Trickster...is one of the earliest and most universal expressions of mankind.  Nowhere does it survive in more starkly archaic form than in the voraciously uninhibited epsodes of the Winnebago [Native American] Trickster Cycle, recorded here in full.....  Paul Radin [was] one of the leading anthropologists of the American Indian." 

  • On reserve in IHCC library: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, 512 pp. with ample color illustrations, by Cotterell & Storm: "A comprehensive A to Z of the classic stories of gods and goddesses, heroes and mythical beasts, wizards and warriors" of civilizations throughout the world and time.  Contents: Myths of Greece and Rome, the Celtic World, the Nordic Lands, Egypt and West Asia, South and Central Asia, East Asia, and an Index.

Other Books:

  • Anything by Joseph Campbell.

  • An IHCC Library book, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, a Retelling by Peter Ackroyd.  Chaucer is sometimes called the father of English literature.  This excellent new translation and retelling makes this iconic work of medieval England (late 14th century) more accessible while continuing to reveal medieval English society in all its pomp, bawdiness, pettiness, and irony.  Composed of a series of individual stories, each of which can be read on its own, it is--in both its cultural and mythic dimensions as well as its storytelling devices--an important bridge between the literature of classic Greece and Rome on the one hand and the European renaissance of which it is an example on the other.

  • Any mythic literature.  To be defined as "literature," it must be a classic mythic story in written form, or a modern literary classic that has established its quality as true literature by winning and/or being nominated for significant literary awards.

  • Any books about the literature of mythology.  

  • Any original novels from which the movies below were made.

  • Anything on the anthropological study of magic.

  • Especially recommended on African mythology: Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman by Malidoma Patrice Som.  311 pp.  New York: Penguin, 1995.  

Movies with Mythological Themes:

Please note: because this is an English literature class, the only movies that are acceptable are those based on written books that are literary classics in their field, old or modern.   (In addition, please note that because this is a literature class, watching and writing about movies counts only as 1/3rd time for extra credit: 3 hrs. of watching and writing = 1 hr. of extra cr.  This is also explained on the "Attendance" page in its section called "Make Ups & Extra Credit.")

For longer descriptions of these movies, go to www.imdb.com ("Internet Movie Database").

Alice in Wonderland.  ** to ****.  There are several versions of this great classic, the best known (and possibly best made) of which is the Walt Disney animated film.  While it features original author Lewis Carroll's own fantasy creatures, many of them represent mythic themes and forces that are part of our Western cultural history for the past millennium.

Avatar. ****.  This 2009 movie has become an instant modern classic, collecting several significant awards, thus making the screenplay itself a work of literature.  Interweaving elements of classic and modern mythology, fantasy, and science fiction, the film shows a normally peaceful but intelligent society of human-like beings on an alien world that is like an Eden.  They are threatened by a big mining corporation from Earth.  An Earth man infiltrates their society using an "avatar" or body like the natives', which his consciousness inhabits daily to learn from them.   However, he "goes native," choosing to live with them and ultimately lead them against the evil mining company.

Beauty and the Beast, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and other Walt Disney classic animated fairy tales.  *** to ****.  These classic stories come from medieval, renaissance, and baroque/enlightenment-period tales that have been around--and have changed form--from century to century and country to country for many hundreds of years in Western society.

Beowulf, 2007, about 3 hrs. ***-***Ray Winstone, Crispin Glover, Angelina Jolie, and Robin Wright Penn.  The warrior hero Beowulf arises from humble beginnings by defeating the monster Grendel and becomes a close friend of the king, but hubris (pride) causes him to lose his way ethically and physically, and he then must defeat the monster's equally monstrous mother, who first disguises herself as a beautiful seductress.  This new movie version of the ancient Beowulf legend has received excellent critical reviews and is, at the least, an excellent rendering of the comic-book version of this myth.  It also does reasonably fair justice to the original book itself (which is now available in a brilliant new translation: see the book list above).  See also Grendel below.

The Brothers Grimm, 120 min.  2005.  **-***.  Matt Damon, Heath Ledger. According to Comcast summary, "Con men become caught in a real fairy tale in an enchanted forest."  Some critics liked this quite a bit; others, less so.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  2005.  ****  This Oscar-winning movie version of the first C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia series tells the story of four children who accidentally fall into the kingdom of Narnia, where mythical creatures and beasts live side by side with talking animals in medieval pageantry and power, all of whom are led by mighty Aslan, the lion king, who must take back the kingdom from the grips of winter and the cold-hearted ice queen.  The children precipitate this event when they arrive as the only humans in the place, fulfilling a prophecy of their coming.  The books and the movie are filled with thinly disguised Christian symbolism, but they work well without knowing the symbolism, too, especially as a modern retelling of medieval and earlier mythologies.

Camelot and other feature films about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.  ** to ****.  Almost all King Arthur movies are idealized Hollywood versions of the older King Arthur legends.  Of these, Camelot, ***,  is perhaps the best known with the most positive reviews.  Another recent one is King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightly, 2004, **, 130 min., "promoted as the 'true' story" that "revolves around a group of knights whose loyalty is torn between Rome, Britain, and their homeland to the east" (Apollo Reviews).   The movie Excalibur, a movie from the 1980s? with Monty Python people in it, is a serious film that perhaps is closest of any Arthur-legend movies to the original legends, themselves. 

Clash of the Titans.  **-***.  Based on early Greek myths, this is the story of the hero Perseus, who goes on an adventurous quest to kill the Medusa (the famous snake-haired villainess) and other great deeds in order to save those he loves.  Hades and the Kraken also figure prominently in this version.  The movie takes many twists and turns that are a little different from the original Greek story, and it has rather melodramatic acting at times, but still it is an interesting and fun introduction to elements of early Greek myth.

Conan the Barbarian, 1982.  ***, 150 min.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Earl Jones.  From the famous early-20th cent. novel series.  According to Comcast, "Conan [Schwarzenegger] sets out with a Mongol and a queen to take his father's sword from a snake king [Jones]."  If you like the genre of myth and fantasy known as "sword and sorcery," this movie is wonderful fun.  It helped establish both Schwarzenegger's and Jones' careers as actors.  Schwarzenegger plays the muscular, displaced barbarian Conan on his spiritual journey of revenge through ancient, unnamed barbarian lands to find the evil snake king, Jones, who slew his entire village and his parents.  Jones plays a marvelously evil, charming, and powerful sorcerer who can change from human to giant snake and back again, who leads a cult of thousands of blind worshippers.

Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King, 2006, SciFi Channel Miniseries, 4 hrs. (w/lots of commercials), **-***.  DVD also available.  This well done epic of early medieval sword and sorcery has a hero, a warrior queen, a great dragon to slay, good and evil kings, magic, love, great danger, gold, and a crazed sorcerer.  And, like most great myths from early times, at its core it is a great tragedy, as well.  It is based on the 12th-century German epic poem of the Nibelungen saga, which was an inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's "Ring" trilogy (and the Hobbit before it) and many other modern fantasy writers.  The movie's setting is circa 500 AD in the early medieval Norse kingdoms where Christianity has not quite reached everyone and worship of Odin still holds sway.  

The Golden Compass, 2007, about 2 hrs. ***.  A girl learns she has magic power which she uses to thwart evil creatures and humans in the icy reaches near the top of the world.  The books and the movie based on them are modern creations, but they embody a mix of myths from a number of cultures (mostly Western, especially ones near the Arctic circle) and centuries. 

, 2007, 2 hrs. w/commercials.  **
-***.  This SciFi Channel made-for-TV movie is a reasonable and sometimes moving retranslation of the ancient classic Beowulf, and a good introduction to reading the ancient book-poem.  See "Beowulf" above.

Harry Potter movies. ***-*** Like the books before them, the Harry Potter movies capture in wonderfully charming ways much of contemporary understandings about witches and magic, something like Walt Disney meets J.R.R. Tolkien and the Brothers Grimm.   The first Harry Potter book won Great Britain's exclusive Booker Prize (similar to the U.S. Pulitizer Prize for Fiction).  If you have a choice and haven't seen it, start with the first one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Inkheart, stars Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, and Helen Mirren, 2009.  **Inkheart is an "upscale children's fantasy film," according to McClatchy Newspapers reviewer Colin Covert, that, "while it hits all the right notes, ...lacks the wild, magical excitement essential to a blockbuster crowd pleasers.  It's solid and joyless."  It is adapted from a literate novel by Cornelia Funke, "the German J.K. Rowling."  A book restorer (Fraser) and his daughter, 12, go back and forth across the divide between reality and fantasy land, fighting a literary villain and his goons, minotaurs, and flying monkeys, with all kinds of other legendary creatures and people appearing as the plot thickens.

Into the Woods, Dir. James Lapine, stars Bernadette Peters, 1991. ***Into the Woods originally was a Tony award-winning Broadway play.  Amazon.com gives the movie version of this fun romp through a number of fairy tales the highest rating possible, describing the plot as follows:  "A childless baker and his wife cannot have a child until they follow the bidding of the witch next door to get a cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood, the hair as yellow as corn, and the slipper as pure as gold. Good thing, then that they've got neighbors named Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Cinderella to help them before (and after) Happily Ever After."

Ivanhoe, stars Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor, 1952, 120 min.  ***-***.  Based on a famous novel by Sir Walter Scott, this story feeds on the same types of cultural and historical veins as Robin Hood.  Set in the same period of time, the story shows Ivanhoe, a knight, who fights for "courtly love and Saxon honor" (TCM) to help King Richard, recently released from prison, take back his throne from the evil Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Jason and the Argonauts, 1963, 120 min.  Todd Armstrong and Nancy Kovack.  ***.  This is one of several late '50s-early '60s "stop-motion animation" films combining real actors and places with special effects created by filming just one frame at a time of a mythical creature, stopping the camera and moving the creature in one small way, filming another frame, and so forth.  To create the appearance of smooth motion, a five-minute scene might take as much as several months to film, especially if multiple creatures and real humans are involved at the same time.  In this movie, Greek hero Jason sails past mythic evils and gods to reach the fabled golden fleece guarded by seven-headed Hydra, whose teeth are sown to create skeleton soldiers.  The musical score sometimes gets in the way.  (See also The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.)

King Arthur.  See above "Camelot."

The Legend of Earthsea, 200?  ***.  DVD probably also available.  A SciFi Channel miniseries based on the award-winning series of books by the same name by fantasy Ursula LeGuin, in which wizards and witches must battle to preserve peace and honor on a planet strikingly similar to a very nice medieval Europe.  I haven't seen the movie, but it has been well reviewed.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy. *** to ****.  This recently-made trilogy has won multiple awards and is a mostly accurate and wonderful recreation of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary fantasy classic by the same name.  The three individual movies, each over 2 hrs. long, are The Fellowship of the Ring, The Dark Tower [?], and The Return of the King.  [Note: The precursor to Lord of the Rings is a children's book Tolkien called The Hobbit, which was made in the 1980s (?) into a children's animated film that some people like and others find poorly done.]

Midsummer Night's Dream.  ** to ****.  There are several video/film versions of this Shakespeare classic about sprites, spirits, and humans gathering in the Forest of Arden for mischief, intrigue, and love.

MirrorMask.  A fantasy film.  (Stars unknown.)  The script is a collaboration by the excellent American fantasy writer and author of American Gods, Neil Gaiman, and the equally excellent English comic book artist Dave McKean.  The movie, according to the Star Tribune, "was hailed for its stunning blend of live action and blue-screen computer imagery [and] criticized for its meandering story of a girl lost in a darker 'Wizard of Oz'-type world" (Tom Horgen, 7 Jan. 2007, "Not-so-silent Partner").

Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis.  ***.  Lewis wrote seven short novels about his Christian fantasy world Narnia.  It combines Christian, modern, and children's storytelling myth and symbol with a plot complete with evil doers, heroes, and earthling children who have accidentally happened into this mirror world.  There are one or two older video versions available of all seven, and the first of the tales, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, was released in 2005 as a major motion picture feature film.  

Robin Hood. ** to ****.  There are several video/film versions of this perennial renaissance-period romance that fits the ancient myth of the robber-hero (and trickster god) found in cultures throughout the world.  The best of this group is, perhaps, the 1930s (?) Errol Flynn classic.  In a more recent version, Sean Connery plays an aging Robin Hood.  Even more recently, (1991, 110 min.), Patrick Bergin plays Robin and Uma Thurman offers an over-the-top, sarcastic version of Marian. 

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, 1958, 90 min.  Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant.  ***.  This is one of several late '50s-early '60s "stop-motion animation" films combining real actors and places with special effects created by filming just one frame at a time of a mythical creature, stopping the camera and moving the creature in one small way, filming another frame, and so forth.  To create the appearance of smooth motion, a five-minute scene might take as much as several months to film, especially if multiple creatures and real humans are involved at the same time.  In this movie, Arabian hero Sinbad the Sailor seeks the egg of a giant, two-headed Roc (bird of prey) in the land of one-eyed giants to help restore his shrunken princess to full size.  He must deal with a wicked Arabian wizard who owns a magical golden lamp in which is trapped a young genii; when the lamp is rubbed (and the right words chanted), the genii comes forth and grants a wish.  The musical score is especially good.  (See also Jason and the Argonauts.)

Shakespeare plays.  ** to ****.  Almost any tragedy or comedy by Shakespeare has mythic elements, some quite obvious and others more indirect or hidden.  If you want to tease them out, rent a Shakespeare play on DVD.  A very wide range of them is available from mediocre or superior.  Staging can differ dramatically, too: some are in period dress while others are in modern dress, some have barebones stage settings while others are adapted to the great outdoors and to other natural scenes such as castles and large-scale battles.  At an introductory level, for example, Franco Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet is a great tragedy and excellent drama with period costumes and settings from which to discuss ideas about the mythic dimensions of love, passion, rivalry, youth, and age.

Troy, 2004, Brad Pitt, **1/2.  This is the Hollywood version of the great and famous story of Achilles leading Greece's army in the Trojan War, which started when Paris kidnapped Helen of Troy.

Walt Disney classics: see above, Beauty and the Beast, etc. 

The Wizard of Oz, various versions (the most recent of which is the more complex, adult, punk version by the SciFi channel).  The classic and still the best movie probably is the old one with Judy Garland.

Other Movies for Which One-third credit May Be Earned (because the film scripts themselves can be considered literature):

Arthur and the Invisibles, ***, PG.  This is, according to Colin Covert in the 12 Jan. Star Tribune, "a lovely fairy tale seamlessly blend[ing] live action and computer animation" by director Luc Besson who did the movies Fifth Element (Bruce Willis) and Final Combat.  It is "a gentler sort of adventure..., a quest involving tiny elves, hidden treasure and mosquito-piloting marauders..., frenetic, fresh and funny."  It "stays close to the standard fairy-tale template."  It is aimed at both children and adults, and the main hero is a young man living with his grandmother.

Bridge to Terabithia.  *** (2007 or 2008).  A story for children that works for adults, too, the movie is about two young adolescents who form a fast friendship by developing a fantasy world of their own.  The movie is also a tragedy that explores ideas about how we create our own myths to make meaning in our lives.

Pan's Labyrinth.  Stars Ivana Barquero and Sergi Lozez (Spanish/Mexican, 2006).  *** to ****.  The National Society of Film Critics named this the Best Film of 2006, and it also has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign-Language Film.  Reviews suggest it will be a fascinating trip through what Landmark Theatres Co. calls "a unique, richly imagined epic--a gothic fairy tale set against the postwar repression of Franco's Spain.  The timeless tale of good and evil, bravery and sacrifice, love and loss, unfolds through the eyes of...a dreamy little girl who is uprooted [and] lives out her own dark fable as she confronts monsters both otherworldly and human."

The Princess Bride.  ***.  PG-13.  This popular, occasionally goofy, and fun adventure movie combines elements of several different typical Western fairytales to show the hero's journey, true love, and friendship.

Spirited Away, 2001, Dir. Miyazaki, 125 min.  ****.  This animated film won Best Animated Feature from the National Board of Review, Best Picture-Golden Bear Award from the Berlin International Film Festival, and Best Animated Film from the New York Film Critics' Circle.  It is the story of a young girl, Chihiro, who with her family accidentally walks into a spirit world.  There she meets a number of mythic spirits, discovers herself, and finds first love in her journey to free her parents from the spell that has turned them into pigs.  It reflects both Japanese and European myths.  Dave Kehr of the New York Times calls the movie "a masterpiece, pure and simple."

Thief of Bagdad, 1940, color,Sabu and John Justin, 120 min.  ****.  "A boy thief and a genie in a bottle help a blinded prince recover his kingdom from a grand vizier."

Waterworld, Kevin Costner.  Long.  **1/2 to ***.  Kevin Costner has tried to achieve myth in several of his films such as The Postman, Dances with Wolves, and this one a mythic epic.  He comes closest, perhaps, in Waterworld, at least in a more obviously mythic sense because the movie involves not just a mythic framework (mythic hero restoring balance to the world through love and hard work) but also because the movie has slightly more fantastical elements: a world covered with water, a hero who is a human with gills, a mysterious map leading the way to a reputed Eden, et al.  If you like such movies, this is well worth watching.  If you don't, stay away from it.

The Wicker Man, 1973, Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, and Britt Eklund (1:30). ***  "A police sergeant comes to a Scottish isle where a local lord presides over a sacrificial pagan cult.  Mystery/suspense."  This is not a horror movie, though there is a hard to watch scene at the very end; rather, it is a well done, concrete, realistic fantasy story about how a modern pagan cult might exist in small-town society in England.  The portrayals of paganism not only are rooted in English and European history but also explained in a natural way as part of the ongoing plot. (Note: There is a version of this with Nicholas Cage, but this American version does not do nearly as much justice to old European pagan culture and is not recommended for this class.)


Literary Legends of King Arthur Optional Assignments:

Read the three short Web pages in 1, 2, & 3 below; then also find and read 30+ pp. (about 12,000+ words) of your choice of  only one of 4, 5, 6, or 7 below.  For 4-7 below, choose the parts of the legend you want to read.  If you borrow or buy a book, read 30+ pages.  If you read from one of the Web sites, you'll have to estimate the 12,000+ words yourself because the size of a Web page differs from one computer to another.  How should you estimate?  See below.*  

1.   REQUIRED: Introduction A, Historical person: www.kingarthursknights.com/arthur/legendary.asp.

2.   REQUIRED: Introduction B, History of the legend: go to  www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/middleages/topic_2/welcome.htm. 

3.   REQUIRED: History of the Malory book and Caxton edition: go to www.legendofkingarthur.co.uk/literature/malory.htm.  

4.   (CHOOSE 1 OF 4-7:) Le Morte Darthur—Sir Thomas Malory’s full-text, 1470 A.D. story in nine “books.”  This is the original collection and creation of the King Arthur legend as we know it today, from various older stories and legends that Malory collected and further developed.  Be aware, though, that the language is in 15th century English--not impossible to read, but harder than contemporary English.  Go to  http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Mal1Mor.html. 

5.   (CHOOSE 1 OF 4-7:) Illustrated, larger-text version of same book.  Go to  http://www.mysticrealms.org.uk/malory/.   

Or, for purchase at larger bookstores or checkout from libraries, one of two modern retellings of the Arthur legends:

6.   (CHOOSE 1 OF 4-7:) T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.  T.H. White is a relatively recent writer; this book has an avid following among those who love the romance of the King Arthur stories.  (See a summary/synopsis at http://www2.netdoor.com/~moulder/thwhite/toafk_a.html.)

7.   (CHOOSE 1 OF 4-7:) John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.  Steinbeck was the author of such famous American novels as The Pearl and Grapes of Wrath.  (See summary/synopsis and preview at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0374523789/102-0703361-9320917.)

*How should you estimate 12,000 words on a Web site?  Count your lines and screens:
(a) Count the words in ten average lines, then divide by ten to learn how many words there are in an average line.  
(b) Then figure out how many lines appear at one time on your screen.  Use this to estimate how many words appear at one time on your screen.  (Multiple the number of average words in a line by the number of lines that can appear on your screen at one time.)
(c) Finally, figure out how many screens you'll need to reach 12,000+ w.  
(d) Depending on your browser and the Web site, 12,000 words could end up being, roughly, as few as 20 screens (small print) to as many as  60 screens (large print).  If you need help with the math, email me with the numbers you've already figured out.


Odyssey Survival Guide

If you'd like to view a brief, 10-slide PowerPoint presentation by a former Eng 2235 student (used here with her permission) about the story The Odyssey, you can do so either before or after reading the story itself. Simply click here on Odyssey PowerPoint.


Judeo-Christian Bible optional readings:

        Please read all of the following stories in any order you like.  The equivalent in a standard paperbound storybook would be about 30-40 pages of reading.  

        Which type of Bible should you use?  For our purposes--to examine their mythic themes in literature--almost all versions are acceptable.  So use whatever you have, or choose a version on the Web.  On the Web, the versions of the King James often are the most beautiful to read; however, the "literal," "paraphrase," and "interpreter's" versions try to be the most accurate in offering possible options of translation and in offering updated translations from ancient Bibles recently discovered through archeological finds.  These latter translations often are more accurate, word for word, but not as beautiful to read.  Many modern Bibles try to find a happy medium--straightforward translation written in an interesting literary style.  To find many online Bibles, go to


       Please be aware as you read these Bible passages that you should be looking at them in terms of mythological themes.  This does not mean they are not necessarily true.  In fact, some of our most important mythic stories are completely true stories, but they correspond to such important elements of great myths that these true stories become extremely important to our cultures.  For example, stories of our famous U.S. Presidents, from Washington to Lincoln and beyond--most of which are very true--often form some of the most important lessons we learn in elementary school about morality, politics, and reality when we are children.  These true stories have mythic elements of great importance, and so they influence our childhood views.  Some of the best "myths" ever passed on to us are true stories about real heroes and real heroines doing real things.

  • Daniel in the Lion's Den and in Babylon: Daniel 1-6 (Chapters 1-6 only)

  • Song of Songs (Song of Solomon): Song of Songs (whole book)

  • Jacob's Ladder: Genesis 28:10-22 (chapter 28, verses 10-22)

  • Prodigal Son: Luke 15 (all of Chapter 15)

  • 2 Versions of Creation Myth:
         Version #1, w/humans created in the sixth day: Genesis 1:1-2:3 
         Version #2, w/everything created on the same day: Genesis 2:4-2:22

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How To Use This Page: Read the list of required sources first; then look over the non-required ones that will be extremely useful for extra credit, working on your term paper, etc. 
Reading Faster: The challenge in a course like this  is to get through all the reading.  And in this course, you can't skip without wrecking your grade, as you must write about each reading.  One answer is to read faster.  Another is to learn the craft of intelligent skimming.  Both are relatively easy for many people: see .How To Skim/Speed.

Updated 12 June 2014



Contents and page design: Copyright () 2005-2013 by Richard Jewell

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First date of publication: January 1, 2005.  Graphics redesigned Aug. 1, 2013
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