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Subject: ‘Myth’

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The best pictures of Die Walkure by Richard Wagner

Posted in Best pictures, Famous Composers, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend, Music, Myth, Theatre on Monday, 13 July 2015

The best pictures of Die Walkure, the second opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, show three spectacular scenes from this operatic masterpiece.
The first picture of Die Walkure depicts Sieglinde showing Siegmund the magical sword Nothung which has been thrust into the World Ash Tree and resists all efforts to remove it.

Die Walkure, picture, image, illustration
Siegmund and Sieglinde by Ron Embleton

The second picture shows the battle between Hunding and Siegmund, watched by Wotan and in the distance, Brunnhilde with the distraught and pregnant Sieglinde.

Die Walkure, picture, image, illustration
Siegmund and Hunding do battle by Ron Embleton

The third picture shows Wotan’s Farewell to Brunnhilde, after he has punished her disobedience with enforced sleep high on a rock surrounded by a protective fire.

Die Walkure, picture, image, illustration
Wotan's Farewell to Brunnhilde by Ron Embleton

Many more pictures of operas by Richard Wagner can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner

Posted in Best pictures, Famous Composers, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend, Music, Myth, Theatre on Monday, 13 July 2015

The best pictures of Das Rheingold, the first opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, show three spectacular scenes from this operatic masterpiece.
The first picture of Das Rheingold shows Alberich stealing the Rhinegold as the Rhinemaidens lament its loss in the river Rhine.

Rheingold, picture, image, illustration
Alberich steals the Rhinegold from the Rhinemaidens by Ron Embleton

The second picture of Das Rheingold shows Alberich turning himself into a dragon to impress Wotan and Loge who have gone to Nibelheim to trick him and get his gold.

Rheingold, picture, image, illustration
Alberich transforms himself into a dragon by Ron Embleton

The third picture of Das Rheingold shows Alberich transform himself into a toad, as Wotan prepares to catch him and thus acquire the Nibelung treasure.

Rheingold, picture, image, illustration
Alberich transforms himself into a toad to the delight of Wotan by Ron Embleton

Many more pictures of operas by Richard Wagner can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of Romulus and Remus

Posted in Ancient History, Famous crimes, Famous landmarks, Geography, Historical articles, History, Legend, Myth on Thursday, 9 July 2015

The best pictures of Romulus and Remus illustrate the passionate nature of the twin brothers who founded Rome.
The first picture shows Romulus hurling a spear at Remus which kills him.

Romulus and Remus, picture, image, illustration
Romulus kills Remus by Severino Baraldi

The second picture shows Romulus about to kill Remus after their quarrel while overseeing the foundations of Rome.

Romulus and Remus, picture, image, illustration
Romulus and Remus by Tancredi Scarpelli.

The third picture shows a wolf on the banks of the Tiber where she finds the babies Romulus and Remus.

Romulus and Remus, picture, image, illustration
The wolf finds Romulus and Remus by Charles Edmund Brock

Many more pictures of Romulus and Remus can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of St George

Posted in Adventure, Best pictures, Bravery, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, Legend, Myth, Religion, Saints on Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The best pictures of St George show England’s national Saint defeating the dragon as related in the famous legend.
The first picture of St George is a dramatic depiction of the heroic slaying of the terrible dragon.

St George, picture, image, illustration
St George and the Dragon

The second picture of St George is a more romantic image of the heroic saint on a beautiful white horse.

St George, picture, image, illustration
St George and the Dragon by Fortunino Matania

The third picture of St George is a colourful depiction of the dramatic contest with a glamorous princess running away in the foreground.

St George, picture, image, illustration
St George and the Dragon by Severino Baraldi

Many more pictures of St George can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of Robin Hood

Posted in Adventure, Best pictures, British Countryside, Castles, Historical articles, History, Legend, Myth on Monday, 6 July 2015

The best pictures of Robin Hood show the popular folk hero wearing his traditional red and green costume in mediaeval English woodland.
The first picture shows Robin Hood looking very like the Hollywood film star, Errol Flynn.

Robin Hood, picture, image, illustration
Robin Hood by James E McConnell

The second picture shows Robin Hood perched high in a tree with Nottingham Castle in the near distance.

Robin Hood, picture, image, illustration
Robin Hood by James E McConnell

The third picture shows Robin Hood and his merry men.

Robin Hood, picture, image, illustration
Robin Hood and his merry men

Many more pictures of Robin Hood can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The poet Francois Villon was King of France for a day

Posted in Legend, Literature, Myth, Oddities, Royalty on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about France first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 595 published on 9 June 1973.

Francois Villon the vagabond King,  picture, image, illustration
Francois Villon, the vagabond King

Did medieval Paris really have its own underworld monarch, the king of the beggars? Is it historically true that, for a joke, King Louis XI went so far as to make this arch-criminal king of France for twenty four hours? Was the beggar king a spare time poet, as well as a soldier of such ability that he saved his city from capture during his brief reign? Was there ever, in fact, a man behind the legend of the Vagabond King?

It was always a good story, and in one form or another it has cropped up again and again over the years. Books, plays, even an opera have been written round the cheerful 15th century crook who was supposed to have made the most of a royal whim. It always sounded too far-fetched a story to be true, and few scholars would have wasted their time over such an improbable tale if the Vagabond King had not possessed a name. Fortunately one crops up in all the stories: Francois Villon.

At least we know that this man was real enough. He was born in Paris in the year 1431, and became a Master of Arts at the university of that city, as well as finding fame as a poet whose work is one of the glories of France.

If this makes him sound an unlikely candidate for the title of the Vagabond King, it must be remembered that legends have an almost uncanny knack of proving themselves to be true.

Nevertheless, for four hundred years nobody read Villon outside his homeland, and it was not until half-way through the 19th century that a number of English poets began to translate his work, much of it written in medieval French slang. Suddenly people wanted to know more about this man whose words had the power to make 15th century Paris jump into focus like a film.

For a time, the Vagabond King story was widely believed. Then, as Villon’s works became more and more fashionable, historians began to wonder just how much of the strange tale was really true. The search for the Vagabond King had begun.

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The search for the ‘Abominable Snowman’ is not yet over

Posted in Adventure, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Legend, Mystery, Myth, Superstition on Saturday, 8 March 2014

This edited article about Yeti first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 586 published on 7 April 1973.

The Abominable Snowman,  picture, image, illustration
The Abominable Snowman

Only desperate men would have been wandering among the high passes of the Himalayas in winter, but Slavomir Rawicz and his handful of gaunt companions comforted themselves with the thought that the Indian frontier and freedom could not be far away. The year was 1942, and the little group of Polish officers was nearing the end of one of the epic marches of World War II. One-time prisoners of the Russians, the Poles had broken out of their prison camp and had made their way across the pitiless wastes of Mongolia until they had reached the “Roof of the World” that lay between them and their goal. Suddenly Rawicz gave a warning signal. It was unbelievable in those desolate wastes, but there were two men ahead.

Men? The escapers started wide eyed. What kind of men stood more than seven feet tall? Or tramped naked through the snow and biting wind, their huge bodies covered with coarse hair? The watchers kept silent until the weird figures moved away. Later, when they reached their destination, they recounted what they had seen.

“Those were not men,” they were told. “Those were Yeti.”

“Yeti?” Strangers to the East, the Poles had never heard the name before. Nor could they know that they may well have seen the fabled creature that some of the finest mountaineers in the world would soon be tracking in vain.

Some called the creature the Yeti. Others, the Abominable Snowman. Or Kangmi, or Bhanjakris or Rakshi. The monster had many names. But, legend apart, did it really exist?

The long quest for the Yeti has much in common with the search for Flying Saucers. A terrifying, hairy giant, whose favourite haunts are the slopes of Mount Everest, the Yeti is reputed to have been seen by scores of men, ranging from the inhabitants of remote Buddhist monasteries to British army officers. But just like the elusive Flying Saucer, it manages to avoid direct scientific observation. Yet most descriptions of the Yeti follow roughly the same pattern, even in legends that go back hundreds of years.

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The legend of King Arthur and his fabled Camelot

Posted in Archaeology, Castles, Historical articles, History, Legend, Myth, Royalty on Friday, 7 March 2014

This edited article about King Arthur first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 585 published on 31 March 1973.

Arthur and Excalibur
Arthur takes Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake by James E McConnell

“Then there was a great battle, and King Arthur slew many with his sword, Excalibur. By dusk the enemy had fled, and the king led his Knights of the Round Table in triumph back to Camelot . . . .”

So for years the hero-king has ridden through the story books, ruling with the help of a band of fearless knights pledged to the task of keeping the peace and seeing justice done. But was there ever such a man? And if he is fact, not fiction, when did he reign? And where was Camelot?

The search for Arthur and his Camelot has been keeping historians busy for the last hundred years, although only recently has the pace quickened to a full scale exercise in historical detection.

At first, the doubters claimed it was easy to dismiss the whole story as a fairy tale. After all, the Knights of the Round Table all wore armour and spent their spare time jousting, which clearly set their period at around the 14th century. And whoever heard of a King Arthur the First living then? Equally suspect was the point that many of his knights’ adventures had been told and retold in France since earliest times with absolutely no mention of any English king and his castle at Camelot.

The facts certainly seemed to support the non-believers. The story of the Knights of the Round Table came to us from the pen of Sir Thomas Malory, a rather shadowy figure who died in 1471. His book was printed by Caxton 14 years later, and the great printer himself seems to have had his doubts, for he wrote in the preface “Sir Thomas Malorye did take out of certyne bookes of frensshe and reduced it to Englisshe.”

And if that was what Caxton believed, what was the point of trying to prove otherwise? Obviously, the good Sir Thomas had written one of the first best-sellers, a kind of medieval James Bond. And that was that.

After several hundred years scholars suddenly woke up to the fact that the name of Arthur and his followers kept cropping up in the most unlikely places. In the 11th century Black Book of Carmarthen, for instance. In the History of the Britons, compiled in the 9th century by the Celtic monk, Nennius, and in William of Malmsbury’s Acts of the English Kings. Someone even found a 12th century carving in an Italian church that showed Artus de Bretani (Arthur of Britain), Galvagnus (Gawain), Che (Kay) and others storming a castle where Mardoc, or Mordred, held Guenevere a prisoner. All of which dated back to long before Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur was written.

The evidence pointed to only one explanation: that although Malory had undoubtedly collected his stories from a number of sources and knitted them all together within the framework of the Round Table, the stories themselves were the products of ancient romancers. But the people in the stories were a different matter. Certain statements were repeated so often that it seemed probable that they had really lived.

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Sky Woman fell from heaven and became Earth Mother

Posted in America, Historical articles, Legend, Myth on Thursday, 13 February 2014

This edited article about American folk tales first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 551 published on 5 August 1972.

American folk tales,  picture, image, illustration
A montage of American folk characters showing the Sky Woman (right) being carried slowly to earth by water birds, by Richard Hook

The Indian tribes of North America were very rich in myths and legends. Many of these tribes had a legend which explained to them how the earth was made, how the rivers, the mountains, the deserts, the lakes, and the seas came to be. It then went on to explain the earth’s habitation by the living creatures – the trees, flowers, birds, the animals and then Man.

This legend varies in its telling from tribe to tribe, but the Sky Woman invariably plays a leading role. Our version of this story is that as told and handed down by the wise men and elders of the Seneca tribe.

Once there was no earth, just sea; a vast expanse of water only inhabited by the creatures suited to aquatic existence – the birds, animals and fishes of the great waters.

Above these waters was heaven; a heaven frequented by those birds and animals not of the sea and Man, living together in a paradise ruled by a great chief and lit by the beautiful fluorescent blossoms of the Tree of Light which stood at the door of the great chief’s lodge.

The Chief had a dream. He dreamed that he should marry. His bride-to-be was the most beautiful of all the maidens in the tribe. At first their marriage was a success, but as time went by the chief became jealous. So aware was he of his wife’s incredible beauty that he could not bear any of the young men of the tribe to gaze upon her. Soon his jealousy produced fits of blind rage and hatred.

Whilst in the grip of one such rage, the chief staggered from his lodge, rushed at the Tree of Light and tore its roots from the ground. The roots of the Tree of Light had grown right through the floor of heaven. By up-rooting the tree the chief made a gigantic hole. The light from the fallen tree now shone down for the first time on the watery world below. The chief forbade any of his tribe to go near the hole. He warned them of the perils awaiting them if they were to slip and tumble into the unknown depths. He promised them terrible punishments if he was to see any of them actually look down through the hole.

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The Colossus of Rhodes celebrated victory over Cyprus

Posted in Ancient History, Architecture, Famous battles, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Myth on Wednesday, 5 February 2014

This edited article about the Colossus of Rhodes first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 543 published on 10 June 1972.

Colossus of Rhodes,  picture, image, illustration
The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

A giant bronze statue, one of the wonders of the ancient world, crashed to the ground in the harbour of Rhodes 200 years before the birth of Christ. Ever since, men have tried to unravel the mysteries of this exciting secret of the past

“The greatest statue conceived” is how it has been described. Yet no one alive in our world today has ever seen it.

The statue was the Colossus of Rhodes; an immense nude form which, according to those who saw it, was not merely the largest but the most perfect model of a human form ever fashioned by man. And the Greeks of old, in whose time it was made, were exacting critics in such matters.

Of this great statue nothing remains; there is nothing even to indicate where it stood. More than 200 years before the birth of Christ it fell to the ground. The bronze giant, accounted one of the seven wonders of the world, has now been entirely demolished – sold as scrap it is said.

So meagre are the reliable descriptions which have been handed down to us that it is difficult to visualise a reconstruction of this wonder. The Colossus was an immense statue of Helios, or Apollo as the Romans called him, the sun god and protecting deity of the Greek island of Rhodes.

It was designed by a sculptor called Chares and for 12 years, from 292 to 280 BC, he laboured at the task of its construction. It stood at the entrance to Rhodes harbour and in the year 224 BC it was brought toppling down by an earthquake. These are facts, beyond the range of controversy.

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