Travels to the Otherworld and Other Fantastic Realms
A collection of tales from the Middle Ages that reveal voyages to Heaven and Hell, the realm of the Faery, mystical lands, and encounters with mythic beasts
• Shares travelers’ accounts of voyages into the afterlife, alarming creatures of unparalleled strangeness, encounters with doppelgangers and angels, chivalric romantic misadventures, and legends of heroes
• Explains how travelers’ tales from the Middle Ages drew on geographies, encyclopedias, travel accounts, bestiaries, and herbals for material to capture the imagination of their audiences
• Includes rare illustrations from incunabula and medieval manuscripts
Heading off to discover unknown lands was always a risky undertaking during the Middle Ages due to the countless dangers lying in wait for the traveler--if we can believe what the written accounts tell us. In the medieval age of intercontinental exploration, tales of sea monsters, strange hybrid beasts, trickster faeries, accidental trips to the afterlife, and peoples as fantastic and dangerous as the lands they inhabited abounded.
In this curated collection of medieval travelers’ tales, editors Claude and Corinne Lecouteux explain how the Middle Ages were a melting pot of narrative traditions from the four corners of the then-known world. Tales from this period often drew on geographies, encyclopedias, travel accounts, bestiaries, and herbals for material to capture the imagination of their audiences, who were fascinated by the wonders being discovered by explorers of the time.
Accompanied by rare illustrations from incunabula and medieval manuscripts, the stories in this collection include voyages into the afterlife, with guided tours of Hell and glimpses of Heaven, as well as journeys into other fantastic realms, such as the pagan land of the Faery. It also includes accounts from travelers such as Alexander the Great of alarming creatures of unparalleled strangeness, encounters with doppelgangers and angels, legends of heroes, and tales of chivalric romantic misadventures, with protagonists swept to exotic new places by fate or by quest. In each story, the marvelous is omnipresent, and each portrays the reactions of the protagonist when faced with the unknown.
Offering an introduction to the medieval imaginings of a wondrous universe, these tales reflect the dreams and beliefs of the Middle Ages’ era of discovery and allow readers to survey mythic geography, meet people from the far ends of the earth, and experience the supernatural.
Claude Lecouteux is a professor emeritus of medieval literature and civilization at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous books on medieval beliefs and magic, including The Book of Grimoires and Dictionary of Ancient Magic Words and Spells. Corinne Lecouteux is a translator specializing in tales and legends. They live in Paris.
Book Size: 6 x 9