Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stories for English Heritage

Hi everyone. I've been wanting to do this post for a while now, and I figured now's the time to get it done. For a while I've been wanting to do more to honor my English/Scottish heritage, and I was thinking one way to do that was to familiarize myself with the traditional legends and stories of the countries. Below is a list of the stories I think would be good for anyone who would like to fill their libraries and/or minds with to honor their English heritage.
Starting off on this list is the tales of the legendary King Arthur. Everyone knows the name of this famous monarch and the deeds of his Knights of the Round Table. For generations people have written about King Arthur, his knights, the wizard Merlin, and the legendary city of Camelot. Authors never seem to get tired of writing books that focus on or involve these legendary heroes, and the legends have gone on to inspire countless fantasies throughout the years. Speaking of legendary heroes...
It would also be good for those wanting stories for their English heritage to become familiar with the exploits of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood. The Earl of Locksley as some tales have him became an outlaw due the laws made and enforced by Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham while King Richard was on one of his many crusades. Robin Hood and his Merry Men gave hope to the people by robbing from the rich to give to the poor, showing that sometimes doing what is right means going against what is popular or accepted by those around us.
Another well-known English figure is Sherlock Holmes. First created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle this tale has become known as the greatest detective who ever lived. Sherlock Holmes has set the standard for all detective novels with his knowledge of chemistry, ability to disguise himself, and extensive know-how of forensic science. While we're on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle let's look at another of his famous works.
One of my personal favorites, The Lost World was one of those novels that set the standard for later works of fiction. The story follows the adventures of Professor Challenger and his team as they explore a remote plateau in South America where dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals survived extinction. Since it's release countless authors and filmmakers have been inspired to create some remote corner of the planet where dinosaurs didn't go extinct. Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Gurney, and Michael Crichton have written something that can be seen as inspired by this novel. Michael Crichton admitted he loved the story so much he gave the sequel to Jurassic Park the same name as a way to honor the story.
We should not overlook these works when talking about English literature. J.R.R. Tolkein's stories of Middle-Earth have become increasingly popular over the years, but when they came out they set the standard for all future high fantasy stories. Wizards, dragons, evil seeking to take over the world...what's not to like about the series? Tolkein sometimes viewed what he was doing as making a mythology for England. Guess the tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood weren't good enough for him.
There's no way I'm including J.R.R. Tolkein's works on this post and ignoring the works of his friend C.S. Lewis. Everyone knows Lewis for his series The Chronicles of Narnia, which follows the adventures of children who often make their way from Earth to a realm of fantasy where they must work with an all-powerful lion to defeat the forces of evil and restore peace to this world. The series is loved by children and adults all around the world, and the combination of theology with fantasy makes it truly memorable.
This is more recent, but you can't ignore the huge popularity of the stories revolving around the boy wizard. Since it's initial release the stories have gained an incredible popularity around the world. I enjoy the stories about someone who's learning to use magic, and encountering a wide variety of magical creatures from folklore and mythology, and J.K. Rowling has created many fantastic characters, locations, and beasts in the course of seven books.
We may as well move on to stories that were written for younger audiences now. FYI I still enjoy these stories even though I'm an adult. Lewis Carroll's classic novel was one of the first in modern fiction to have someone travel from one world to another. Originally called Underland, the location in this fairy tale fantasy has over the years been renamed to Wonderland. Though the story lacks in a solid plot the locations and characters Alice meets on her adventures are amusing enough, and if anyone is familiar with the old nursery rhymes will see that Lewis Carroll was poking fun with them as well as at the British government. Oh look, the Cheshire Cat is behind you. Just kidding. Out of curiosity have any of you figured out why a raven is like a writing desk?
Another classic English story that has fallen under the category of fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland is J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. The story follows the adventures of Wendy Darling and her brothers John and Michael as they are taken by Peter Pan, the Boy Who Never Grew Up, to a magical place called Neverland. There they must join with the Lost Boys as they fight against Captain Hook and his band of pirates. People have continued to love this story for generations, and more adventures set on the island of Neverland are still being written, including the popular Peter and the Starcatchers series by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry. I've now got this song in my head so I'm sharing this clip with you (FYI some people consider this film the definitive version of J.M. Barrie's story):
Possibly my favorite song from the film. Now where was I? Oh yes. I was about to tell you about another famous island that comes from English literature.
The classic novel was written by Robert Louis Stevenson was first published May 23, 1883, and follows the adventures of young Jim Hawkins as he and others embark on a voyage to the legendary Treasure Island to find the lost loot of the infamous Captain Flint. However the crew turns out to be a band of pirates led by Long John Silver. I won't say any more in case you haven't read the book, but I imagine you all have seen at least one adaptation in film. This book is one of the classic examples of an adventure novel.
This story is a classic children's novel in England, so it is making it's way onto this list. Made famous by the works of Walt Disney Animation Studios, the books follow the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred-Acre Woods. I never got to read the books, but one of my professors has and really enjoys it because it is full of great philosophy.
The last story I'll talk about on this post is The Wind in the Willows, another famous children's book. This follows the adventures of a group of animals as they try to help Mr. Toad with his money-spending problems. Again this is a novel I need to put on my to read list.
I know this isn't a definitive list of every novel from England, but these are stories that I think would be good for a person to be familiar with to honor their English heritage. If there are any that I missed that you think should be on this list please say so in the comments and if there's enough I'll do another post for those books. I'll also see if I can find any Scottish stories to do a blog post on.

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