Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Albina and Her Sisters: The Foundation of Albion

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Albina and Her Sisters: The Foundation of Albion

Article excerpt

Lisa M. Ruch, Albina and her Sisters: The Foundation of Albion, Cambria Studies in Classicism, Orientalism, and Medievalism (Amherst, Mass.: Cambria Press, 2013). xxvii + 177 pp. ISBN 978-1-6049-7859-9. £62.99.

This book provides an overview of the Albina myth in medieval historical literature, surveying its development from the first decades of the fourteenth century to its criticism and ultimate rejection in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This is complemented by discussions of the story's main classical analogue, the legend of the Danaids (chapter 1), its medieval motifs and themes, such as that of the rudderless boat (chapter 2), and the tale's role in historical texts as a prologue to the Brutus myth (chapter 4). Chapter 3 comprises a discussion of different medieval versions of the myth.

The strength of Ruch's book is that it brings many versions of the Albina story together, noting their similarities and differences, and drawing attention to intriguing adaptations of the more common narratives, not all of which may be known to scholars interested in the myth (the 'outliers' discussed in chapter 3, pp. 79-92). Its disadvantage, however, is that it is often descriptive rather than analytical. A more focused analysis of one or two versions, ideally ones that have not yet benefited from critical study, would have complemented Ruch's wider discussion of the Albina tradition, which she aimed to study 'as a whole' (e.g. p. xviii).

Although chapter 3 outlines most known versions of the Albina myth, a few escape Ruch's attention. For example, an account of the story similar to that found in Jean de Wavrin's Recueil and in Guiron le Courtois survives in part in one manuscript of the continental French romance Perceforest (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fonds français ms. 109). Like Perceforest, Wavrin's Recueil and Guiron le Courtois are continental works of the fifteenth century, but Ruch does not draw attention to their provenances, as she does for Welsh and Dutch versions. …

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