Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Seafaring Saint: Sources and Analogues of the Twelfth-Century Voyage of Saint Brendan

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Seafaring Saint: Sources and Analogues of the Twelfth-Century Voyage of Saint Brendan

Article excerpt

The Seafaring Saint: Sources and Analogues of the Twelfth-Century Voyage of Saint Brendan. By Clara Strijbosch. Translated by Thea Summerfield. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. Distributed by ISBS, Portland, Oregon. 2000. Pp. x, 325. $65.00.)

The main aim of this book is to examine the relationship between the twelfth-century story,De reis van Sint Brandaan ("The Voyage of St. Brendan") and Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis ("The Voyage of the Holy Abbot St. Brendan"), written some time between the eighth and the tenth centuries. The author examines corresponding episodes in the two tales to determine if the Navigatio served as a source of the Reis (henceforth the Voyage) and seeks to establish whether these correspondences "suggest literal translation, adaptation, or merely a vague kind of derivation" (p. 4).

The work, which is based on a book published in Dutch in 1995, is divided into seven chapters, and includes sixteen illustrations, a short preface, seven short appendices, a bibliography, an index to episodes, and a general index.

The first chapter is mainly concerned with establishing the contents of the lost twelfth-century original of the Voyage based on the texts of the three extant branches: a Middle Dutch version in verse represented by two redactions; two Middle High German versions in verse; and a German version in prose, which is extant in five manuscripts and twenty-two printed editions. Since the extant versions often go their own way, the reconstruction of the contents of the original is a tricky business and does not depend simply on establishing the relationship between the branches.

The real meat of the work lies in the following chapters. Having reviewed the episodes in the two tales, Strijbosch concludes that sixteen of the thirty-three episodes contained in the Voyage are, "to a larger or smaller degree, related to the Navigatto" (pp. 59-60), and that in a number of these instances "the possibility of a literal translation or more or less faithful adaptation cannot be ruled out" (p. 59).

She proceeds to examine possible influences of later works, such as the German text Herzog Ernst, concluding that the Voyage and Herzog Ernst may have used a common Latin source for some episodes (p. …

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