“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. “ – George Santayana
Nicholas Jubber maps our past to our present through six classic tales from European history.
I had the chance to review a pre-release copy of “Epic Continent” by Nicholas Jubber. Nicholas has several books relating to travel, but this one was interesting because it outlined the relationships between the classic European epic poems and classics with the historical wars and migrations of people across Asia and Europe.
From the Odyssey to Beowulf, he was able to map relationships and historical events and show the back story on how these classics came to be and why they are so endearing.
Flowing through six individual epics, a mix of the familiar from college days (the Odyssey, Beowulf) and then some not so well known (the Kosovo Cycle, Njal’s Saga) and uses them to create a journey that begins in Greece, crosses the Balkans, across Britain, through Scandinavia, and finally Iceland.
One of my favorite parts is how he describes an evening in a bar in Athens and listening to ordinary people recite and share the Odyssey with heartfelt passion.
Some readers will immediately relate to a traveling father managing his daily schedule problems, but he slowly weaves passages that made me feel like a walk-in history with a taste of JRR Tolkien or the “Game of Thrones.”
I am partial to the North of Spain from my family ties, and “The Song of Roland” touched me with some of the references to Basque culture. Not some much for it is historical value, but how Jubber relates the tales to their national interests. The national interests that were then and now manipulated possibly into propaganda to feed to the masses.
Some readers may think this comparison is a stretch, but when Jubber references politicians in Kosovo, London, and Washington DC and connects this logically to books like “The Art of War,” I believe it is worth discussing.
I enjoyed this book and will keep it as a reference in my work of Latin travel and Romance languages.
He maps the movement of tribes through migrations and the effects of the pressures of change in society. I enjoy his style of intertwining the tales with how the period folk embraced the stories and how modern people use stories like these to persuade the people of their countries to lean one way or another.