The Hero’s Mortal Walls

Identity and Defenses in Early Epic and Romance


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About the Book

The heroes of early narrative are the faces of an older world. In constant retellings, their stories hold the memory like members of an extended family. Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Beowulf, Gawain, Roland, Yvain, Genji—in their colorful, often exaggerated ways, they show how the people of their own time and place liked to know themselves. The heroes embody their identity and reflect their culture. Because their world was difficult and dangerous, every hero needed defensive strengths. This book analyzes seven iconic heroes and compares each champion to a walled town or castle, hardened against an outer threat. These defenses are the mortal walls of their identity—their strengths against the world, as well as their dealings within it—and are exemplified in their actions as warriors, distinct rhetoric, complex relationships with women, and devotion to the divine. By delving into some of early narrative’s most renowned heroes, the book reveals the pieces of their inner selves that even they cannot keep outside the walls but must finally accept with firm humility.

About the Author(s)

William F. Woods is the M.V. Hughes Professor of English, emeritus, at Wichita State University in Wichita, Kansas. He lives in Wichita.

Bibliographic Details

William F. Woods

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 206
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8623-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5174-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction: Mortal Walls 3
Chapter One. Gilgamesh 19
Chapter Two. Odysseus 40
Chapter Three. Beowulf 66
Chapter Four. Gawain 88
Chapter Five. Roland 108
Chapter Six. Yvain 130
Chapter Seven. Genji 153
Epilogue 173
Chapter Notes 177
Bibliography 187
Index 193