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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So what's it about?, 6 Aug 2010
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This review is from: The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (Paperback)
The central idea is that there exists a single fundamental story, an essential motif in mythology and in all "true" poetry;

TWO MEN CONTEND FOR THE LOVE OF A POWERFUL WOMAN.

The woman is the White Goddess of the title. The men are the demigods of Summer and Winter, and their battle is an allegory of the changing of the seasons. Every other story, fictional or otherwise, is a part of or a retelling of or a distortion of this central truth. The wealth of examples used by Graves is astonishing; even the Scriptures can be interpreted in the light of it.

Graves assembles his argument by cracking the code of two ancient Welsh poems. "The Battle of the Trees" (Cad Goddeu) and "The History of Taliesin" (Hanes Taliesin) are found to conceal two mystical alphabet-cum-calendar charms, Celtic equivalents of the Norse Runes. These charms are the means by which the story of the eternal love triangle is preserved, and they also hide the names of two Celtic deities, theoretically in conflict in the fourth century BC. The process by which the decoding is made is brilliant, erudite, and academically outrageous- no University would sanction it. And yet, Graves is certainly on to something.

Even if you disagree, it's worth reading this book and making your mind up yourself. No knowledge of Welsh is required (Graves himself proceeds from English translations). On the way you'll learn more about mythology, religion and anthropology than from any officially sanctioned source- only Frazer's "The Golden Bough" comes close to it. Treat it all cautiously- but discount none of it.
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