Showing posts with label Enchanted World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Enchanted World. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love
 I saw an online conversation in an old-school RPG group a bit ago. This guy was boasting that his games never had romance, sexuality, or anything at all like that. My first thought was, "How sad," and my next immediate thought was, "How boring his games must be!"

Without the stories and contributions of love and romance or just plain good old-fashioned sex, we would loose most of the works of Shakespeare, many of the Greek myths, and practically all of modern music. Ancient Greeks to Motzart's Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte, to "Silly love songs" by Paul McCartney to most of Taylor Swift's catalog. Love just might make the world go 'round.

That is the topic of today's The Enchanted World. I mentioned before that I am not going in publication order, save for the first, and instead going to post the titles that have some connection with when I post them. Today is February 14th, Valentine's Day, so let's look at Love...Enchanted World style. 

Lore of Love 

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1987 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452812, 0809452820 (US Editions)

This is a later one and does not have a single author. Tony Allen is listed as "text editor" and Ellen Dupont is listed as "staff writer." Of note, in the US, the cover is purple. In the UK, this book had a green cloth cover. 

Like the others in this series the art is a mix of newer pieces with a lot of classical ones. There are for example a lot of John William Waterhouse. The bibliography for this one is also rather impressive. I imagine that as they went on there were a lot more texts collected that they could reference.

Like Wizards and Witches, this one is divided into three larger sections. These can be roughly described as "Finding Love," "Love Gone Wrong" and "Keeping Love."   That's not a perfect match, but it will do.

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

This covers love as a shaper of destiny. The six stories here involve the gods getting involved with the love lives of mortals to some degree.  "A Groom for the Sea-Lord's Daughter," for example, tells about the fairest sea nymph of all, Thetis, and how she spurred the lust of both Poseidon and then Zeus, only to be given to a mortal Peleus because it was prophesized that her son would defeat his father. As an aside I noticed that Thetis' requests of Peleus are very much the same as we see in later mermaid and selkie tales of Northern Europe. 

Maiden's Visions

Tales of the problems when mortals try to avoid their fate abound as in "The God of Marriages" a Chinese tale of a man who sees his bride to be as a toddler and tries everything to avoid his fate, and just playing into it. Or the Indian tale of "A Love Forgotten" of two lovers reunited at last. 

Sometimes, love, though meant to be, is also tragic. Such is the tale of a German knight in "The Cursed Embrace" whose betrothed is already dead.

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

The story of love is not always about happy endings. Romeo and Juliet aside, there was Popocatepetl and his love Princess Iztaccíhuatl. When an army could not stop Popocatepetl the Jaguar Knight, his own spread lies about his death so they could possibly claim his bride. When she heard her love had died she died herself. When the Jaguar Knight returned and learned of her death and why, he killed all his men.

Across the ocean in Spain we are treated to the story of Don Juan and his ill-fated affairs. Of the tragedies of Narcissus, Daphne, and Thisbe of Ancient Greece. 

The Warlock's Comeuppance


Though not was all tragedy. There were times when love went wrong and it was comical. Such is the tale of the Warlock's Comeuppance. A warlock found a young women he wished to put a spell on, so he convinced his young Latin pupil to get three hairs from her head. The girl caught her brother trying to steal the hairs and instead gave him three hairs from their young heffer. The warlock performed his dark arts spell and soon had a lovesick cow following all over the town!

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Of course the best tales are the ones where true love wins out over all odds. Tales like Aucassin and Nicolette the Saracen Maid. They were separated by wars, pirates, and separation of years. Or of Hiku, the Polynesian hero who was so brave he went to the underworld itself to find his lost love Kawelu.  Can your characters claim that? (Yeah. Mine can.)

I am a little surprised that the tale of Cupid and Psyche is not here, but maybe that one is so well known they dropped it in favor of these other stories.

Like all the ones I have read through so far, this one is wonderfully illustrated and amazingly researched. Combining the bibliography for all of these would provide a lifetime's worth of reading.  

This one might have fewer "game-related" details than others, but there is undoubtedly a treasure trove of ideas here. 

Next time: Here there be Dragons!

Thursday, February 1, 2024

The Enchanted World: Wizards and Witches

The Enchanted World: Wizards and Witches
 Let's start this series with the book that has the most meaning to me and the first one in the series: Wizards and Witches. Fitting for Imbolc on Thursday really.

Overview of the Series

The Enchanted World books from Time-LIFE were a series of high-quality, hardcover books sent to you via mail from Time-LIFE subscription. The first one you got for free was Wizards and Witches. This also makes it the most common one and the one you can find in most secondary markets. Fortunately for me, it was also my favorite.  

Imagine, if you can, a time when one of the world's largest publishers decided to invest in a series of books (21 in total) filled with full-color art, cloth-bound covers, and access to some of the world's greatest libraries and scholars. Libraries like the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Cambridge Library, and the London Library. Scholars like Prof. Tristram Potter Coffin (Chief Series Consultant),  Ellen Phillips (Series Director and Editor), and Prog. Brendan Lehane (author of this volume).

Well, that time was 40 years ago, and the Enchanted World series sought to capitalize on the growing fascination with all things fantasy, not in a small part due to the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of collections of other folks' RPG books. It is no surprise when you see one or more of these books stuck in their mix of FRPGs.

Many of the books follow a similar pattern. Usually, 3-4 chapters of the book detail different aspects of the myths and folklore being covered. These are usually interspersed with some of the stories themselves or excerpts, as well as art. The art is often from classical sources or paintings depicting the stories or characters involved. There are also new pieces of art throughout. There are margin notes or marginalia with some other related tidbit of information. Each chapter ends with a longer story.

There is a bibliography, art credits, and some publication notes in the back.

These books were published around the world. Some of the European publications also had dust covers.

Wizards and Witches

by Brendan Lehane, 1984 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452049, 0809452057 (US Editions)

This book is divided into three sections covering ancient wizards, wizards of the Middle Ages, and witches. There is quite a lot of art from Arthur Rackham here. 

Chapter One: Singers at the World's Dawn

Here, we begin with a tale of the old Finish wizard Väinämöinen and the young upstart Joukahainen in what could be considered a magical sing-off. The line between Bard and Wizard was very thin in ancient Finland. Thus it was when the world was young and youth could aspire to wizardry. We learn of other powerful names like Volga Vseslavich, Cathbad, Manannan Mac Lir, Taliesin, and, most well-known of all, Merlin. Not all were old men. Ceridwen, Circe, and Louhi were there too.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

The thesis here is that in those olden days magic was something people could aspire too, but few could truly master. We get snippets of stories of all these wizards and sorceresses, each playing into the next. It is somewhere between a bedtime story and an undergraduate survey of various wizards. In between we get longer stories, like the "Wizard of Kiev" and "The Welsh Enchanter's Fosterling."  All cover magic in a semi-forgotten age that seems to have one foot in history and another in mythology.

Chapter Two: Masters of Forbidden Arts

If the last chapter dealt with magical using men and women as heroes as often as villains, then this chapter leaves no ambiguity on where it sees (or rather history sees) the wizard of the Middle Ages. Here the singing battles of Bard-Wizards are given way to the academic study of magic in dusty tomes of forgotten lore and those who sell their very soul for power. We encounter the likes of Roger Bacon (1219-1292), Oxford Scholar, Empirical Philosopher, Franciscan friar, and dabbler in magic. There is even a bit on Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) aka Nostradamus. But for the most part we see magic going from a force of nature in a world where the rules are not yet set in stone, to men (for the most part) partaking in deals with demonic or devilish figures for power. All it takes is their soul.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

We spend quite a bit of time on the legend of Faust and his deal with Mephistopheles. In fact, this one is so set into our vernacular that a "Faustian Deal" hardly needs any explanations. 

Given the time period, there is also a wonderful overview of the Tarot and its origins with some rather fantastic art. 

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

But most of all I loved the "Legions of the Night" section with its coverage of Demons. The descriptions of just the few here and the art by Louis Le Breton from the Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy were enough to make me want even more strange demons in my game. More so since it featured Astaroth. A demon that already fascinated me from when I first saw him in Best of Dragon II.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches


Harry Clarke's illustrations of Mephistopheles should be how the devil appears all the time. 

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

Along with the Tarot, there is some coverage on astrology. This predates the Middle Ages by, well, thousands of years really, but there was new keen importance on it at this time. 

Chapter Three: The Shadowy Sisterhood

Ah. Here are my witches. We get some cover on what could be called Folk Magic or Hedge Witchery, on how these natural healers were initially an important part of everyday life. The magic was simpler and more in tune with nature.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

Throughout this chapter, the "helpers" of witches are mentioned. We call them Familiars. Up first is the hare, which they claim (and back up) was closer to the witch than the black cat we associate with today. This reminds me that rabbits and hares should really feature more in my games. The others include spiders, ravens and crows, cats, snakes, and toads, which they claim as one of the first animals to be associated with witches. I have read that before as well.

As the chapter professes the old Black Magic vs. White Magic trope appears. While less in favor today among Real WitchesTM (remember the ads with Litney Burns?) it is an important distinction of the time. It is almost the same divide as the "Natural" vs. "Academic" wizards of the first two chapters, really. 

There are various stories, mostly about how someone was suspected of witchcraft and what happened. But also the machinations of witches in general. 

There is a section flight and witches and how brooms were not used at first, but rather things like butter churns and distaffs. I even added distaffs to my games in part because of this connection. 

Our story at the end of this chapter is a classic tale of Baba Yaga and Vasilsa the Fair. Again featuring amazing artwork, this time right from Vasilisa the Beautiful by Ivan Bilibin.

Use in FRPGs

With so many books out there, there is no end to the ideas they can generate. Upfront, it should be noted there is nothing "new" here. The stories, the folklore, and even a lot of the art are things we have all seen before. The stories of wizards like Väinämöinen, Merlin, Faust, and Circe should all be known to anyone who has a passing interest in fantasy and, indeed, to anyone who has played FRPGs. But that is not where their value lies. These books do have tidbits that the causal pursuer of these tales would not know, and maybe even some for the more advanced students.

To be sure, while there is academic rigor here, these are not textbooks. But they are educational.

Reading these tales one could use them as the basis for other characters. There is more than just a little bit of Taliesin in my own Phygora, for example. These tales, often set right on top of each other, can give the reader and player plenty of means of comparison. 

This book also makes good arguments for the separation between, say, Wizards, Warlocks, and Witches (as represented by the three chapters) but less of an argument on where bards fit in. Are Taliesin and Väinämöinen wizards or bards, for example? It is not up to this book to decide but rather the reader.

If you are playing a game like D&D that lives in a different world, then ideas abound. I mean we know Gygax, Arneson and the early designers of the game were very much into folklore and mythology. Those elements are the hook for more of these, beyond the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths we were all raised on.  Like any good synthesis, it should make you want to check out the primary stories these are all from.  If you are playing a Medieval game, say Chivalry & Sorcery or Pendragon, then this is practically a sourcebook for you. I would even say it is a must-have for a Mage: Dark Ages or Mage: Sorcerers Crusade game.

Wizards & Witches

Witches

I can't let it go unsaid, even if it is obvious, but this book profoundly affected me when it was out. While I did not own my own copy until much later on, I had friends that had it. Since this was the first of the series, many people had it. The art in this book set the feel for how I wanted my Witch class books to look. I have since included the art of Arthur Rackham and the Pre-Raphelites in many of my books. This was one of the books that made me want a witch book for D&D. When none showed in the stores I took it on myself to make it. I do know that my first encounter with the "Black School" of the Scholomance was from this book.

Time-LIFE The Enchanted World: Wizards & Witches

While I can't say with any certainty other than the timeline, this book was likely a contributing factor to one of my favorite themes in games; Pagans vs. Christians and how magic would later be demonized by the Church.

This series is lovely, and each book, while filled with things I already knew, also has many things I did not. 

My only real complaint? At 12.25" x 9", they just don't fit nicely into a standard bookcase.

Next Time: What is love?

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2024 The Enchanted World

 2024 is not just the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, it is the 40th Anniversary of the Time-Life series The Enchanted World.  A series that really owes its own existence to D&D and the rise of Fantasy in the 1980s.

Time-Life The Enchanted World

I spent a few years acquiring a full set of these wonderful books, and I will spend the year covering them. I am not going to go in order because really, there is no order required to read them. I will likely choose relevant ones for the day or week I post them (Valentine's Day, Halloween, Christmas).

Here are all the books I am covering. This is the publication order. 

  • Wizards and Witches (1984, ISBN 0809452049, 0809452057)  
  • Dragons (1984, ISBN 0809452081, 080945209X)  
  • Fairies and Elves (1984, ISBN 080945212X, 0809452138) 
  • Ghosts (1984, ISBN 0809452162, 0809452170)  
  • Legends of Valor (1984, ISBN 0809452200, 0809452219)  
  • Night Creatures (1985, ISBN 0809452332, 0809452340)
  • Water Spirits (1985, ISBN 0809452456, 0809452464)
  • Magical Beasts (1985, ISBN 0809452294, 0809452308)
  • Dwarfs (1985, ISBN 0809452243, 0809452251) 
  • Spells and Bindings (1985, ISBN 0809452413, 0809452421)
  • Giants and Ogres (1985, ISBN 0809452375, 0809452383)
  • Seekers and Saviors (1986, ISBN 0809452499, 0809452502)
  • Fabled Lands (1986, ISBN 0809452537, 0809452545)
  • Book of Christmas (1986, ISBN 0809452618, 0809452626)
  • Fall of Camelot (1986, ISBN 080945257X, 0809452588)
  • Magical Justice (1986, ISBN 0809452693, 0809452707)
  • Lore of Love (1987, ISBN 0809452812, 0809452820)
  • The Book of Beginnings (1986, ISBN 0809452650, 0809452669)
  • Tales of Terror (1987, ISBN 0809452774, 0809452782)
  • The Secret Arts (1987, ISBN 0809452855, 0809452863)
  • Gods and Goddesses (1987, ISBN 0809452731, 080945274X)

I will talk about the books, some of their background, and the stories they have. I'll also talk about how to use these in your Fantasy RPG games, whether that game is D&D, Castles & Crusades, Chivalry & Sorcery, or Wasted Lands.

So, just like 1984, here are some ads to get you excited for these books!

A lot of us remember these best from the ads in Dragon Magazine.

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

Time-Life Books The Enchanted World ad

And the TV ads!


Litney Burns, the clairvoyant from ads is still around!

There were also some great TV spots with horror icon Vincent Price.

Really looking forward to this series. Hope you are too.