The epic is a poem or narrative of extended length made up of traditional stories clustered around a hero or group of heros. It is large in scope and eloquent in expression, embodying the highest ideals of the culture from which it springs. Saga, the name given to the epics of the Northmen, the people of Iceland and Scandinavia. These epics are largely pre-Christian and reach back to the undated past. The written forms date from a thousand years before Christ to the thirteenth century.
The romance (such as The Song of Roland and the tales of chivalry that make up the Arthurian legends) differs from the epic only in that it reflects the spread of Christianity in the Middle Ages. One characteristic that emerges i the romance is the recognition of the individual as hero, with courage enough to face even the ultimate foe.
When a culture experienced a great triumph or produced a great leader, the reality, over time, took on elements of a legend, a mixture of facts and idealized ficiton. The stories were told and retold, therefore keeping them alive in the following generations. Eventually one or more than one version was recorded in print.
Thank you to Dr. Linda Marley.To go back to the main page, click here