This morning at the Hay Festival, travel writer Nicholas Jubber looked back on the defining works of the ancient and medieval eras, that have helped shape the identity and social fabric of Europe. These works, and Jubber’s account of his own exploration, are the premise behind his new book Epic Continent.
From The Odyssey in Greece to The Song of Roland in France, each chapter of Epic Continent entails one of the great European epics. And the themes of movement and migration are intertwined within all of them.
Jubber spoke passionately on one of the most memorable sagas, The Song of the Nibelungen, that he said was “all the best elements of medieval literature churned up in one fantastic story”. “It kicks Game of Thrones to the side”, he said.
Jubber also spoke on his expedition into something even deeper. “Don’t ever go looking for the underworld”, he said, “because we’re all going to get there eventually”.
Each tale has not only had a great impact on contemporary fantasy, but also on the legacy of medieval storytelling - that wasn’t so much about fighting and violence, but law and legislation. The sagas are intensely political, and although they are seen as predominantly right-wing, Jubber argued “there’s so much in these stories, you can always find something to relate to”.
If you’re interested in Europe please also see Event 338 at 2.30pm on Saturday 01 June. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers. Picture by: Chris Athanasiou