The Legend of Brendan: a Comparative Study of the Latin and Anglo-Norman Versions

J S Mackley

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


The Legend of St Brendan is a study of two accounts of a voyage undertaken by Brendan, a sixth-century Irish saint. The immense popularity of the Latin version encouraged many vernacular translations, including a twelfth-century Anglo-Norman reworking of the narrative which excises much of the devotional material seen in the ninth-century Navigatio Sancti Brendani abbatis and changes the emphasis, leaving a recognisably secular narrative. The vernacular version focuses on marvellous imagery and the trials and tribulations of a long sea-voyage. Together the two versions demonstrate a movement away from hagiography towards adventure.
Studies of the two versions rarely discuss the elements of the fantastic. Following a summary of authorship, audiences and sources, this comparative study adopts a structural approach to the two versions of the Brendan narrative. It considers what the fantastic imagery achieves and addresses issues raised with respect to theological parallels.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages354
ISBN (Electronic)9789047442806
ISBN (Print)9789004166622
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2008


  • Literary criticism
  • Medieval
  • Navigatio Sancti Brendani
  • Christianity
  • Literature & the Arts
  • religion
  • travel narrative
  • Medieval fantastic literature


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