We’ve had a lot of requests from fans to provide a reading list. Obviously Glorantha has a great number of literary influences, and the stories and history we have pulled from span the ages – far more so than the average fantasy world. Reading these books will certainly give you a deeper appreciation of Glorantha. Learn about the impact of feuds from Icelandic sagas, see Gilgamesh in the underworld, and let Herodotus teach you about classic Greek culture.
Jeff has agreed to add regular blog posts about his favorite books and how he uses them to understand Glorantha. All the blog posts will be linked here for each book he covers or just head over to see the list of posts on Gloranthan Readings.
If you are interested in the books you see below, you can help support this website by clicking through the links to purchase them on amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.co.uk, amazon.de, amazon.de, amazon.es, or amazon.it. We really appreciate it. Some of the links may be for versions not always currently available, but the ones we recommend.
ISS4001 – King of Sartar
King of Sartar Stafford, Greg and Richard, Jeff After nearly a quarter century, King of Sartar is now back in print, now fully revised and annotated. This is one of the most important sources of Gloranthan mythology and lore ever written and a must-have for any fan of Glorantha. It is also a work of experimental fiction, a fantasy novel unlike any other.
The Histories – Herodotus.
First on the list is Herodotus, “The Histories”. Seriously, if you haven’t read Herodotus you owe it to yourself as a literate person to stop what you are doing and get it. Now. Herodotus wrote the first history book – an account of the wars between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta against the Persian Empire, written from the perspective of an educated Greek in the 5th Century BC. The Histories serves as a Greek sourcebook for Persia, Babylon, Egypt, Scythia – even India! For Glorantha-philes, there’s a tremendous amount of inspiration here. The roots of the story of Sartar against the Lunar Empire isn’t “Braveheart”, they are the Persian Wars. Like a good Gloranthan, when Herodotus wants to get down the ultimate cause of the conflict, he goes to mythology and the Trojan War. Like a good God Learner or Arkati, he discusses the religion of other peoples within the constructs of Greek mythology. Related blog post: New Feature: Gloranthan Readings
Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia Sandars, N. K. (translator)
Includes the Babylonian Creation and Inanna’s Journey to Hell. A classic work of ancient mythology. The Babylonian Creation is the story of Marduk’s defeat of Tiamat and the creation of the world from her body, a story repeated in Orlanth’s defeat of Sh’harkazeel. Inanna’s Journey to Hell is one of THE classic Underworld stories, and is particularly interesting in that its protagonist and antagonist are both goddesses. Related blog post: Gloranthan Readings: Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia
Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony.
An illustrated dictionary of the gods, goddesses, demons, monsters, magic, myths, religious symbolism, ritual, and spiritual world of ancient Mesopotamia. The updated and expanded second edition is particularly recommended.
The Masks of God & The Hero with a Thousand Faces Campbell, Joseph.
Campbell’s monomyth of the hero’s journey, Joseph Campbell, more than any other writer, has had tremendous influence on Gloranthan mythology. The Hero of a Thousand Faces is the cheat code for heroquesting and, along with the Masks of God, is the source of the Monomyth (even if Joyce coined the term). I’d say this is the foundational text for Gloranthan mythology.
The Myths and Gods of India Daniélou, Alain.
This classic study of Hindu religion made a huge impact on Greg Stafford and myself. This is not an academic text, but the work of a multitalented Western convert to Hinduism and, in author’s own words, attempts to explain the significance of the most prominent Hindu deities on their own terms.
Epics & Sagas
The Epic of Gilgamesh George, Andrew (translator).
The poem of Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, is the world’s oldest heroic epic. Gilgamesh is the proto-typical hero; a demigod king who goes on a great adventure with his sidekick Enkidu to slay the great monster Humbaba, in order to gain fame and renown. Upon his return, Gilgamesh spurns the advances of the goddess Ishtar, and angers the goddess. And that’s when things start getting interesting. Life, death, the Underworld, why men are doomed to mortality – all of that and more makes its way into this epic.
The Kalevala Lönnrot, Elias.
The great Finnish epic which, like the Iliad and Odyssey, grew out of a rich oral tradition with prehistoric roots. The Kalevala helped inspire both Tolkien and Moorcock; both writers took the idea of the hero with the cursed sword who drinks the blood of the blameless from here. Plus shamans, journeys to the Underworld, magical contests and adventures, and so much more. So much of the fantasy genre was inspired by this book!
The Saga of Grettir the Strong Foote, Peter (ed.).
This saga from the Age of Heroes in Iceland details the life of one of the great anti-heroes of medieval literature, Grettir the Strong. Grettir is a mighty warrior, who defeats the undead draugr Glámr, but, in his moment of victory, he is cursed. Grettir is bad-tempered and rebellious, and is eventually condemned to outlawry. For nearly 20 years, he survives as an outlaw until his final show-down atop a lonely, fortress-like island off the northern tip of Iceland.
Egil’s Saga Scudder, Bernard.
Perhaps the most readable of the Icelandic Sagas. Egil is a poet, a magician, a killer, a pirate, and a scoundrel. Egil would make a great character in Glorantha. Of all the Icelandic sagas, I think Egil’s is my favorite
Iliad and Odyssey Homer.
The greatest of all epics, Homer (or at least the pair of books that tradition attributes to that blind poet) has it all. Adventures, battles, gods, sorceresses, love, vengeance, victory, tragedy – you name it, it is in these two epics. Honestly, if you haven’t read Homer, you haven’t read anything. The Iliad, as we all know, is the story of Achilles’ wrath and the Trojan War. Battles of champions so intense that the gods themselves fight on the battlefield (and the inspiration for the events of the Hero Wars).
The Odyssey is an epic adventure story – Odysseus’s heroic effort to return home after the Trojan Wars. There is so much in this story – from tricking the Cyclops Polyphemus to a heroquest into the Underworld, this is the meat and potatoes of Glorantha adventure! Gilgamesh may be the first adventure story, but the Odyssey takes those themes and works it out into an amazing literary epic.
In both cases, I recommend the translation by Robert Fagles.
The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings Ferdowsi, Abolqasem.
The great national epic of Persia, it begins in the mythic time of creation, through the heroic age of that lineage of champions – Sām, Zāl, Rostam, and Faramārz – to the conquest by Eskander (Alexander, who was the legitimate Persian king anyway, according to the story), and continues forward to the Arab invasion. Its central figure is the hero Rostam, a demon-killing champion who is half demon himself.
The Táin Kinsalla, Thomas (translator)
The epic of early Irish literature, it tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht queen Medb and her husband Ailill, who intend to steal the phenomenally fertile bull Donn Cuailnge, opposed only by the hero Cú Chulainn. Heroic, epic, fantastic, and a great read.[end_columns]
Beowulf Heaney, Seamus (translator).
The great Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulf is a wonderful glimpse into the heroic age. There’s so much in Beowulf that can inspire an adventure almost anywhere in Glorantha – from the dragon guarding the treasure hoard to magic swords and the saga of Finn and his sons, nearly every page has something to inspire or add color to a Gloranthan adventure. In fact, the “Treasure of Two-Face Hill” in the Sartar Companion is directly inspired by Beowulf!
Njáls Saga Magnusson, Magnus (ed.).
An excellent look at a Dark Ages culture, and some rousing fighting besides. Plus probably the most violent legal lawsuits in literature!
Heimskringla Sturlusson, Snorri.
A superb epic tale of Norwegian kings and heroes by Iceland’s most famous saga writer, proving you do not need fantasy to create legend. My favorites are the sagas of the Ynglings and the saga of Harald Sigurtharson. Simply an awesome source of inspiration for Gloranthan history (and not just for the Orlanthi).
Swords in the Mist (and others) Leiber, Fritz.
A basic source of modern fantasy; the stories about Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are must-read classics. If you haven’t read any Leiber, do so right now.I read Fritz Leiber before Tolkien or Moorcock, and Leiber was a huge source of inspiration for Greg Stafford. Leiber was heavily influenced by Lovecraft and Robert Graves, and by the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell – the influence on Glorantha should be obvious.
Elric of Melniboné (and others) Moorcock, Michael.
A basic source of the fantasy genre. Elric doesn’t get that much attention any more, but Moorcock’s pale anti-hero still makes a great read. Clearly inspired by The Kalevala‘s Kullervo (who also inspired Tolkien’s Tùrin Turambar), Elric rejects his royal birthright, is responsible for the destruction of his homeland, the death of his love, and thanks to his cursed sword that thirsts for the blood of the blameless (see The Kalevala again!), he is the murderer of his wife and friends, and doomed to herald in the end of the world.
Conan (and others) Howard, Robert E.
The archetypical noble and savage barbarian written with muscle and guts; his notes have been finished with less gusto by other writers as well. Conan is the inspiration for the free-booting adventurer who claws his up from thief to king. The Conan stories are as much core canon of fantasy literature as Tolkien.
Collected Fictions Borges, Jorge Luis, Andrew Hurley (translator)
The Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges is my absolute favorite fantasy writer, despite not writing a single story that is classified as part of that genre. A master of the very short story whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1980s, Borges wrote stories of labyrinths, dreams, Gnosticism, mirrors, duels, libraries, luck and death, tigers, and the question of identity. In a typical three to five page story, Borges packs in as much as Umberto Eco does in several hundred.
Collected Fictions” is all of Borges’ fictional stories collected into one volume and translated into English by Andrew Hurley.
Related blog post: Gloranthan Readings: Jorge Luis Borges – Collected Fiction
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