The Riddle and the Knight : In Search of Sir John Mandeville

by Giles Milton | Travel |
ISBN: 0340819456 Global Overview for this book
Registered by Unbalanced of Hampton, Victoria Australia on 9/7/2005
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5 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by Unbalanced from Hampton, Victoria Australia on Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sir John Mandeville, a medieval English knight, was either one of history's greatest explorers or one of its greatest liars, depending on how one reads the pages of his Travels. Christopher Columbus took his words as a veritable guidebook, using it, Giles Milton writes, to convince the Spanish crown to fund his American voyages. The Victorians were not so kind, dismissing the wanderer--who, after all, wrote that in the Indian Ocean "there is a race of great stature, like giants ... they have one eye only, in the middle of their foreheads"--as an uncritical fabulist at best, a charlatan at worst.

Giles Milton, a student of exploration history, gives us reasons aplenty to question Mandeville's accuracy at points, but he is inclined to think that the knight actually did see at least some of the things he reported in his enormously influential book. Tracing Mandeville's trail to the Middle East and beyond, he considers the historical realities that underlie Mandeville's tales, from the gems that lie strewn among the reeds of Indonesia (which Milton guesses might be crystal-like secretions from bamboo plants) to the fabulous Christian kingdom of Prester John somewhere far out on the plains of Mongolia (where, Milton reminds us, Nestorian Christians were once common). His conclusion, well argued in the course of this witty and delightful book, is that although Mandeville is not always taken literally, he really did go crusading off in distant lands, and he certainly deserves to be rediscovered today, not least for what his work tells us about the medieval mind.

Readers new to Mandeville will find this a spirited introduction, and those already fond of The Travels will enjoy following Milton's parallel voyages. --Gregory McNamee

The Unbalanced Review

This book has the same narrative style like a BBC History/Documentry program. Interesting, but for me not that riviting. I read half of this book, then decided to drop it for something more exciting.

Journal Entry 2 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Received today tucked into a parcel of goodies sent by the ever-generous Skyring.

I've read and enjoyed Nathaniel's Nutmeg, so I'm looking forward to reading this one.

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Journal Entry 3 by Skyring from Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Australia on Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Ooops! I forgot to journal this. Unbalanced turns up to meetings and he's got so many books he has to use a trolley to haul them. He literally rolls up, spreads his riches on a table turned inadequate, and everybody dives in, emerging like happy otters with tasty morsels in their shining teeth.

I have received so many riches from Unbalanced's hoards that I have never had a chance at journalling them all. I mean to, but I turn the first page, read it, read another, and before you know it I'm sone and it sits around until I think, now where in the world can I send this?

Or better yet, take it myself.

I wish I were in Christchurch. It's been at least a couple of years. I must fix that. But at least this little book is lazing in the Southland sun, listening to the merry chatter of the kiwis, glass of Steinlager ready to hand.

And preparing to travel. A quirky travel book readying itself for adsventure!

(edited to remove surplus consonants from a word that was never meant to have a g and a k in it, and also to shoot one of those irritating apostrophe's.)

Journal Entry 4 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Tuesday, February 12, 2008
"this little book is lazing in the Southland sun" Ahem. Canterbury.

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Journal Entry 5 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Thursday, February 28, 2008
Ok, so I was going to keep this to read on the plane, but I'm in full-on pre-travel mode and wanting to read lots of books about travel, so it leapt onto Mt TBR instead, and I've been devouring it in my lunch-breaks. It's definitely going travelling with me, though, to be released at a meetup in some foreign land.

I got the feeling the author likes travelling too, and writing this book was just an excuse to go to all sorts of exciting and exotic places under the guise of researching whether Mandeville actually visited them. I don't blame him, really - he got to go to some great places (one of them, Mt Sinai, I've been to myself, although we managed to be there the one day St Catherine's monastery was closed, so we only got to see its fortress-like walls from the outside. We did, however, climb to the top of the mountain, and watched the sun rise over the desert... seriously cool!)

A fascinating book nonetheless, about an author and maybe-explorer, whose greatest achievement, Milton concludes, was not his travels, but instead his semi-fictional account of them, which went on to inspire so many genuine explorers, and so much great literature.

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Journal Entry 6 by futurecat from Christchurch, Canterbury New Zealand on Thursday, April 10, 2008
Taken along to a meetup in Perth - the first meetup of our Bookcrossing World Tour.

We're having a wonderful time, and Perth couldn't have been a better start to our trip.

See you all in 2009!

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Journal Entry 7 by KLL from Perth City, Western Australia Australia on Thursday, April 10, 2008
Picked up from a very enjoyable 'extra' Perth meetup tonight to meet FutureCat and otakuu as they whiz around the world. Looking forward to reading it and (hopefully!!!) Christchurch in 2009!

Journal Entry 8 by KLL from Perth City, Western Australia Australia on Friday, November 28, 2008
This was a really interesting journey through the middle east, both present day and mediaeval. I might have heard of Sir John Mandeville before reading, but I certainly didn't appreciate his signficinace to English literature and explorationl. I've also always been fascinated by Marco Polo, so being able to read of Mandeville, who performed another epic journey like Polo's was very interesting :-) Giles Milton does a great job describing his travels in search of the places Mandeville visited. It would have been great to hear more about the second part of Mandeville's book (where he describes giant cyclops and dog-faced people), but Milton makes a good argumemnt for why the second part of the book doesn't have any truth in it (in as far as Mandeville's clamis he visited these places), and the woodcuts that pop up every now and then are a cute illustration of the monstrous things Mandeville was describing. All in all, an enjoyable read :-)

I'll be packing this up for my Secret santa companion in the next week or so - I hope she enjoys it too!

Journal Entry 9 by whitequeen from Ipswich, Queensland Australia on Thursday, December 25, 2008
Thanks KLL...I mean Santa. LOL

Looking forward to reading this. I have heard of the Mandevile controversy before.

Did he...or didn't he?
I'll let you know what I think.

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