Fantasy Epics from Around the World


Most of you know by now that I tend to stray from the Lord of the Rings type of fantasy setting, (I hear many a scream from Tolken fans right now). I am greatly interested in fantasy and folklore from other cultures. I am always researching folktales/folklore and Mythology from Arabia, Persia, India, China, Japan, Mongolia and Tibet/Nepal and other countries that have a large folk and myth tradition. The Arabian Nights and Journey to the west are my all time epic fantasy reads and a couple of times a year I pull out my collection and have a good read. I always feel surreal when I read them and I am always on the look out for similar tales of fantasy from these cultures, but written by more modern day fantasy authors. For instance, last week I picked up  Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. A totally awesome Arabic inspired fantasy with Magi, ghul hunters, and specially trained Dervish monks. It totally reminded me of the old Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting called Al-Qadim that I played back in the day of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I liked it so much I started searching for fantasy novels in a similar style. Interestingly enough I came across a list of 10 great fantasy novels set in a non Western/European fantasy on Saladin Ahmed’s pinterest feed. As per usual after I read the list I went and paid our local library a visit and picked up most of the books that he recommended.

Throne of the crescent moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the crescent moon by Saladin Ahmed

Al-Qadim for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

Al-Qadim for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons

But it got me thinking, why isn’t there more modern fantasy inspired from other cultures ? I mean I read the Indian classic epic the Ramayana, and it was as good or even better than most of the run of the mill fantasy on the market today. I think people should seek out some of these great classic epics from other cultures to read {{especially up and coming Fantasy authors and Fantasy Role playing Game creators}}. I believe this will greatly refresh the oh so stagnant  high fantasy/ sword and sorcery genre and at the same time widen the audience of fantasy lovers and bridge the diversity and give us westerners a better understanding of other cultures. Trust me folks there is other cultures out there in the fantasy world besides medieval Europe, and some of these cultures have such a rich storytelling tradition past down from generation to generation since ancient times, it would put to shame a lot of authors today. I mean why is the Arabian Nights still one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time, and why did the pioneers of the genre we all love; Fritz Leiber, Robert E Howard and J.R.R Tolkien use it as a template for their work? Why, because the storytelling is at it’s finest and it takes us on a tour to a world totally different than our own, a world we don’t understand and that is what fascinates us. So I give to you a list of traditional fantasy epics from around the world. Some of these books I still want to read and some I have read. I hope this list inspires many a fantasy author and game creator and breathes new life into the world of fantasy. And who knows It might inspire you go learn more about these countries, and you you never know you might find yourself standing beside the pyramids, or on the great wall, or near the blue mosque or that ancient town built into the mountains because you fell in love with that cultures mythology and folklore because of this list.


List of world folk-epics

World folk-epics are those epics which are not just literary masterpieces but also an integral part of the weltanschauung of a people. They were originally oral literatures, which were later written down by either single author or several writers.

African languages

Bayajidda, a West African epic

Eri, a West African epic

Lianja, a Central African epic

Oduduwa, a West African epic

Silamaka, a Western African epic

Sundiata, a Western African epic

American languages

Tunkashila, an American Indian epic

Cana, an American Spanish epic

Asian languages

La Galigo, also known as Sureq Galigo or La Galigo, is an epic creation myth of the Bugis people from South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Written in an Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language, it is one of the longest epics in the world.

Alpamysh, an epic of all of Middle Asia

Bahman Nama, a Persian epic about the story of Bahman son of Isfandyar

Banu Goshasp Nama, a Persian epic about the daughter of Rustam

Bidasari, a Malay epic

Biag ni Lam-Ang (Life of Lam-Ang), an epic of the Ilocano of northern Luzon, the Philippines

Darangen, an epic of the Maranao of Mindanao, the Philippines. Derived from the Ramayana

Epic of King Gesar, a Tibetan epic, generally considered the longest in the world

Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest epic of the world from Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean world

Faramarz Nama, a story about the Persian hero Faramarz

Garshasp Nama, a Persian epic about the heroe Garshasp

Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike), a Japanese epic

Hinilawod, an epic of the Panay-Bukidnons of Panay, the Visayas, central Philippines.

Jewang ungi, a Korean epic

Ibong Adarna, a Spanish-era Tagalog epic

Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic from India; known as Bharathayudha in Indonesia

Manas, an epic from Kyrgyzstan

Klei khan Y Dam San, an epic of Ede people in Central Highland (Tay Nguyen), Vietnam.

Book of Dede Korkut, an epic from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Turcomans of Iraq and other Turkic nations

Koroglu, an epic from Azerbaijan and Turkey

Oghuz-nameh, an epic from Oghuz Turkic nations (Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, as well as Turcomans of Iraq)

Kutadgu Bilig, an epic from Central Asia, Uighurs and other Turkic nations

Nagarakertagama, an Indonesian epic

On Jerusalem an epic written in Greek based on the Old Testament characters of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph

Panchatantra, a Sanskrit epic of Indian animal folktales

Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic from India

Sepha Khun Chang Khun Phaen, a Thai epic

Shahnama, a Persian epic

Silappadhikaram, a Tamil epic from India

Epic of Siri, in Tulu language from Karnataka, India

The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of stories from mostly Persian and Arabic sources

Journey to the West (also known as “Monkey”), a Chinese novel

European languages

Aeneid, a Roman epic

Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon epic written in Old English

Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire an Irish lament

Cikli i Kreshnikëve, an Albanian epic

David of Sasun, Armenian national epic about war for freedom against Arabs in 9th century

Edda, a collection of Icelandic poems

Iliad, a Greek epic

Kalevala, a Finnish epic

Kalevipoeg, an Estonian epic

The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, a Georgian epic poem

Lāčplēsis, a Latvian epic

Le Morte d’Arthur, a collection of Arthurian legends in Middle English

Mabinogion, a Welsh epic

Nibelungenlied, a German epic poem

Njál’s saga, an Icelandic saga

Odyssey, a Greek epic

Os Lusíadas, a Portuguese epic

Prince Marko, a Serbian epic

Táin Bó Cúailnge, an Irish epic

The Lay of the Cid, a Spanish epic.

The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, a Slavic epic

Volsunga saga, a Scandinavian saga

Zoraje, a Slovene epic


Posted on May 5, 2014, in Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is amazing! I can sense my purse lightening!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: