Chris's Reviews > The Green Man and the Dragon

The Green Man and the Dragon by Paul Broadhurst
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's review
Mar 22, 11

did not like it
bookshelves: mythology

Paul Broadhurst is the author of several books, such as "Sacred Shrines" and "Tintagel and the Arthurian Mythos", and this recent work, claiming to reveal the mystery behind the myth of St George and "the dragon power of nature", is the latest to argue that the symbol of the dragon represents the forces that exist in nature. Like other Mythos titles it is beautifully illustrated and presented, and looks a quality product.

The premise of the book is as much faith-based as any monotheistic belief. Do we now all believe that there was once a universal religion in these isles where faith in the old gods and goddesses survived despite persecution by the church? Moreover, can we believe it remained hidden from the authorities (despite its visibility, for example, in church carvings such as dragons and foliate heads) only to be recognised as such by initiates over the centuries and by modern-day spiritual detectives?

There is much of value in this book, certainly in the wealth of pictorial clues and the range of lateral thinking, but for me there are two main weaknesses. First, there are rather too many inaccuracies, particularly in word-derivations which smack of old-fashioned folk-etymology, wedded to too many unwarranted statements. For example, I profoundly disagree with all of Broadhurst's discussion of Og, Gog, Magog, George and orgy in his chapter 'The Name of the Giant', as etymologically they have nothing in common; and Jerusalem, which he asserts is "often spelt Gerusalem in old manuscripts" is in no way derived from Greek ge, "an ancient word for Earth" when their roots lie in completely different language groups. Where too is the hard evidence that the first Grand Master of the Templars, Hugh "of the Pagans", was "of Moorish origins"? (Pagans were originally merely 'country-dwellers', Moslems heretics or infidels.) Or that Sarras was ever identified with Jerusalem in, say, "The Quest of the Holy Grail", where it first appears? (The two places are clearly separate loci in that work, which leads me to doubt Broadhurst has read it.)

Secondly, the literary references seem to include no primary sources (bar a couple of very out-of-date summaries of Celtic myths and legends), and they even credit the Arthurian journal Pendragon (rather than Penguin Books) with publishing Brian Stone's translation of the Middle English "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". In addition Broadhurst cites no modern scholarship which may be critical of his general approach (such as Ronald Sutton's "The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles"), but he freely includes the now largely discredited theories of past scholars such as James Frazer, Margaret Murray and Lewis Spence.

Still, there is much of eclectic interest in this work, and much to admire in Broadhurst's indefatigable exploration of themes and places: here is an author who has great empathy for a land and its legends, and would like us all to share his vision of how it was and could still be again. Now, if only he would stop trying to read mystery into areas where he has no expertise or scholarship.

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