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Publisher's Summary

Was King Arthur a real person? What about Robin Hood? Is the Holy Grail a cup, or something else, altogether? Did Europeans really burn millions of people at the stake for witchcraft, in the past? These are just a few of the questions you will explore with the help of medieval scholar Dorsey Armstrong as she reveals the truth about the stories we continue to tell about the medieval period. Some contain nuggets of truth, others are wholly fabricated, but all of them can tell us something about the past.

From films like Braveheart and Excalibur to literature such as Ivanhoe and Morte d’Arthur, the years between 500 and 1500 have generated amazing stories of knights and damsels, superstitions and magic; some of these stories even made it into our grade school history curriculum. But what were those years really like? Known, somewhat inaccurately, as the “Middle Ages,” this period was not merely a transition from Roman antiquity to the Renaissance, but a vibrant time full of people just as curious, innovative, malicious, joyful, confused, ambitious, complex - in other words, just as human - as in any other period of history.

The 10 enlightening (and often humorous) lectures of Medieval Myths and Mysteries will show you how far from the “dark” times of legend these centuries were. Uncover the facts about the Knights Templar. Reveal the truth behind the tales of legendary creatures like the Questing Beast and the unicorn. Trace the events of the Black Death and the ways it altered the world in its wake, and much more. 

With Professor Armstrong, you will dig deep into the ways that later generations reshaped the narrative of the medieval years and perpetuated the myths of a simpler and less civilized age, which was, in fact, much richer and more complex than many of us have been led to believe.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from Medieval Myths & Mysteries

Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Misconceptions about the Middle Ages
  • Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Misconceptions about the Middle Ages
Two conflicting views of the Middle Ages
-0.00
Chapter 4, Lecture 3: The Holy Grail
  • Chapter 4, Lecture 3: The Holy Grail
"Who was King Arthur?"
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Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Medieval World and Game of Thrones
  • Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Medieval World and Game of Thrones
Discovering history through Game of Thrones.
-0.00
  • Chapter 2, Lecture 1: Misconceptions about the Middle Ages
  • Two conflicting views of the Middle Ages
  • Chapter 4, Lecture 3: The Holy Grail
  • "Who was King Arthur?"
  • Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Medieval World and Game of Thrones
  • Discovering history through Game of Thrones.

Publisher's Summary

Was King Arthur a real person? What about Robin Hood? Is the Holy Grail a cup, or something else, altogether? Did Europeans really burn millions of people at the stake for witchcraft, in the past? These are just a few of the questions you will explore with the help of medieval scholar Dorsey Armstrong as she reveals the truth about the stories we continue to tell about the medieval period. Some contain nuggets of truth, others are wholly fabricated, but all of them can tell us something about the past.

From films like Braveheart and Excalibur to literature such as Ivanhoe and Morte d’Arthur, the years between 500 and 1500 have generated amazing stories of knights and damsels, superstitions and magic; some of these stories even made it into our grade school history curriculum. But what were those years really like? Known, somewhat inaccurately, as the “Middle Ages,” this period was not merely a transition from Roman antiquity to the Renaissance, but a vibrant time full of people just as curious, innovative, malicious, joyful, confused, ambitious, complex - in other words, just as human - as in any other period of history.

The 10 enlightening (and often humorous) lectures of Medieval Myths and Mysteries will show you how far from the “dark” times of legend these centuries were. Uncover the facts about the Knights Templar. Reveal the truth behind the tales of legendary creatures like the Questing Beast and the unicorn. Trace the events of the Black Death and the ways it altered the world in its wake, and much more. 

With Professor Armstrong, you will dig deep into the ways that later generations reshaped the narrative of the medieval years and perpetuated the myths of a simpler and less civilized age, which was, in fact, much richer and more complex than many of us have been led to believe.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.
.

About the Professor

Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is professor of English and medieval literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an AB in English and creative writing from Stanford University and a PhD in medieval literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach. Dorsey applied her extensive knowledge to audio lectures on Medieval Myths & Mysteries. Her research interests include medieval women writers, late-medieval print culture, and the Arthurian legend, on which she has published extensively and includes the 2009 book Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur: A New Modern English Translation Based on the Winchester Manuscript and Gender and the Chivalric Community in Malory's Morte d'Arthur, published in 2003. In January 2009, she became editor-in-chief of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes the most cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to modern scholarship.

Featured Article: Travel to the Middle Ages with These Audiobooks and Podcasts


The Medieval Era, the tumultuous centuries from the fall of the Roman Empire to the advent of the Enlightenment, is one of the most alluring and intriguing periods of human history. Ready to travel back in time? Check out these audiobooks and podcasts, which cover everything from Icelandic sagas and Medieval murder to the queens of Medieval England and the scientific advancements of the Arab World.

What listeners say about Medieval Myths & Mysteries

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Interesting, but centered on Britain

However interesting, it is mainly centered in Britain myths and legends. I missed more information on other events happening in other regions. The main themes are king Arthur, Robin Hood, the black plague, beasts & comparison between medieval Britain and Game of Thrones. I know is a long period where many things happened and found it really interesting, however for the sake of consistency it should be called "Myths and Legends of Medieval Britain".

33 people found this helpful

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Unprofessional audiobook format

I couldn't forward, there weren't chapters. Once the book stopped playing due to sleep timer, it reverted to lecture one which I would have to listen to to get to next lecture. I don't have any interest in the knights templar.

25 people found this helpful

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Perfectly acceptable.

Armstrong seems quite pleased with herself - more power to her - but her energy isn’t as infectious as she assumes, and she spends a good amount of time correcting errors I’ve yet to hear even a single person make. Still, I’d listen to other courses from her; this one felt a bit rushed and little shallow, but held promise enough to pique my interest. Here’s hoping the next feels more substantial.

21 people found this helpful

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  • rs
  • 05-13-20

written with a tone of arrogance

seemed like my kind of book but I lost it when she talked about nutty conspiracy theorists but believes that Jesus was a real person and not a copy story of Egypt's horus god.

16 people found this helpful

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juvenile narration

When the author uses "totally" - replete with valley girl accent - she loses credibility. The legends are boring and have been debunked many times already. Did not learn anything new and the juvenile style of narration drove me crazy. Struggled to make it to half way mark. Waste of time.

10 people found this helpful

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Love her lectures

I've listened to Professor Armstrong's lectures before and have always thoroughly enjoyed them. I've actually listened multiple times to her King Arthur and Black plague ones. This was a lot of fun, great researched material, & I adore the presenter.

20 people found this helpful

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Can't get enough of this!

My library has MANY books about Medieval times. This is by far the best . Dorsey Armstrong has hit this one out of the park. I felt totally immersed in the Dark Ages while listening . Her presentation and content was alive and refreshingly entertaining, yet educational and thought provoking. I'm looking forward to listening to this many times over.

13 people found this helpful

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Their Mysteries, Our Myths

One Christmas I bought our son a toy knight. When I placed him on the counter (the knight, not our son), the cashier screwed up her face and said, “The Middle Ages. What an awful time!” Professor Armstrong’s first lecture is a scholarly, 26-minute exposition of my one-sentence response: “How do you think we got the Renaissance?”

Older now, and no longer a fan of defending any historical period merely on the grounds that “it helped us get where we are now”, I nevertheless enjoyed these talks immensely. Probably because most of the myths being debunked are not the wrong-headed notions Medieval people supposedly labored under, but the myths we have created about them (thank you, Dan Brown).

The mysteries, however—from Arthur to the Grail to Prester John to the Questing Beast—are all delightful, intriguing Medieval creations. Armstrong traces where they originated, how they spread and in what ways they still inhabit our collective imagination. All fascinating stuff. Finally, there is Professor Armstrong herself. She loves her subject, she can be genuinely funny, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

4 people found this helpful

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Greatest hits told with enthusiasm

This is kind of Dorsey Armstrong’s Greatest Hits, which is fine by me. I’ve loved her work ever since I stumbled across her translation of Le Morte D’Arthur in a bookshop many years ago. What some people have written off as condescension in reviews here comes across to me as infectious enthusiasm. Here she gives a birds eye view of Arthur, Robin Hood, the Black Death, and other medieval topics. She never fails to enlighten, although I have to admit that her conclusion that Robin Hood was not a real person broke my heart. (Richard Greene! alas! my childhood hero!) A wonderful break for me from a fraught politics-and-pandemic autumn.

Some of the reviews of the course have mentioned a disdainful attitude toward Christianity. I can see where this is coming from, but I think it’s a misunderstanding. In one of the lessons, Armstrong discusses many of the different forms that Christianity took in the early days, forms like Nestorianism. Most of these “alternative” forms of Christianity were ruled to be heretical as the religion evolved toward a consensus. Armstrong rattles off many of these alternatives in a jocular tone, which may have created the impression that she was mocking the religion itself. I may be wrong, but I don’t think she was. It’s just a way she has of speaking sometimes when going through a long list.

The course ends with an insightful look at Game of Thrones and how books and TV series have made use of medieval myths and history. I recommend Armstrong’s other Great Courses entries on the Middle Ages, where she goes into great detail on a lot of these topics. This one is a good place to start.

3 people found this helpful

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Well read and researched

The author did a good job with reseaching and reading her work. Well done on this book.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 09-06-21

Well I never knew that!!

I don’t know whether this is aimed at an audience without even the most basic knowledge of history but frankly I expect the author to recognise that we are not all stupid. Among other things it is explained that the Knights Templars had nothing to do with the Da Vinci Code (gosh) that Medieval people actually washed their hands (surely not)and didn’t burn vast numbers of witches (wrong era) I found such patronising attitudes frankly insulting. Can we have some real depth please.

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  • Jill Kirtley
  • 07-28-20

Fantastic!

It’s a highly informative and often humorous insight into Medieval Myths, and Mysteries, and it has certainly whet my appetite for more things Medieval. Great narration too!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Catarina Pucci
  • 08-11-21

Historically accurate yet super entertaining

Professor Dorsey Armstrong gives a show performance with very interesting historical facts full of vivid accounts of facts, myths and mysteries!

2 people found this helpful

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  • william francis
  • 03-09-22

really dissatisfied

tried to find something boring to go to sleep to and ended up with an insightful, well balanced and engaging trip into misunderstood tropes and alternative spins on popular myths. no stars. am still awake

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-22-21

I couldn't get past the first chapter

In the introduction, the author/narrator goes on and on about all her qualifications and expertise. I skipped past this as the length of it was so self-indulgent and unneccesary. In the first chapter the narrator talks to the listeners as though we are all complete imbeciles. Comments along the lines of "medieval times were not shepherds dancing around in fields playing their pipes". Has anyone ever suggested that that's how they imagine medieval times to have been?? She patrionises the listener. I tried twice but couldn't get past her condescending attitude.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dennis Sommers
  • 08-02-21

Very good but skip the real myths!

Interesting enough, but by no means the presenter’s best series. Some of the material- Arthur, the grail and Robin Hood - really shouldn’t constitute serious history but that’s not how the course is advertised. Anything by Dosey Anderson is good-humoured and contains gems I would’t want to miss, and the fact that it’s complimentary is an enormous bonus.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M. Housego
  • 04-06-22

Poorly researched

Sorry, had to stop listening when the author stated that the pillary and the stocks were the same thing. They are actually two physically different types of punishment used for different offences of varying severity and seriousness.

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  • David Rowe
  • 03-20-22

Great stuff

A very interesting and well put together series of lectures, informative and very entertaining, perfect amount of detail so it never becomes boring

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  • Raven Stone
  • 03-03-22

Highly enjoyable

Highly enjoyable, engaging and interesting. Clearly, the lecturer knows her subject in immense detail and she makes every lecture fascinating listening.

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  • Laura
  • 01-27-22

Interesting, intriguing and entertaining

What a great listen. Dorsey makes history come to life and paints a colourful and interesting pictures of the Middle Ages. I previously had little to no interest in that period but now what to learn more!

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  • Katherine Trees
  • 05-08-22

Fascinating

Great overview and so well performed. It has made me much more interested into the medieval period. I highly recommend!!

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  • Kevin P
  • 11-21-21

Great book that debunks common misconceptions

This was an entertaining book that debunked a lot of common misconceptions about medieval myths and mysteries - from King Arthur to mythical creatures. If there's one thing you learn from this book it would be that medieval humans are not too far off from modern humans. Armstrong takes the reader on an interesting journey and even provides a bit of background into Game of Thrones.

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  • Jason G Cody
  • 09-23-21

great listen

great content and reading, an interesting take on a broad range of subjects from the period.