The Interplay of Time and Space in Walter Map’s Otherworldly Stories

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Idalia Smoczyk-Jackowiak


The purpose of this paper is to prove that in Walter Map’s “otherworldly stories” constant interaction between time and space is used to convey a signifi cant cultural and political message. In the tale Of King Herla, a legendary ruler of ancient Britons, geographical detail seems to be as important as its temporal component. The story, set in the border territory between England and Wales, in the vicinity of Hereford, is “anchored in the countryside,” showing that the English past is deeply rooted in the insular landscape. Herla’s three-day-journey to the underworld and his return to earth after two hundred years proves that in his quest he crossed both, spatial and temporal boundaries, in order to provide the people inhabiting the British Isles with a sense of cultural and historical continuity. Plunging into the river Wye in the fi rst year of the coronation of Henry II Plantagenet, he seems to recognize the new king as his legitimate successor and carrier of tradition broken throughout centuries by various conquests, social unrest and political change. Thus, Walter Map, belonging to the closest milieu of Henry II, uses the story of Herla to provide cultural and historical legitimation of the Angevin rule in England.


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Literary studies