100 Best Books for Children ~ Butcher & Lang

Andrew Lang was a Scottish writer and critic. Samuel Henry Butcher was an Irish classical scholar. Together they translated Homer’s Odyssey into prose. Butcher & Lang’s Odyssey, along with Lang’s Iliad are numbers 81 and 82 on The Hundred Best Books for Children by Baldwin.

Lang is probably best known in homeschool circles for his collection of fairy tales — 12 volumes known as the Fairy Books (beginning with The Blue Fairy Book).

In the introduction to the Odyssey, Butcher and Lang state that translations of Homer are relative through time:

THERE would have been less controversy about the proper method of Homeric translation, if critics had recognised that the question is a purely relative one, that of Homer there can be no final translation. The taste and the literary habits of each age demand different qualities in poetry, and therefore a different sort of rendering of Homer.

Butcher and Lang’s translation of the Odyssey was published in 1879. Lang, along with Leaf and Myers, wrote a translation of the Iliad in 1882. These translations have been considered the best English prose translations.

This high reputation is due partly to their scholarly accuracy and faithfulness to the original, but perhaps more particularly to the literary skill of the translators. Their prose is simple but dignified; it has a touch of the archaic that reminds us of the Bible and Shakespeare, and gives us the sense of reading an ancient classic; and it has a smoothness, and grace, and rhythm that almost produce the effect of verse.

The Homeric Stories Iliad and Odyssey

There is a version that contains both volumes but the Iliad has been reduced considerably. We’ve included both original versions below.

Why Read Homer

Why read the classics? That is a question each family will have to answer for themselves (along with when to include them). In our own experience, there is a time when the classics naturally fit with the growth of the student. (You can read more of our thoughts on the subject on The Classical Approach page.)

But as Terry Glaspey states:

The ancient writers were close observers of humanity who help us better understand ourselves and the need for human beings to live ethically and with dignity.

Great Books of the Christian Tradition

Baldwin included selections from the Iliad and Odyssey in Church’s Stories from Homer posted earlier.

Free eBook: The Iliad
Free eBook: The Odyssey

  • The key to reading longer works like this is to bite off smaller pieces consistently over time. This way the material can be interacted with and thought through.
  • Read the sections aloud. Ask for narrations. Older students can provide written narrations summarizing the text and adding their own thoughts.
  • Have your student copy favorite passages in a copybook.

Additional Resources
Stories from Homer

100 Best Books for Children ~ Church
Stories from Homer by Church is number 61 on The Hundred Best Books for Children list found in The Book-lover. Nice introduction.

The Hundred Best Books for Children ~ Introduction
The Hundred Best Books for Children

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