Georges Dumézil’s Mythe et épopée series and its partial English translations

Towards the end of his career, Georges Dumézil began to produce some works summarising the results of his decades of research. The most important was the Mythe et épopée series published by Gallimard in three volumes in 1968, 1971 and 1973. 

  1. L’Idéologie des trois fonctions dans les épopées des peuples indo-européens
  2. Types épiques indo-européens : un héros, un sorcier, un roi 
  3. Histoires romaines

Each volume was revised in new editions in Dumézil’s lifetime, and they are still in print as separate volumes. There were plans for a fourth volume, but this was abandoned. In 1995 the three volumes were reprinted as a single volume in the Quarto series, a mammoth book which has both the original pagination of each volume and a running pagination for the volume as a whole – 1463 pages! 

For reasons that in retrospect don’t make a lot of sense, Mythe et épopée became, in Jaan Puhvel’s words, “a kind of quarry, subject to piecemeal extractions into the English language” (“Editor’s Preface, The Stakes of the Warrior, vii). This means the series has been incompletely translated. A page on this site tries to show what is, and what isn’t, available.

In brief, none of the first volume has been translated, although there was a plan for at least the first part; almost all of the second volume is translated, but in three English books (pictured), and quite a lot of the third volume is translated in Camillus: A Study of Indo-European Religion as Roman History (California, 1980).

The Stakes of the Warrior includes Appendix I, which provides some excerpts from Colonel Antoine Louis Polier, Mythologie des Indous (2 vols, 1809). One of Dumézil’s last books was Le Mahabarat et le Bhagavat de Colonel de Polier (Gallimard, 1986) in which he wrote a preface to introduce some chapters from Polier’s Mythologie. At the end of the 1986 edition of Mythe et Épopée II he recognises that the fragments of the appendix are there put back in their place.

With the exception of The Destiny of a King, all the above-mentioned English translations are out of print. 

The page is part of the research for a new project on Indo-European Thought in Twentieth-Century France. For some preliminary textual comparison of Dumézil’s major work on the warrior function, Heur et malheur du Guerrier, part-translated as The Destiny of the Warrior, see here.

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