Primary Document Resources

Yamato

Image of Yamato Takeru from 19th century woodblock print

The tales of Prince Yamato Takeru are told in the Japanese chronicles Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, and others. This image, from a 19th century woodblock print, depicts Yamato as he is about to set off on his adventures.

Image credit: Tsukioka Yoshitoshiderivative work: AMorozov -...

Sundiata

Sundiata (also spelled Sunjata, Sundjata, or Soundjata) is an oral epic celebrating the life of Sundiata, the founder of the thirteenth-century Mali Empire of West Africa. There are written versions of the epic (just as there are written summaries of movies or film adaptations of books) but its original form is as an oral poem, performed by a jali - a professional bard.

Image credit: Jeanniot...

Ramayana

Image from the Ramayana

The Ramayana originated in north India as an oral epic poem, performed with musical accompaniment and dance. Written, illustrated manuscripts of the poem were later produced from Pakistan to Indonesia. This means that the Ramayana has expressions in oral performance, dance, music, literature, and illustration. Modern iterations of the tale extend to film, television, comic books, and animation....

Monomyth: Hero's Journey Project

Joseph Campbell's Monomyth, developed in Hero With A Thousand Faces, describes the common heroic narrative in which a heroic protagonist sets out, has transformative adventures, and returns home. It is a useful formula for comparing literary traditions across time and culture.

Here, ORIAS provides resources to explore and compare three different works through the lens of the Monomyth: Mali's Sunjata, South Asia's Ramayana, and Japan's Yamato.

Epic of Gilgamesh

Close-up of cuneiform tablet

See images of some of the original tablets. Learn about the history of writing. Hear parts of the epic read in the original Akkadian.

Ramayana Resources

Scene from the epic Ramayana: Kumbhakarna battles the monkeys, 1100-1200 CE, former kingdom of Angkor

Read summaries of the narrative, including one illustrated with art from different regions. See a beautiful digitized version of the tale. Watch a controversial modern film based on the epic.

Featured: The Travels of Ibn Battuta

October 5, 2016

The Travels of Ibn Battuta: a Virtual Tour has been one of ORIAS' most successful, most widely used projects. The Travels of Ibn Battuta: A Virtual Tour began as a Web resource written in 1999 by Nick Bartel for his students at Horace Mann Middle School, San Francisco, California. It was one of...

The Shahnameh

Close-up image from Mongol-era version of the Shahnameh showing Alexander and a talking horse.

Read a summary of the epic. Learn about its history and its author. Compare dozens of versions of the same scene in an extensive database. Plus, recommendations for English-language versions of the epic for children.