Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"The man of a million lies"

The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman is a beautiful new book summarizing one of the most famous and popular books of the Middle Ages, Marco Polo's The Description of the World (also known as The Travels of Marco Polo). Marco was a 17-year-old living in Venice and wondering what had happened to his father and uncle -- merchants who had been away on a business trip for years -- when, one day in 1269, they returned. They had been all the way to China, to the court of the great Khan there, and had been asked by him to return with a hundred Christian scholars, to explain the Christian faith to him. The two Polos, father and uncle, agreed, and soon set off again for the east, this time with young Marco along. (The hundred scholars never materialized. Two friars who started the journey soon turned back and went home.)

The three men were gone for 24 years. They traveled overland on foot, by horse, and by camel across the whole of Asia, and once in China saw cities, markets, and palaces far larger and richer than anything they were accustomed to in medieval Europe. When the Polos finally returned to Venice for the second time and Marco published his stories of this completely different world, people did not believe them. They called him "the man of a million lies." But they still read his book ... and we still do, too.

Just a sampling of the books on Marco Polo at Lansing library:
Marco Polo and the Medieval Explorers
The Adventures of Marco Polo
Marco Polo: a Journey Through China
Marco Polo: a Story of the Middle Ages

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't he the guy who invented that annoying swimming pool game? For that reason alone I think he was a liar (just kidding!). The book sounds really interesting. I think my son, Ben, might enjoy it. Thanks!