I am working on a novel inspired by the Shahnameh - a Persian epic poem by Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi. The Shahnameh (the title means "The Book of Kings") is structured as a series of interconnected tales: birth of hero Such-and-Such, heroic tale A about him, heroic tale B about him, hero Such-and-Such gets a wife, heroic tale of Such-and-Such's son, and so on.
My novel is taking a similar shape, albeit in a more limited scope - I focus on the reign of only one Shah, with him and his best knight as my main characters. In that aspect, my story is perhaps comparable to the tales of King Arthur, but with significantly less tales of other knights. Rather, there is a very definite character arc for both main characters. It's just hidden within the individual tales.
For this shape to "work", for the story to feel like an "epic" and a tribute to older epics, I feel a certain distance is required between the reader and the protagonists. Mark Baker explains the concept in this answer.
Now distance doesn't mean that we're not privy to the characters' thoughts at all. For example, in Le Morte Darthur, when Uther Pendragon first meets Igraine,
The King liked and loved this lady well, and he made them great cheer out of measure, and desired to have lain by her. (Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte Darthur, the Winchester manuscript, edited by Helen Cooper, Oxford University Press)
In that example, we are told rather than shown Uther's desire. In other tales, a character might "say to himself" something - a form that makes sense in a tale that is meant to be spoken rather than read. But overall, the story would be less intimate, we'd have less of the characters' innermost feelings and more of their actions (which are an expression of their innermost feelings).
But even armed with this understanding, I still struggle to maintain the required distance. My narrator feels too close, more intimate than makes sense for the shape of the story.
How can I maintain distance , and with it the illusion that this is a tale that's been told and retold? What elements am I missing?