I enjoyed the hell out of this book, which I listened to on audio narrated by Fry himself. It was a fun, interesting read and a great way to end my year!
“The Greeks created gods that were in their image; warlike but creative, wise but ferocious, loving but jealous, tender but brutal, compassionate, but vengeful.”
If you liked Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, you should definitely check this out. Fry starts with the very earliest Greek gods, and recounts their stories leading up to the age of the Heroes (which is the sequel). His coverage is extensive, if not particularly in depth (there’s a LOT to cover). The stories are fascinating, and Fry’s style is perfect — very dry, very funny.
“Gaia visited her daughter Mnemosyne, who was busy being unpronounceable.”
“Gaia listened carefully to this wise counsel and – as we all do, whether mortal or immortal – ignored it.”
“HEDYLOGOS – the spirit of the language of love and terms of endearment, who now, one assumes, looks over Valentines cards, love-letters and romantic fiction.”
What I found most interesting, after hearing story after story, is how many of these tales echo in other stories — Shakespeare and the Bible in particular. It was not until I listened to the whole story of Promethus that I realized how MANY parallels there are to the Christian creation myth. Other stories, too, such as Baucis and Philemon fleeing a great flood, after being told not to turn around and look behind them (when they do, they become trees, rather than a pillar of salt). As far as Shakespeare goes, he took quite a bit of Romeo and Juliet from the story of Pyramus and Thisbe (star-crossed lovers who commit suicide after a misunderstanding).
The main theme of the book, however, is reflected in the quote I used for the title. “The Greeks created gods that were in their image” — Greek gods were devious and jealous and cruel, but also loving and creative and kind. The Greeks created larger than life characters to tell their stories, but those characters are very human inside.