“He bought a couch that he adorned with silks of Tyrian purple. He lay her upon it and sang ballads to her. Like most great visual artists he was an incompetent musician and a deplorable poet.”
― Stephen Fry, Mythos: The Greek Myths Reimagined
This is the third book I’ve read on Greek myths in the past four months. In terms of the retelling of the myths, this was the broadest and most comprehensive collection of stories thus far. The way the stories are told is easy to consume at a superficial level. This is not a complaint in the least. Instead, this book provides a broad overview of the key players in Greek mythology, the gods, as well as all of the poor humans, nymphs, fauns, and other creatures who are seduced, murdered, and punished by said gods.
One thing I truly appreciate about this book is that, from the very beginning, the author reminds us that in no way are we expected to remember the names or relationships between the various players as there are far too many. As one story leads into the next, we are invited to recall certain relationships or slights so as to give us some context, but rarely do these past interactions, with the exception of a few significant ones, affect the enjoyment of subsequent stories.
As with most myths, the motivations and the outcomes make very little sense, That is fine. If you are looking for stories that make sense, you have come to the wrong place. However if, like myself, you are trying to understand the underlying themes and lessons explained in these stories and how they influence our literature and culture today, then this is a very good overview, complete with geographical and linguistic call-outs throughout.
Someone mentioned to me that these books are best consumed as audiobooks. I am now listening to Stephen Fry’s Troy. It is good but I still think I prefer to read the stories. This is something I am unable to consume passively, so I need to be able to flip back two chapters to refresh my memory of past encounters and the offspring resulting from them.
Next up: Troy and Heroes, both by Stephen Fry.