The Geek myths, through Hesiod, Homer, Ovid and the rest, from the pen of the singular Stephen Fry. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to him gracing our screens, but he’s one of those writers who’s voice leaps out from his prose, every line unquestionably bearing his signature.
The vetting procedure was for Fry’s selection process seems to have been that if Hollywood made a film out of it, best to leave it alone, as he steers clear of the larger myths that many of us might have heard of, e.g. the events of the Iliad and Odyssey, Jason and the Argonauts, Theseus and the Minotaur, Perseus and Medusa, Hercules etc. Instead we get the more obscure Cresus, Narcissus, Endymion, Phaethon and Cygnus, Asclepius and Sisyphus to name but a few. There’s also an in depth explanation of the creation of the Olympian 12 and the Titans before them, including quite a bit of time spent analysing Prometheus who I suspect is a favourite of Fry’s.
I love the classics and have read a good deal about Greece and Rome in the past so I was aware of some of these myths already. Still, I had a great time reliving them through Fry’s humour and earnestness. What I found most enjoyable was Fry’s etymological digressions, spelling out for the reader the origin of many words that still exist in English today, let alone Greek and Latin. One such example is the above mentioned Cygnus who, in his grief over Phaethon’s death, was transformed into a swan from where we get our word for a young swan, Cygnet.
My one complaint is that, after a while, the myths become a little repetitive. After the initial excitement of Uranus, Kronos and Zeus, a reoccurring pattern starts to emerge. Zeus gets someone pregnant, they give birth, and the child either commits the unforgivable sin of hubris or is so pious and beautiful that one of the Gods takes a special shine to them; cue dangerous liaisons the sequel.
For this reason, a tad tedious, containing just a few morsels of monotony, but altogether a very enjoyable read.
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.