1| How should you spend your time on the Internet? Reading someone’s term paper entitled Mythical Hero versus the Modern Heroine: The Female Hero in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games! It’s got cool comparisons of Katniss to Theseus and Atalanta as well as a really delightful argument in favor of androgynous heroes with both feminine and masculine abilities.
I’ve never really grown out of my 14-year-old self’s love of personal surveys, and since this one is Greek themed and I lived in Greece, well…that’s a good enough excuse for me!
Aphrodite: what you find attractive in a person
Intelligence and humor. Also eyebrows, ankles, and laugh lines around his eyes.
Apollo: favourite piece of music
Ooo! I could go with “the entire Hamilton soundtrack” but that is a recent favorite that has yet to withstand the test of time. Oh gosh, I’ve sat here scrolling through my iTunes for ten minutes now, and I cannot decide whether to go with something instrumental or emotional or artistic and whatever, I’m just going to choose “After the Storm” by Mumford and Sons because it’s beautiful.
Ares: opinion on war
Not a fan of it. I can get into the emotional fervor of it in fantasy movies, but I dunno. I think life is sacred and violence is easy and Ares is my least favorite Olympian.
Artemis: favourite animal and why
Cheetahs! I loved them when I was a kid because they were pretty and fast and could be tamed enough to be in movies. Then I grew up and found out that they have social anxiety and often need dog-companions to calm them, and my love grew even deeper.
Athena: share a piece of wisdom Continue reading
Reading Greek mythology in Greece is such a cool experience. The Bull from the Sea opens with Theseus returning to Attica from Crete without changing his sails from black to white, the result of which is his father, King Aigeus, leaping to his death from the cliff in Sounio. I just went to Sounio! It’s a real place! With a real history!
That history bit is what makes Renault’s book so fascinating. She does a remarkable job of interpreting myth as fact. The supernatural elements of mythology are present in her stories, but with explanations that are easily interpreted as superstitions. The people in this book believe in the gods and goddesses and fate, but is it real? Or is that larger-than-normal boar simply exaggerated into mythic proportions? And is that man the son of a god or simply extremely talented? It’s such a fun balance, and perhaps ironically, it makes the myths seem more alive. By setting them in a historical context and allowing for skepticism, Renault lets her readers see just how plausible the ancient stories are.
Theseus is a fascinating character. He’s almost annoying perfect at everything…until his charmed life falls apart. I should have expected the book to border on depressing, because all the Greek myths are fairly depressing. They are lessons couched in stories, after all, and Theseus shows us that one can never escape one’s fate. He knows, from the moment he sees Hippolyta (awesome Amazon warrior queen/king) that she will be his doom. But knowing his fate, he embraces the good while it lasts, and does what he can to accept the fallout when it happens. And wow, is the fallout depressing. Murder and sacrifice and incest, oh my! The Greek stories are never boring.
The one thing I found annoying was the way the narrative treated women. To some extent, this is simply Renault being true to her source material. And of course, Hippolyta is a force to be reckoned with. But all the other women are stereotypes. And Theseus himself is occasionally a hard man to idolize – he’s perfect, we’re supposed to believe, but he treats women as playthings or distractions. They’re always around to serve HIS needs. Basically, it’s super sexist, both because it was written in the 1960s and based on stories thousands of years old. BUT. Even though it’s problematic, this book is worth the read!
Mary Renault is a genius at breathing new life into old myths, and I’m definitely going to check out some of her other books! I suggest you do the same. Continue reading
Part of me feels like I ought to be ashamed of the fact that 80% of my Greek mythology knowledge comes from one American man, but Rick Riordan makes it so entertaining! I don’t know how he manages to convey humor while simultaneously making it clear that the gods habits of murdering and raping is abominable…but he does. It’s very impressive.
I liked his book on heroes more than this one on the gods. The style and everything is the same; it’s just that I’m more familiar with the stories of the gods and goddesses, so it wasn’t quite as interesting. Still, it’s a great book, and John Rocco’s illustrations continue to be flat-out gorgeous (although he draws Dionysus as an old fat man despite the story describing him as a beautiful teenage boy with girlish features).
If you like Riordan’s style, you’ll like this book. Honestly, I’m fully in his pocket, and I’ll read everything he ever writes, I think. I hope he makes another one of these massive books – maybe about the minor Greek gods, or about Egyptian gods. Haha, the man is churning out two books a year, but I WANT MORE. Continue reading
Percy Jackson breathes new life into familiar Greek myths and introduces several less-popular men and women. You’ve got Hercules and Theseus, of course, but also Phaethon, Orpheus, and Bellerophon. Most importantly (to my interests), Riordan tells the stories of four heroines! The ancient Greeks weren’t huge on female inspiration, and I appreciate Riordan’s intentionality in choosing to include Psyche, Otrera, Atalanta, and Cyrene.
The tone of the book is irreverent and modern, much like the Percy Jackson books, which makes sense as Percy is the “author” of these stories. He has no problem calling out the gods on their weird and/or horrible actions. For instance, when describing Danae’s imprisonment, Percy says: Continue reading
Okay, this wins all the retellings (of which I am, admittedly, just starting to read)! I LOVED reading Penelope’s side of the story, seeing Odysseus’s cleverness from her perspective, gently allowing her unreliable narration. Was she faithful? Was she not? She sure wants us to think she was, just like Odysseus wants us to think he’s a tragic hero. They’re a perfect match for each other….which is only half the story!
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this book is the way it dissects the story of the twelve maids who were hung at Odysseus’s return. The historical, cultural, and sexual discussions surrounding their role in the story are both fascinating and horrifying. And so clever (which is fitting, in a book about Penelope and Odysseus). Every few chapters, the maids speak for themselves, sometimes in poetry, sometimes in song, sometimes in lecture, sometimes in a mock trial. Their righteous indignation is so simple and powerful, right from the beginning, with their “The Chorus Line: A Rope-Jumping Rhyme”: Continue reading
What a great finale for a wonderful series! I liked the books quite a lot when I first read them as they were released, and I liked them even more reading the series straight through. It became more obvious how the characters developed, how the team found strength in each other, and how the stakes were raised higher than ever in the battle between Greek and Roman demigods.
For the first time, we get chapters from Reyna and Nico’s perspectives. My love for Nico has hopefully already been established, so it is no surprise that I love his chapters. But Reyna is also amazing, and my love for her grew exponentially now that I read all the books in order and could remember her better. She doesn’t take center stage until this last book, and boy, does she ever! I was a little disappointed when seventh-wheel Leo found love, thus “proving” that heroes are only “worthy” if they also have a love story. But Reyna gives us a hero who is explicitly told that romantic love will not save her…and she’s like, well, that’s disappointing, but I’m going to keep being awesome anyway. Truly, she is the hero we do not deserve. Continue reading