‘The Greeks created gods that were in their image; warlike but creative, wise but ferocious, loving but jealous, tender but brutal, compassionate but vengeful’
Rating: 3 stars
Read: 6 December – 11 December, 2018
I’m not sure how to review this one. Do I discuss the myths themselves (did I like them?) or do I discuss how Fry retold them (although I haven’t read any of the actual Classics?). How do I know whether I disliked a myth, not because the myth itself was rubbish, but because the way Fry told it was? It’s a hard one, but I’ll try my best. So, if you didn’t know, Fry, a lover of Greek mythology, decided to re-tell some of the myths. He recently released another re-telling, Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures. I thought it’d be easier to start out with a modern re-telling before I dived into the Real, Heavy Stuff. I think Fry did a good job.
Initially, I found the myths so entertaining. I think Fry is an excellent story-teller and he definitely got the tone right. It wasn’t serious – it was rather quite playful. It suited the myths because they weren’t serious either. You get the feel that Fry is passionate about Greek mythology – he knows and understands these gods and their origins and wants to share that with his readers. I really enjoyed learning about the basics – the beginning, the second order and the Olympians. I found the stories so chaotic, excessive, funny, ridiculous, and generally a really fun read. They came at a right time (I am a massive ball of stress).
However, I found my interest dwindling when the myths became more concerned with the various lovers of the gods rather than the gods themselves. I constantly wanted to get back to origin side of the myths, instead of the romantic and sexual side. I wanted to know how this god came about, and how that god came about, instead of reading about a man getting punished for perving on a god. A lot of the myths were repetitive. Instead of repeating them, I think Fry could have alluded to the similar stories in the footnotes to save time. It was little stuff like that that started to bother me.
Also, Fry would constantly say how he’d come back to how Prometheus was freed from his chains and endless torture but he never did. That’s all I cared about and he left me hanging. I’m not happy.
Although, one thing I did love about this was seeing where so much of our language comes from. Words that we use today were based on the Greeks and their myths. Flowers and rivers were named after characters from myths. It was so fascinating to learn about it. This language that we use today has survived for centuries. For example, the daffodil is named after Narcissus because, as it grows, it bends it head down to look at itself in a puddle. An echo is named after a girl, Echo, who was made to repeat the last words she heard as a punishment.
A couple of my favourite myths were Arachne (honestly my new favourite myth of all time – so beautiful, compelling, tragic and timeless), Procne and Philomena (which I was already aware of from Shakespeare), and Narcissus (again, who I was already aware of but this time from Wilde). As I already mentioned, the myths were quite hit-or-miss but the majority were super enjoyable. I’ll definitely be picking up Fry’s latest book when it’s released in paperback. I can’t wait – I hope Achilles makes an appearance…
Side-note: I just listened to a snippet from the audiobook of this, narrated by Fry himself, and it was amazing. I wish I listened to that alongside reading it…
Have you read any Greek mythology – Fry’s re-telling or the originals? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X
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