For as long as I can remember, I have favored the Greek mythology over others. I can truly enjoy Norse and Egyptian myths, but the Greeks have my heart. Maybe it’s because I had an awesome Greek and Mythology teacher in high school. Maybe it’s because there is so much depth in these myths. But one thing is quite clear: these are amazing stories. So when Stephen Fry wrote a new book with ‘The Greek Myths Retold’ I obviously had to buy and read it. Is this Mythos worth the read?
But first, the synopsis
Here’s wat Goodreads has to say about Mythos:
In Stephen Fry’s vivid retelling we gaze in wonder as wise Athena is born from the cracking open of the great head of Zeus and follow doomed Persephone into the dark and lonely realm of the Underworld. We shiver when Pandora opens her jar of evil torments and watch with joy as the legendary love affair between Eros and Psyche unfolds.
And this is what Stephen Fry himself says, in his foreword:
If, as you read, you cannot help wondering what inspired the Greeks to invent a world so rich and elaborate in character and incident, and you find yourself pondering the deep truths that the myths embody – well, that is certainly part of the pleasure.
And pleasure is what immersing yourself in the world of Greek myth is all about.
The perfect Greek mythology book for newbies
If you are (pretty) new to the world of Greek mythology, Mythos is the perfect book for you. It starts at the beginning (with Chaos) and ends somewhere before the Golden Age of Heroes. Stephen Fry himself admits in his foreword that Mythos is an excellent start:
Perhaps you already know some of the myths told here, but I especially welcome those who may never have encountered the characters and stories of the Greek myth before. You don’t need to know anything to read this book; it starts with an empty universe.
As mentioned above, I had a pretty classical schooling and so almost none of these stories were new to me. Heck, I even translated Narcissus & Echo by Ovid from ancient Greek once. I loved that this story was included in Mythos, as it’s one of my personal favorites. Maybe because I have a personal history with it. All these stories brought back memories like ‘ooooh yeah, that was how that happened’ so it was great to read them all again, especially trough the great and funny writing of Stephen Fry. I do imagine that this book is indeed even better if you’re (almost) entirely new to the universe. It’s an excellent start.
Percy Jackson cameo
I love how Stephen Fry connects the ancient myths to modern age, with mentioning of things like gender issues, Commander Spock from Star Trek and the Matrix films. My personal favorite contemporary pop culture mention was, duh, Percy Jackson. As I love Greek mythology, I adore the Percy Jackson novels by Rick Riordan. Riordan even has a current series about my personal favorite Greek God: Apollo.
In Mythos, the creation/birth/first appearance all major Greek Gods is explained. We learn how Aphrodite was ‘born’ from foam. So, Zeus’ brother Poseidon also has his own paragraph, in which we learn he loved to, well, love:
Poseidon spent almost all his time pursuing a perfectly exhausting quantity of beautiful girls and boys and fathering by the girls an even greater number of monsters, demigods and human heroes – Percy Jackson and Theseus to name but two.
I love this casual shout-out to one of the newest additions to the Greek mythology. Mythos is filled with small tidbits like this, which make the ancient stories feel more modern. Stephen Fry also ‘just’ tells the stories and gives some background, but he over-explains anything, and will never delve into the psychological insights that may lie behind the myths. With all these things combined, Mythos makes for a very quick and fast-paced read which will give you a lot more knowledge about the myths and stories.
I really hoped that Mythos would get a sequel. I loved how Fry re-told these myths that I know and adore and I would love to see how he would tell the stories of Theseus, Peleus, Jason, Herakles, Odysseus and my own all-time favorite story from those days: that of the Trojan War and Achilles. So I was very happy to see that there will indeed be a sequel to Mythos: Heroes. The catchfrase is ‘there are heroes and then there are Greek heroes.’ I can’t wait to read Heroes! It has a release date of November 1st, so I know what’s on my Christmas list!
So, if you are familiar with all the myths, Mythos is a quick read through memory lane. If you are (pretty) new to all the Greek mythology, Mythos is an absolute must-read for you.