27 August 2020

Heroes from ancient Greek mythology

The Heroes, or, Greek Fairy Tales for My Children by Charles Kingsley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is Charles Kingsley's retelling of stories from ancient Greek mythology for children. It deals with three heroes, Perseus, Jason (of the Golden Fleece) and Theseus. I enjoyed reading it as a child, and liked the pictures, which are pretty, but not particularly Greek -- the pastoral landscapes, especially, look English rather than Greek.

Perseus rescues Andromeda
I found it interesting to see what I could remember of the stories, having last read them when I was about 10. Though it tells of the origin of a "Procrustean bed", which I had often seen referred to in other books, I retained no memories of it, and had to look it up as an adult. The thing I remembered best was the three old crones encountered by Perseus, who had to share one eye between them, and, of course, his fight with Medusa and rescue of Andromeda from the sea monster.

The last of these has several resemblances to the Christian legend of St George and the dragon. notably the theme of human sacrifice. I found the similarities and differences interesting, especially since I've written a book that features the legend of St George

The only thing I remembered about Theseus was his encounter with the Minotaur, which, however, I had pictured as taking place underground, but in the story it evidently did not, which made little sense of the spool of thread he had to carry to find his way out again.

But I also found the stories strangely flat, especially Theseus. He was an ancient superhero, so powerful that he never seemed to be in any real danger. The harpies, which are supposed to be terrifying monsters, don't look particularly terrifying in the picture, and seem even less so in the story. They arouse curiosity rather than horror, and are vanquished quite easily.

I do think, however, that they would be good for modern kids to read, and not only those brought up on a diet of superheroes. There are many references and allusions to them in other literature -- the Procrustean bed is just one example -- and so it can help children to understand those references.

Also, the past is another country, another culture, and reading stories from different cultures can help children to understand cultures other than their own.

View all my reviews

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails