Review: Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry - 8/10*
The funny thing about Greek mythology is its absolute brutal weirdness. And Stephen Fry totally gets it; he plays on it and as he re-tells it he injects it with so many witty comments. I mean, how could you not? It's waiting to be roasted.
For example, Zeus rips his father Cronos' balls off and throws them to the other side of the earth. The fluid (cough cough) seeps out and thus Aphrodite is born. Once Cronos is defeated, his five children (that he formerly ate) are regurgitated and born anew. They then swear loyalty to Zeus, their liberator from perpetual digestion. On another occasion Zeus has a really bad headache and screams for hours and hours so the other gods decide to bash his head in with a hammer revealing yet another god: Athena. She emerges carrying a spear and is dressed for battle. This material is asking for a man like Stephen Fry.
In a way, the book reminded me of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. Both books follow the same concept: the reworking of ancient myths to present them to a modern audience without losing any of their originality. And I think it’s a great idea. Stephen Fry’s attempt carries much more of his own personality than Gaiman’s did. (Certainly not a bad thing.) His own voice really shone through and I could tell that he really enjoyed writing this. It may sound strange, but as amused as I was reading it, I know the author was more so penning it.
The stories he presents here are by no means exhaustive, but they are a great introduction to the structure of the Ancient Greek hierarchy amongst the gods. And it’s surprisingly complex with the most powerful not being the one who has taken charge. Zeus is strong, but he would be nothing without his five regurgitated siblings who helped to secure his legitimacy over the Titans who are far older. What I do think the book needs is a contents page or something because I was not entirely sure what I was going into when I picked the book up. It’s easy to mislead readers, and it would have been good to know what myths and legends are not included.
The part I found most interesting was the Promethean myth. This is a concept I’m quite fond of, having written on it a few times in academic work, and I did really like the way Fry described his friendship with Zeus before they had their fallout over humanity’s right (or lack thereof) to fire. And it got me thinking, how great would it be to read a novel purely about Prometheus. Madeline Miller’s recent novel Circe gave quite a bit of attention to him, though I’d love to see him as a protagonist. Hopefully one day someone will write it.
This is a fun book, with many laugh out loud moments that probably capture exactly what you were thinking about the strangeness of some of the myths, Stephen Fry says exactly what he wants too and it’s definitely worth hearing.
p.s- I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) which I think gave it an added edge.