I’ve never been a keen reader of history. Right from primary school it was the one subject I couldn’t stand. I always found it unbearably boring. Greek mythology was also in that basket of my not-interested-to-read. This started to change when I started picking up some of my husband’s books, some of them focused on history.
Then he got the Mythos audiobook and he would not shut up about it, to a point where I thought his obsession with Stephen Fry was possibly a hint at a closet exit. I finally got a copy and I read it in a breath. A day and a half of reading and finishing it, I couldn’t shut up about it.
Mythos is way more than stories about gods, goddesses, nymphs and heroes. Greek mythology is about stories that have influenced our understanding of the world. There’s so much that we can still trace and link to certain behaviours, words, traditions and beliefs we know of today.
This book has so many ‘Aha!’ moments. While studying Greek mythology from academic texts can be daunting, Stephen Fry has written a pretty simple and absorbable version, and he’s done so with a light and entertaining approach. Not all the stories and themes can be traced to the world we live in today but in Mythos you’ll find a lot of familiar concepts.
An example of a story is that of this very talkative nymph who had lied to Hera about her husband Zeus visiting the other nymphs. The goddess cursed her and said she’d only be able to repeat the last words said to her. The miserable and lonely nymph ran to a cave where she prayed to another goddess for relief. The goddess couldn’t return her speech but could free her of her physical self. We hear her today when we call out in caves, empty rooms and on mountains, and her name was Echo.
Another interesting one is that of a remarkably beautiful boy whose mother was told that he would live a happy and long life for as long as he wasn’t aware of how bewitching his face was. One day, looking into the water he saw the dazzling boy looking back at him and as the prophet had said, it didn’t turn out well for him. His name was Narcissus and today we have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
There are interestingly many social aspects reflected by the myths told in the book. There’s love, chaos, revenge, betrayal, birth, death, courage, sex, beauty and a whole lot of psychological, moralistic and theological factors reflected in the myths. So many terms and names we use in everyday life, in business and brands, such as Pandora, Atlas, Hermes, Morpheus, Hypnos and many others, are in the book and the stories of how they came about is told.
I read it in that British Stephen Fry voice and enjoyed every single page. I drank up those stories until I felt satisfyingly drunk with knowledge, and laughed until my ribs ached. The way he writes is pleasantly and refreshingly edifying. You learn a lot without the exhausting serious tone that you’d otherwise get from formal Greek mythology texts. You’ll enjoy the way he treats a subject so extensive with such ease and wit.
After I read Mythos I ordered a copy of Heroes and I cannot wait to read it.