Friday, April 12, 2013

Book: The Faber Book of Greek Legends by Kathleen Lines



Whilst highly entertaining, The Faber Book Greek Legends is not particularly well written and one imagines there better books out there that will provider a better service to the reader. Nevertheless, if like me you are new to Greek mythology and want to learn more without delving too deeply, then Line's book isn't bad at all. Excluding the Forward and the first "In the Beginning" sections, the chapters are relatively breezy, with  illustrations that help to evoke much mystical imagery, for in this world humans and gods interact on a frequent basis.

Amongst the tales of adventure and tragedy, my favourite legends were of:

- Persephone: Whipped away by Hades (god of underworld), Persephone's mother Demeter (goddess of corn and all growing things) entered into a great sadness and whilst she was searching for her daughter everything stopped growing. The gods agreed to bring Persephone back from the underworld on condition that she hadn't eaten any food from the Kingdom of the Dead. Alas, she eaten six pomegranate seeds during her time below ground. Zeus determined that for each seed, Persephone would have to return to the Underworld for a month each year. And so it is that when Persephone returns to our world for six months. the joyful Demeter brings growth and blue skies. For the other half of the year when Persephone returns to the underworld to be with her husband Hades, all becomes grey and cold.

- Echo and Narcissus: Echo used to enrapture the goddess Hera with her beautiful voice but these distractions would be used by Zeus to visit his mistresses. When Hera discovered the truth, she made Echo into a mute who could only repeat the words of others. One day, in the forest, Echo met Narcissus, who fell in love with her. Howver, his love quickly turned to anger when he thought she was taunting him in her repetition's. Narcissus came to a pool of water and saw his image for the first time. Not knowing who this person was, he kept trying to reach out and touch it, only for it to disappear. In the end, he dove into the water and vanished forever into the depths in pursuit of the image. In this deed, he fulfilled the prophetic warning that "So long as he knows not himself, he will live long and happy".

- Artemis and Orion -When the god Apollo learned that his sister, the skilled hunter Artemis, was spending much time with the mortal Orion, he became angry and jealous. One day when Orion was out swimming in the distance, Apollo challenged Artemis to strike this fish with her arrow. By this deception, Artemis ended Orion's life. Artemis immortalised Orion by placing an image of him image among the stars.

File:Orion constellation Hevelius.jpg

*** 1/2

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