The Other Greek Myths


I grew up reading D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths, like lots of kids, and credit it with my early inspiration to create my website, Women in Greek Myths. But, I should add, it was a negative inspiration. I had decided that they didn’t have all the facts (a horrible crime to a know-it-all 13 year old) and worse, they didn’t tell all the stories (I shudder now to imagine a book that WOULD), and so I set out to correct it. I imagined the website as a place where I could store my notes, notes that would eventually become a fantastic book that would replace the insufficient D’Aulaires.

Now, as an adult, and having a lot more of the “real” stories under my belt, and in the original Greek, no less [Ailia pats herself on back], I have changed my tune. I am hugely impressed by D’Aulaires giving it 5/5 stars over at Goodreads, and I realize that what they did by connecting all of the different, winding tales together was genius. Sure, it makes you think that it’s how Greek myths really are – like some Biblical narrative where everything is essentially working together and rarely out and out contradictory – but the alternative, especially for kids, seems virtually impossible. And, even though I don’t think Daphne Escaping, by Erika Meriauxthat the illustrations are up there with, say, with The Forbidden Door, almost no one’s are, and it DOES have some of the absolute best scene depictions of Greek myths I have ever seen (for example, the one with Syrinx and Daphne being chased at once).

But, in its attempt to be univerally acceptable, it has not only toned down the violence against women (which I don’t think is so bad anymore),  it also pretty much erased any mention of myths that would now be considered queer. (And I use that word as a blanket term that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, etc.) So, you don’t see any of the stories from my post on Transgender Myths To Know. And you don’t see any of the stories that turn up in Lovers’ Legends Unbound. And Hylas and Ganymede are turned from the beloveds of heroes (Heracles) and gods (Zeus), to mere victims of nymphs and cupbearers.

Some day, I have just decided, I’m going to write a book.* It will not be an attempt to replace D’Aulaires, but it will reject their silencing of those stories. The Greeks didn’t view Zeus or Heracles as “gay” or Caenis as “trans” but our current definitions made them invisible (at least partly). If I write a children’s book, something like The Other Greek Myths, I will attempt to do much of what the D’Aulaires did so successfully. I have no goal to shock, and my intent is not to preserve an ancient Greek way of life, but to use the myths as we have always done, to highlight stories we find relevant. There is, for the first time in a long time, room for such a book (thanks to books like And Tango Makes Three), and, with the help of an artist (maybe I could convince someone like Erika Meriaux to jump on board?) I think it could be something really special.

*The 13-year-old in my head makes me add that I’ll include a note for grown ups at the end contextualizing the thing.


6 responses to “The Other Greek Myths”

  1. My first introduction to mythology was my sister bringing home Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, catchy title and all. I remember being enthralled by the pictures and looking back now thinking, why? For some reason it all made sense to be and I thought that I couldn’t wait until I was in high school (she was six years older than me) and I could read this book for real rather than steal my sister’s. For me, too, I’m willing to overlook the downside to Hamilton’s writing because it was this that brought me into the world of mythology.

    Sheesh. Hamilton at 10 or 11. What a nerd I am (I should say was – my wife periodically points out true nerds on TV or in the movies and reminds me of what I would be without her).

  2. Yes! I read that, too (though it was my mom’s copy), but soon after I got my hands on Robert Graves and pretty much abandoned poor Edith. Graves’ stuff was SO sexy (and I mean that in the ridiculously geeky sense of academically obscure and radical) and Edith’s … well.

    And I, too, have my partner to thank for my ability to function socially. God(dess) bless ’em.

  3. vilajunkie Avatar

    I read Edith Hamilton sometime after high school (Alas!) so she doesn’t have that feeling of inspiration for me as it does for some of the other posters on here. Well, I did read her renditions of the Odyssey and the Aeneid freshman year, when we covered the myths. However, my end-of-the-quarter project was on Hera, and I mostly used Greek Mythology Link and a few obscure, academic books rather than the usual for my research. Did I mention I read the Odyssey before I was 12 and read it again in full-length poem form during high school, when everyone else was reading Sports Illustrated and Seventeen? LOL

  4. You left a note on my picasa album, no, I don’t mind if you use my images, I just wanted to ask you the same thing, I mean, I’d like to make a book about my mythology series and I need someone to write the texts. I’ll soon send you images of my last paintings, “Phedra” “Dionysus” , “Eurynome and Ophion” and soon the birth of Athena…

  5. Ha! Now you said it on a public forum so you can’t take it back! 😉

    In all seriousness, that sounds like a fun project and I would love to do something like that with you.

  6. Hey, I just stumbled on your blog somewhat randomly, but noticed that you were talking about goodreads. Recently, I’ve been working on a site called swingvine.com that lets you track and review books as well as movies, music, and other interests. It works kind of like goodreads but allows you to track more types of media with your friends in one place. It also lets you create “vines” between books that recommend one book to a user who’s looking at another book.

    We actually released very recently and would be really interested in getting feedback from folks like you who use similar services and are active in the blogosphere. You can visit swingvine.com and request an account to try it out (we’ll send you a link shortly after your request) or ping me at my email w/ any questions. Thanks!

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