In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The lure of Greek mythology

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I have a feeling that Nicholas Flamel is in Eleanor's future.  We're back to Greek mythology here in our house, poring over the pages of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths with obsessive interest.  I wrote almost two years ago about our first dip into the book, and wondered what would spark Eleanor's interest in it when she got a little older.  The answer?  Halloween.

For a month or more, Eleanor had been pushing to dress up as Daenerys Targaryen, the teenage Mother of Dragons from George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series.  Jeff and I have both been reading the books, and Eleanor asks about the stories in them, so Jeff had told her a few highly edited bits, and she thought Daenerys sounded awesome.  Baby dragons!  Being familiar with more of the (sexy, violent) plot, I wasn't a fan of the idea.  Eleanor's best friend, Ian, decided to dress up as a dragon, then as a dragon with multiple heads, and started calling himself a hydra.  Mythology!  I thought, and brought out the D'Aulaires'.

We started by looking at the pantheon (image in my earlier post), and then reading all the stories about the major goddesses: Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, Persephone.  Artemis was interesting to Eleanor for a moment, but she comes off as fairly cruel in the whole turning Actaeon into a deer and letting his hounds kill him just because he sees her bathing episode.  Hera doesn't have much going for her in the role of jealous wife.  Aphrodite was of course the goddess I cast myself as when I was a little older than Eleanor, but not a particularly empathetic character, and a little hard to make a costume for.  Frankly, I was plugging for Athena the whole time, and am very happy that's where we've ended up.  We bought supplies today to make her breastplate (with Medusa's head on it, no less), spear, helmet, and owl.  We're ready to go.

And Eleanor doesn't want to put the book down.  We went back and started at the beginning, with Gaia and Uranus coming together to produce their Titan children and then their hideous monsters.  Now we're reading straight through: tale after tale filled and violence.  When you place them side by side, the Greek myths don't actually come off much cleaner or more kid-appropriate than Game of Thrones.  The D'Aulaires wrote them in kid-friendly language (Zeus has many "wives"), but there's no getting around the intensity of death and kidnapping, even when you elide all the rape.  Along with killing Actaeon, Artemis and her twin, Apollo, kill all 14 of Niobe's children because Niobe has a big ego and a bigger mouth.  It's heavy stuff.

On the other hand, Isabel is going as Minnie Mouse.  It's nice to have two.

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. My 3 yr old picks out his own library books and I usually skim them to prepare myself for any editing /explaining that needs done. A mythology one escaped my notice until he chose it for that night's book. The illustration of Cronus eating his children & Zeus freeing them led to "what is he doing to that boy??!!" and a solemn vow to read all the books beforehand. :)