If you know me or follow my blog, you would know how much I lay my trust in my online readers’ group. Ask them anything, and they’ll be all over with recommendations, like flies over spilled honey. Not a good analogy, LOL. Mythos by Stephen Fry was recommended to me by the same folks after I asked them the best book to acquaint myself with Greek Mythology. Having read Circe and The Song of Achilles, I was eager to read more about myths from this part of the world and I am thankful to have found this book.
Mythos is not a story. It is hard to point out what it is. And therefore, hard to write a review like I always do. Mythos is the essence of the vast ocean that Greek myth is. And it is this essence that I will try to put into words here.
The narration takes us from the beginning. From Chaos to Order, to the birth or coming into existence of the first beings, Ouranos and Gaia, from whom birthed Kronos, who later overthrew his own father by castration to establish the Titans. In an incestuous relationship with his sister Rhea, Kronos did to his children what his father did, suppress them (ate them more like) But then came along the mighty Zeus who, like his own father, overthrew his father and finally established the long line Gods as we know today as the Olympians.
With Zeus in power and his siblings freed from their father’s insides, the Olympians started expanding their might, one God at a time. Zeus too, like his father, married his own sister Hera, a cunningly jealous Goddess, especially when Zeus had a roving eye and a weakness for nubile maidens. What follows is a spree of lovemaking, consensual and forced, giving birth to the other Gods, demi-Gods, demons, and finally, man.
I hadn’t known about Mr. Fry before this book. So he came as a surprise. What a beautiful narration! The selection of the most important stories, the use of wit, and the interweaving that happened between them, so that it felt like an entire being instead of several small being,s which it actually was. Fry was humorous, giving in a punch here, a laugh there, and all was set.
The writing was lucid and supple. Despite the fact that myths tend to overlap and have the ability to become complicated and make the reader lose their mind in no time, Fry did a great job with this book. With meticulous planning of the positioning of the chapters and the anecdotes in them, he managed to hook the reader, above all odds, into the complex system that mythology is. Numerous names, most of which I forgot the moment I turned the page, several partners, incestuous relationships, and tonnes of children wasn’t easy to keep track of. But I kept the one major fact in mind, which again I was told to by my fellow readers, that Zeus is the all-father, literally and figuratively, LOL.
I haven’t read much of mythology, and Mythos was definitely my first in Greek myths. I went in with an empty mind, no pre-conceived notions, and boy, I am glad of that. I couldn’t have asked for a better book and a better storyteller. The Gods were showcased beautifully. Their glamour, their faults, their inhumane cruelty, their love for their men, their strength, their weakness, their happiness, their sadness, their worry, their wrath, their benevolence, everything was exposed. They felt real, unlike the Gods from my mythology, the Hindu mythology.
If you want a crash course on Greek myths, this is for you. If you want to not get bored to death, this is for you. If you want to disgust at Zeus’ lewd ways, feel Hera’s wrath, wash over yourself with Poseidon’s waves, drool at Aphrodite’s beauty, rage like hellfire with Athena, hit the bull’s eye with Apollo, create ruckus like Hermes, and so on and so on, this is for you. This book, what it told me? That these raucous Gods, after all, were no better than us.