When I was a young girl, I spent most of my summer holidays sitting on my verandah, in the hot and hazy afternoon light as my grandmother braided my hair and recounted stories of Gods, heavenly battles, miracles and other unbelievable tales.
Yet, I think that it’s not too far-fetched to view storytelling as mankind's most resilient way of passing on knowledge, culture and values. Whether stories were narrated sitting around the fire, written on manuscripts or engraved onto walls, it’s these stories that give us our identities and traditions, and that transformed from entertainment to gospel over time.
In a similar vein, Stephen Fry's latest book, Mythos, is an excellent attempt to entertain and educate with the help of ancient Greek mythology. He recreates the tales in a manner that only he is capable of: with a well-balanced tone of awe and respect yet also of slight mockery and joviality. Whether it is the grand escapades of Zeus, the forgotten lore of the Titans, or the time-worn classics of Pandora and Persephone, he reminds us that the Gods were never completely altruistic, pure or flawless. They bent the rules and experienced anger, love, revulsion and jealousy in full measure. Perhaps this makes them easier to relate to and perhaps at the same time, strips away some of their glamour.
Mythos is an unexpectedly delightful and nostalgic yet refreshing journey
Yet, it is Fry‘s incredible power over language that carries the book. His ability to write with rhyme and reason infuses these myths with a new and vibrant life. If you are a logophile (or even a linguaphile for that matter), you will thoroughly enjoy the stories embellished with the names of constellations, flowers and cities. It is remarkable that despite the advancements in science, it is the historians and classicists who have the privilege of naming new planets, species or moons. We also learn of Apollo, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, Cronos, Midas, Thanos, Pluto, Phoebe and so many others who are nominally reincarnated as mankind’s contemporary milestones, book series, sitcom roles or even comic book characters. For example, Thanos of the Marvel Universe is so appropriately named that the name alone is a spoiler for the latest Avengers: Infinity War movie.
As the summer break draws closer and if you're wondering what book to pick up as you fly home, I believe that Mythos is a strong contender. An unexpectedly delightful and nostalgic yet refreshing journey that explores the language, culture and roots of Western civilizations. As Stephen Fry notes, these stories are indeed timeless and will continue to grace our shelves for as long as we can imagine.
Pooja Ramakrishnan is studying MSc Environmental Engineering and has recently joined the Delta team as their book and podcast pundit. A science student during the day and a poet by night, she balances the two with her curiosity and fascination for the world we live in.