Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mythology

Mythology
© 1942 Edith Hamilton
333 pages

In the past, I have both read books by Edith Hamilton and tried to read books on Greco-Roman mythology. I have never succeeded in finishing a mythology book before my interest in the subject waned, but this week I was able to do so. The book is fairly straightforward: after introducing us to our cast of characters (gods, demigods, Titans, giants, and miscellaneous creatures), Hamilton retells the various stories that constitute the Greek mythology. She organizes them by theme ("Tales of Love", "The Trojan War", etc) and tells the reader which sources she is relying on for her narratives. This pleased me. Those who are more familar with the various Greek and Roman authors may read more into her choice of authors. Take, for instance, this comment from a Lawrance Benarbo at Amazon.com: "I appreciate Hamilton's choice to avoid relying on Ovid, for while the 'Metamorphoses' is the most comprehensive ancient text dealing with the classical myths, Ovid is an unbeliever. For Hamilton the writings of Homer, Hesiod and Pindar are more abbreviated in terms of providing details for the myths, but at least they take the tales seriously."

Curiously, Hamilton also attaches two brief chapters on Norse mythology to the end of the book. I'm really not sure why, other than Norse mythology being somewhat connected to western civilization. She doesn't explain why, but given that our days of the week reflect the old Norse gods (Tir's Day, Woden's Day, Thor's Day, and Freya's Day), I take my own explanation as the most likely. It was a pleasant read, taking me back to both childhood and my introduction to western literature class in my freshman year of college.

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