Review:'Mythos' by Stephen Fry

Molly Taylor reviews Stephen Fry's tour of Greek Mythology

Molly Taylor
18th May 2021
Christian Payne from flickr
I think my favourite thing about this novel is Stephen Fry’s colloquial, funny and vibrant voice, which is prevalent throughout the book. Fry recounts these incredibly interesting and entertaining Greek myths in a way which relates to the 21st century and allows us to understand these stories, which we can otherwise feel distant and far-removed from as modern audiences.

Fry starts the novel by describing the creation of chaos as well as the first (Uranus, Gaia, etc.) and second (Titans eg. Kronos and Rhea) orders of the Gods. He then proceeds to describe the Olympians and many of the myths and stories that accompany them. I enjoyed learning about the creation of the Gods, and more about the original stories which are the roots of the myths and stories about heroes that many of us know of already. I enjoyed this book because it didn’t follow all the conventions of a normal novel. Due to its nature as a recount of the Greek myths, it didn’t have a definite storyline, but rather many different short storylines weaved together. Fry’s style of writing was very informative but also funny and entertaining and kept me hooked.

I also really enjoyed learning about the origins of words, and how many words that we use in the English language actually stem from Greek mythology and the Gods. For example, the word Hermaphrodite, meaning someone with both male and female sex organs, comes from the Greek tale of Hermaphroditus, son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who was born male but was fused together with a nymph called Salmacis. I realised through reading these stories that many of the myths about Greek Gods were created in order to explain phenomenons which people at the time did not understand due to their lack of knowledge of sciences and the world around them. As well as being the God of Hermaphrodites, Hermaphroditus also became the patron of androgynous people. In a way, therefore, this myth was an explanation at the time for men and women who perhaps did not completely comply with what we now know as gendered stereotypes and norms.

I realised through reading these stories that many of the myths about Greek Gods were created in order to explain phenomenons which people at the time did not understand due to their lack of knowledge of sciences and the world around them.

Other examples of this can be seen through the myths surrounding Apollo and Helios, who were the Gods of the sun. By creating these myths, the Greeks at the time were creating a way of understanding why the sun crosses the sky every day. Similarly, the tale of Persephone and Hades explains why we have seasons and the reason for the continuing cycle of birth and death in nature.

Although we know these myths are not true, there is something charming and clever about the notion that many of them were created to explain things that they didn’t understand at the time. I thought the myths were really interesting to read and are a reflection of the culture in Ancient Greece. Fry also added many different footnotes and funny comments which I felt was a nice touch and kept the reader engaged in the myths which can otherwise feel otherworldly (which in fact, they sort of are).

I am really looking forward to reading Fry's second novel, 'Heroes', which is about the myths surrounding the ancient Greek heroes such as Hercules and Achilles.

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