Retelling timeless tales

Did you know that there is a series of amazing books which are rpenelopiad-book-cveretellings of mythical tales, each by a famous author?  I didn’t either!  But I came across the “Myth Series” while looking for something else, and was blown away.   The story of Penelope by Margaret Atwood?  The story of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson?  COOL!  The authors are international in scope, and were given the charge to tell the story any way they wanted to.  The publisher, Canongate Books, calls it “the most ambitious simultaneous worldwide publication ever undertaken,” but I just call it a really great idea with riveting (and well-reviewed) results. Here are just a few of the titles:

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood: This is the imagined tale of Penelope, the wife who patiently waits for her husband Odysseus as he travels the world on his odyssey—or does she?  And his return looks a little different through Penelope’s eyes than it did through her husband’s.

weight-by-jeanette-winterson-book-coverWeight by Jeanette Winterson: Atlas has been condemned to hold the world on his shoulders for all time, but gets a respite from the task just once; Heracles offers to take up the burden if Atlas will get him the golden apples.  What would it feel like to suddenly be free of the weight of the world?  Winterson explores this and other aspects of the tale, complete with an appearance by the cosmonaut dog Laika.

Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis by Ali Smith: The tale of Iphis was originally told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, and he would surely recognize this update of his gender-bending fantasy, set by Smith in our contemporary corporate world.  At the same time as updating Ovid, Smith pokes sly fun at that world and its consumerism, and points out the power of metamorphosis in our own lives.

Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith: Angus is the son of a Celtic god and a water nymph, and not surprisingly he has his own special powers- he gives dreams.  In this warm, light-hearted telling of his story, we see his unusual childhood, and, later, his way of transforming the lives and loves of our confused modern-day people.  ~ Ann G.

2 thoughts on “Retelling timeless tales”

  1. I’m reading a book called that might fit into this category: Truly Grim Tales, by Priscilla Galloway. It’s a collection of fairy tales such as the story of Rumplestiltskin retold from the perspectives of antagonists and incidental characters, with fascinating motives attributed to the familiar actions of better known characters. It reminds me of the Gregory Maguire books–Wicked, Son of a Witch, etc. Very Fun!

    Thanks for the suggestions of books I can leap to when I’m done with this one.

  2. I love this series. There is another one based on Theseus, wonderfully titled “THE HELMET OF HORROR!”, by Victor Pelevin – who, generally has a knack for titles, having also written “Buddha’s Little Finger” and “A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia.” Yeh, I’m a sucker for a good title.

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