Greek Mythology Retellings

Apparently Greek mythology retellings seem to be the hype these days. For centuries, these legends have been passed on through ballads, plays, epics, novels and even in the form of bedtime stories told by grandparents. However, in the backdrop of postmodernism, ancient myths are acquiring a new form and shape that brings into focus the ‘Greek Gods & Kings’ as feeling beings. We at Daastan are here to bring you the best of Greek mythology retellings.

What are mythology retellings?

Most of us grew up watching historical and live action movies like Helen of Troy, 300: Rise of an Empire, Hercules and Percy Jackson. But looking back at those, a sudden realisation strikes us. The conventional storytelling of Greek mythology often leaves out an important part – representation of ‘Greek deities’ apart from the bloodshed and scheming of wars. There is so much more that needs to be explored when learning about ancient greeks. Therefore, in the recent decades a new genre has emerged that does the job of reimagining Greeks in a completely new light. For instance, new-day Greek mythology retellings are exploring the friendship between Patroclus and Achilles.

Circe

Circe is the story of the daughter of Helios, the greek god of sun and mightiest of the Titans. The book follows the life of Circe among Gods and mortals and how she sets on the journey of finding herself. Unlike other children of the Gods, Circe is considered to be a misfit and a powerless girl. Disheartened, she comes to the Earth to live among the mortals. It is where her story begins, the one where she gets to write her own fate. While living among the mortals, Circe begins to tap into the never-drying well of her own powers.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
Madeline Miller, Circe

In addition, Circe is a retelling with strong feministic themes that acknowledges and appreciates the struggles of women. It also encourages them to find their own voice in this land of Gods and men.

mythology retellings
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Children of Jocasta

Whenever we have heard about Jocasta in Greek Mythology, it has been under the shadow of the King of Thebes or Oedipus. If you have read the original stories, Oedipus Rex and Antigone, you know how the female characters are overlooked. However, in this version of the story Jocasta along with other female characters steps out of the shadows.

“When you have grown up as I have, there is no security in not knowing things. In avoiding the ugliest truths because they can’t be faced…Because that is what happened the last time, and that is why my siblings and I have grown up in a cursed house, children of cursed parents.”

Moreover, in the Children of Jocasta, Natalie Haynes unravels a completely new aspects of the Theban Plays. Retellings like this that shift the dynamics of power in the plot attest to the beauty of diversity. Furthermore, it shows how the change of perspective completely changes the consequence of a single word, action or an event.

mythology retellings
The Children of Jocasta – Natalie Haynes

The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” checks all the boxes when it comes to being a bestseller. It is brave, passionate, gripping, heartwarming and tragic – all at the same time. The Song of Achilles is retelling of Homer’s Iliad. It follows the story of Achilles son of the sea goddess Thetis and King Peleus and Patroclus, the exiled prince. But what’s unique about this version is that it stays true to essence of Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship as soul mates.

“There are no bargains between lion and men. I will kill you and eat you raw.”
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

Moreover, the gradual and intricate character development of both Achilles and Patroclus makes the reader invested in this retelling from the very first page.

mythology retellings
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

A Thousand ships

Next on our list is “A Thousand Ships” by Natalie Haynes. This book is another retelling that centres around greek women. It is because for centuries, the legends have been told from the perspective of men. But do we ever think about what happens to goddesses and women when gods and men go to war? What of their sacrifices and struggles in the rise and fall of empires? To answer all these questions, dive in to “A Thousand Ships”.

“From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.”

mythology retellings
The Thousand Ships – Natalie Haynes

Ariadne

Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the Minotaur’s hoofbeats and bellows reverberate from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. Every year, the Minotaur, Minos’ greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother, demands blood. Ariadne falls in love with Theseus, Prince of Athens, when he comes to Crete as a sacrifice to the beast. But assisting Theseus in killing the monster means betraying her family and nation. Therefore, Ariadne knows all too well that in a world controlled by mercurial gods, attracting their attention may be costly.

Ariadne offers a voice to the overlooked women in one of the most well-known Greek stories, emphasising their bravery in the face of wrathful Gods. This is an amazing debut work, beautifully written and absolutely engaging.

mythology retellings
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

“Will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus assure her a happy ending in a society where women are little more than puppets of powerful men? Or will she be used as a pawn in her lover’s ambition?”

We hope you enjoyed our rundown of the Greek Mythology Retellings. For more literary goodness, stay tuned!

Noor Hashmi
Noor Hashmi is a student of literature at Numl University. She is an aspiring poetess. She runs a blog by the name of “Diaries of Huda” sharing her journey through poetry. In her free time, she loves to paint and bake.

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