When we decide to make Myths and Legends the month’s topic, I wanted to write about the Greek myths and legends. Why? Because these stories are part of my cultural backbone. I even had to study them in high school.
Man has a powerful need to explain the unexplainable. We attribute human qualities to things that aren’t us. We do it often enough that the tendency has its own name – anthropomorphism. Ancient Greeks and Romans tried to control and understand the world around them by making natural phenomenon, and complex concepts like justice, medicine and war, into people. Well, more than people. Gods who were as flawed and petty as their hapless worshipers. The world around them was big and scary. Attributing the whims of the weather, or the path of your life to superior beings made the world understandable and brought some comfort. After all, if the Fates or the Furies were rearranging the thread of your life, how much were you really to blame for the bad things that happened? Even Hercules was the Furies’ play thing.
Our world was forever changed by these myths. Writers still look for our Muses.
Retellings – putting a new spin on a classic- are popular in just about every genre right now, especially the YA and fantasy markets. I think part of the reason is that we are still asking the same questions, and for lots of the same reason. Millionaires played fast and loose with other people’s money and destroyed their financial well-being. Companies traded paper as if it was gold, and the world economy shuttered and nearly collapsed when people stopped believing that paper had value. Seems a bit like the Fates and Furies messing with us. Natural disasters abound.
In one of my Greek Myth retellings, Apollo asks, “You call them earthquakes, tsunamis, and tornados. I call them Titans. Does it really matter? The point is the world’s in upheaval.”
So, why the love affair with Greek myths?
They are part of who we are. They show us where we came from and, maybe, where we’re going.
As writers, the Greek myths give us inspiration. By referring to them, we build resonance. By rewriting them, we remake the world we live in. Myths and legends let us tell stories about people and events that are greater than we are. They allow us to explore the world in a way we couldn’t otherwise. We can explore real problems with the veneer of that other place, another time. It’s safe to question how the world works in a myth. And it’s entirely human.