Greek Myths

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Greek Myths


Byline: By DUNCAN HIGGITT Western Mail

Before Harry Potter, the Matrix, Star Wars and even Lord of the Rings, there was a cycle of stories so great that they have become the most important influence on Western storytelling and literature. These days, you are most likely to hear the heroes and tragedies of Greek myths quoted by some intellectual as they strive to explain the rigours of their bookish lives. But here at We Love, we think you shouldn't be put off by someone who went to Oxford or Cambridge because these are cracking good yarns.

Yes, you can read all kinds of messages into the works, and we are sure they were purposed in that way, but sometimes you need to put your brain on a shelf and enjoy a good old-fashioned tale.

Just look at the roll call of characters - Hercules, Theseus, Pegasus, Jason and the Argonauts, Pandora, not to mention the gods like Zeus, Hera, Apollo, and Mercury. Then there are the terrifying villains - Medusa and the Gorgons, the Minotaur, the Kraken, the Harpies, Cerberus, Cyclops and the Hydra. And this is before we even get to Homer and Achilles, Ajax, Agamemnon, Hector, Odysseus, Paris and Helen.

Greek myths have put literally hundreds of names into our consciousness, and these names are referenced in everything from Father Ted - Bishop Brennan's classic comment when the eternally drunk Father Jack comes round: 'Ah, the Kraken awakes' - to a company that fit burglar alarms: everyone must have heard of a Pegasus Securities?

I can still remember the book, Greek Mythology, bought with birthday money from my local bookshop when I was around eight years old. I had just got out of dinosaurs and was looking for a new obsession. In that book's 300-odd pages (simplified for a younger audience, no Tennyson here) were all the heroes mentioned above, and how they blew me away.

The stories and actions were so great that you could take it in turn to have a different hero every month. So in July, me and my brother would be beating Gorgons and freezing sea monsters, and in August we would be creeping very, very carefully through a labyrinth not in some East Sussex forest but hundreds of miles away on hot, dusty Crete.

I think, on the balance, Hercules was a constant favourite (although I never played my games as him, he was far too big to imitate). Not only was he good at whacking people with clubs, he also used his brains on occasions, like the cleansing of King Augeas' stables. …

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