Monday, August 6, 2012

Homer's The Odyssey: a retelling for children

So it turns out this story-telling thing that our lil' ol' shop is filled with has been going on for THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF YEARS! Some stories are so old that we can't be certain who wrote them, but so popular that people devote their entire life's work to finding out more about them.

The Odyssey, is one such story. Or rather I should say collection of stories, or more precisely one such epic poem from ancient Greece. It is credited to the ancient Greek poet Homer (doh! Not Simpson), however there is some speculation that perhaps he just retold stories that were already in existence, passed on through oral traditions, and further speculation that perhaps no such man existed at all. Assuming that he did however, it is believed that this is he:
(personally I can see why his existence is doubted, this guy is made of marble.....)

In any case, someone must have committed this poem to paper (or stone, or a scroll of parchment or what-have-you), because it is still around and considered to be one of the earliest and most influential pieces in the tradition of western literature. So influential in fact, that even if this is the first time you've heard of Homer and Odyssey, you probably know something of the stories, Gods and monsters that he wrote about (Cyclops much? Sirens anyone? Creepy....)

It is unsurprising that we don't have all the facts about its author and origin, considering that it is believed to have been composed roughly around 1188 B.C.....that is a loooooonnng time ago.
So long ago that the dating process of the poem was done by scientists who measured the events in the story-such as the destruction of the city of Troy and the astronomical phenomena mentioned in the stories (assuming they're not fictional) to come up with the estimate. And by that I mean when a character makes a statement as vague and poetic as "The sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world", they went looking for a solar eclipse to coincide with war on Troy... now that's dedication!

Now, you can click here to read Odyssey, and it's predecessor, Iliad on the internets, but they are long and there aren't very many pictures (none, actually), which brings me (finally) to my point, which is that writer Gillian Cross and artist Neil Packer have created a stunning retelling of the original stories, accompanied by wonderfully vivid artworks to bring these ancient stories to life. And we at the sun bookshop, have copies of it!

These stories sure are well worth reading. If you've grown up in Australia, reading western stories and watching modern movies, chances are you've come across some of these stories already. Greedy sailors, fearsome cyclops', daring escapes, unsuitable suitors, vengeful Gods and the worst luck in the whole world, the adventures of the hero Odysseus have it all and more.

Hopefully I've piqued your interest, so now you can come on in and see what all the fuss has been about this past 3 thousand years.....

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