In February I wrote a review of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. As a response somebody recommended reading Stephen Fry’s Mythos. The books are similar in concept. Both retell the old myths of European polytheistic religions. But just as the civilisations of Ancient Greece and Scandinavia were strongly contrasted, Fry and Gaiman’s individual styles turn their retelling of the old stories into truly separate titles. Despite their differences I have come to view the books as companion texts. So much so that they rest together on the book shelf.
If you’re unfamiliar with the exploits of the Pantheon who sit on Mount Olympus then Mythos is a strong place to start. You could try your hand at Homer and the other Greek poets but if you are anything like me then it’s good to start with the basics. Fry’s interpretation covers a comprehensive exploration from the beginning of time and the birth of each God to minor folk stories about the transformation of certain mortals into spruces. The breadth of anecdotes within the book is as impressive as the ancient Greek’s achievements. Potentially the largest benefit of having smorgasbord of stories to choose from is that you can open the book at almost any point and start reading. Just like the myths themselves there is an origin that emerged from chaos but from there the book can enjoyed outside of a chronological order.
If you’re unfamiliar with Stephen Fry as a media personality then he is mostly credited as a Renaissance man with a considerable pool of knowledge and a linguistic flair. His familiar skill with language and interest in etymology underpins the style Mythos. The text is littered with extra information that explains how the stories have influenced modern English, science as well as segues into other reading material. Fry’s passion for Greek mythology helps his interpretation shine. This level of detail and some of the more adult themes may make the book unsuitable to particularly young readers. However, the text is ideal for anyone from young adults to those settled in retirement.
Overall, I would recommend picking up a copy of Mythos. It’s the kind of book that you can recall a tale, return to the bookshelf and refresh yourself with the story again. There’s something comforting about rereading myths and legends and I think a retelling is essential in every personal library. Now the dust covers have been removed, Fry’s Mythos and Gaiman’s Norse Mythology will sleep on my shelf for a long time to come.