My goodness I love the Greeks. Even studying them at school didn’t put me off, in fact I chose to study the Greeks when I got to sixth form college. We had a dusty, corduroy wearing teacher who knew everything about what the Greeks got up to. This was quite a rare thing to stumble upon in the further education field of Lancashire which wasn’t exactly Eton.
Regardless I found it way more fascinating than all that depressing World War II stuff we did in History, no – Classics was all about the art, the architecture, the pottery, the plays and of course the myths.
I still marvel at how they came up with them all, so perfect in their brevity and insight into the human condition, so thrilling to hear with their unexpected twists and turns. That’s not even to mention the characters, the heroes, the Gods, the Goddesses who are invariably huge and flamboyant, always ready for the most twisted of adventures. I’m definitely the kind of person that likes to imagine I’m somehow part of it and I most definitely like to draw inspiration from it.
Apparently I’m not the only young adult writer who likes to do so. Harry Potter is supposedly full of Greek references, there’s the whole Percy Jackson the Lightening Thief series which brings the Gods into the modern-day. Not to mention one of my favorites from Philip Pullman with the His Dark Materials Series.
Philip Pullman spent twelve years before publishing his first novel teaching Greek mythology by telling his students stories of the Gods and heroes including oral versions of the Iliad and Odyssey. This is what he says about this period in this life:
“the real beneficiary of all that storytelling wasn’t so much the audience as the storyteller. I’d chosen—for what I thought, and think still, were good educational reasons—to do something that, by a lucky chance, was the best possible training for me as a writer. To tell great stories over and over again, testing and refining the language and observing the reaction of the listeners and gradually improving the timing and the rhythm and the pace, was to undergo an apprenticeship that probably wasn’t very different, essentially, from the one that Homer himself underwent three thousand years ago.”
Wow. The classical references in his trilogy are clear – the name of the heroine Lyra for instance, comes from the Greek instrument the lyre and it is also the name of a small constellation which was shaped after the legendary poet Orpheus.
There’s also the Hunger Games which was openly inspired by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur which tells of how in punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to Crete where they were thrown in the Labyrinth and devoured by the monstrous Minotaur.
The idea for my first book Dovetail Diaries came straight from a Greek myth about the brother and sister God/Goddess team Apollo and Artemis. It’s a tale of jealousy about the one and only time Artemis ever fell in love.
I’d say I’m very thankful to my dusty old Classics teacher for introducing me to the intoxicating world of ancient myth and legend. For me the Greeks are now and probably always will be an endless source of fascination.