I was recently asked why I chose to write a story based on Greek mythology. In Greek mythology, there is a powerful intersection between the imaginative tale and the personal narrative. Every story is centered around a character and his or her experience and journey. Even the epic tales with large casts reveal the characteristics of the individual, both their virtues and vices. Greek mythology is full of character-driven narratives. Parallel to the epic tales of infamous Greek heroes are Greek tragedies. Mythological characters are riddled with tragic flaws, even the best of them, and the Greeks don’t sugar coat these flaws. It makes them simultaneously more relatably real and symbolically anecdotal.
The fantastical creatures from mythology are as varied and compelling as the stories. Creatures such as nymphs, satyrs, centaurs, gorgons, sirens, winged horses, fiery cattle, creatures that are part human, or a combination of more than one animal, minotaurs, hydra, the Nemean lion, and many more. Often these creatures have personal narratives of their own as in the case of Medusa the gorgon; Kheiron, Eurytion, Pholus, and Nessus, all centaurs; the Minotaur in his labyrinth; and the Sphinx with her riddle. For the most part, these creatures are frequently cast as the villains, or merely as props to aid the hero on his quest.
Because of the oral tradition of ancient storytelling there are often multiple versions of each story told with different details. The details don’t always line up and occasionally directly contradict each other. These discrepancies are particularly apparent in the tales of the centaurs, especially since the accounts of Kheiron paint the centaur in a positive and honorable light as the trainer of Greek heroes, but nearly all of his kin are characterized as villains. Different narratives provide the imagination opportunity to fill in the blanks, in the case of the Sons of Apollo series, eventually a story was born. And not just a story, but a whole culture about why these creatures acted the way they did, and how their unsavory reputation was born.
Greece is also the birthplace of western culture and civilization. There is a rich history that overlaps the mythology in a way that juxtaposes reality and fantasy, providing a rich tapestry of raw material with which to entertain the imagination. The ancients’ love for their own stories led them to portray them in literature, art and architecture. To study the ancient civilization of the Greeks is to study the mythology and vice versa. The history and the mythology are intertwined. Greek mythology becomes a place where the line between the real and the imaginary begin to blur as if the two coexisted somewhere in the past. Like in the imagination, fantasy and reality could be one and the same. This blending of history and mythology lends credibility to the suspension of disbelief. It makes the imaginative seem more real.
So, why Greek mythology? It basically boils down to three things, the fascinating personal narratives of both creature and character, the opportunity to fill in the blanks by imagining more of the story, and the love of bringing the imagination to life through literature and art.
What do you love about Greek mythology? Share in the comments.