by Zack Goutzoulas
Mythos is a superb retelling of the most famous Greek myths. Stephen Fry takes these well-known tales and tells them in a way that manages to feel both fresh and exciting, while remaining accessible so that no prior knowledge of Greek mythology is required.
By covering a wide variety of myths—from the creation of the universe and the birth of the gods, to tales of humanity and the journeys of heroes—Mythos is an excellent introduction to Greek mythology. While the book makes a clear attempt to order the stories by a rough timeline, they are more often than not grouped by theme. This structure makes it easy to pick up and read almost any section of Mythos at any time, without needing to read from beginning to end.
Included in the book are beautiful images depicting myths as they were told in ancient times. These images include vases, paintings, statues and other similar artefacts, each of which is accompanied by a short description of what is shown. There is something truly magical in being able to experience these myths in the same way as their original audience, and it is these added touches which help to bring the myths to life.
Given Fry’s comedian status, Mythos is wonderfully funny throughout. Even when covering more dark and sinister tales, Fry’s prose remains consistently charming, witty and full of personality, giving the novel an energy many other retellings simply lack.
However, while Mythos serves as both an excellent entry point into the world of Greek mythology, and a delightful experience for those more familiar with it, it does lack any real analysis. While the retellings are very good, Fry distances himself from the myths and fails to examine them beyond surface level. While this does help the book’s pacing, it also feels somewhat shallow at times. As a result, Mythos offers little new for those more familiar with Greek mythology.
Be warned that Fry heavily uses footnotes which can be somewhat distracting, especially when used mid-sentence. They are often used to explain things not completely relevant to the overall ‘plot’ of the myths. Luckily, they’re a minor inconvenience and can be ignored if you tend to find footnotes distracting.
Overall, Mythos is a great way to experience Greek mythology. If you’re looking for something deeper, that really analyses and explores the myths beyond the stories they tell, you might be disappointed. But, if you’re simply looking for a fun, charming tale of the ancient Greek world, full of wit and humour, Stephen Fry perfectly delivers.