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Charlie Keith, Greek Mythology for Kids: Tales of Gods: Tales of Gods (Zeus, Titans, Prometheus, Olympians, Athena, Mankind, Pandora). Independently published MythStreet, 2017, 42 pp. Kindle edition
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Author of the Entry:
Ayelet Peer, Bar-Ilan University, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Lisa Maurice, Bar-Ilan University, email@example.com
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie Keith (Author)
Charlie Keith is a children’s author. No other information has been discovered to date.
Bio prepared by Ayelet Peer, Bar-Ilan University, email@example.com
This book is a self-published adaptation of stories for the Greek mythology aimed at children. The tone of the stories is light hearted and the introduction presents the book as follows: “This is a story about gods and the things they ate. Or maybe it’s a story about things and the gods they ate. It gets confusing after a while.” The introduction presents the ancient Greeks as a people who feared the gods, as the gods controlled natural elements, thus hinting at the origin of myths. The myths narrated in this book relate to the creation of the gods and men: Birth of Zeus; War with the Titans; Birth of Athena; Creation of Mankind (Athena helps Prometheus in cultivating human kind); Theft of Fire; Pandora’s box. The stories are narrated in easy and readable language, using slang phrases.
This book offers a retelling of various myths in a humorous tone and with a strong emphasis on eating as a motif. The narrator morally evaluated the actions of the gods, which he attributes to boredom. As he mentions, the gods “had no problems but the problems they made for themselves.” While the author does not offer a moral evaluation of the gods in the introduction, in the individual stories the author does express his opinion. For example, he names Zeus “a jerk”. Zeus, it is told, also “came from a long, illustrious line of jerks.” p. 1. It was Uranus who invented being a jerk in fact according to the story. Thus the author briefly and lightheartedly refers to the more horrid events of the titans and gods in a playful and slightly cynical manner, although this language might appear less appropriate for children. For example “being a jerk like his dad, Cronos was a man of simple tastes. His favorite things were looking at the sunset, drinking wine and eating his own children.” p. 2. This enables the author to almost nonchalantly refer to the brother-sister marriage of Cronos and Rhea and the murder of Uranus by Cronos. It is interesting though that the author describes the titans, and even refers to them as mortals (a “man”) and not as divine beings. The tale of Cronos eating his children explains the obscure remark at the introduction, about the things the gods ate, and make it clearer. The rest of the story follows the mythological narrative (adapted for children) of the Titanomachia and the various stories of the gods and the creation of men.
The author refers to the cycle of life through the fact that in the end Zeus repeated the bad behaviour of his father and grandfather, by “becoming a jerk” himself. Hence he explicates the Greek notion of fate and that fate cannot be avoided, yet in a tongue-in cheek way.
Zeus’ decision whether to eat Metis’ child also carries a moral dimension. Zeus fears the unborn child might start another war, so whether he eats the child or not, he (Zeus) would be in the wrong. Zeus’ solution is to devour his wife. Thus the eating motif is repeated.
Another recurring theme is revenge. The cycle of revenge affects Zeus, who believes that humankind was created by Athena as a scheme to dethrone him. This is a rather unique point of view regarding the relations between Zeus and Athena. Therefore there is a connecting theme between the stories, a cyclic narration of revenge and jealousy that motivates the gods. At the end of the story, the narrator explains that Prometheus was punished for stealing fire and his screams are the reason the wind howls at night. This is another reference to one of the question posed at the introduction (why the wind howls) so we can see the ring composition of the story, which returns to the beginning and answers the questions raised at the introduction. Referring to Athena as the creator of mankind is quite an unusual approach, which is not common in the retelling of the creation myth (this reviewer could not trace any ancient tradition which mentions it), where the creators are usually Prometheus and/or Zeus.
In the epilogue, the author briefly mentions the other Olympian gods and notes that, “It was thanks to – or maybe in spite of – these gods that humans thrived. With great effort they overcame the shadows that Zeus sent them in Pandora’s box”, p. 35. This is a more positive approach to the gods than was shown at the beginning of the story. However, the author refers to the conduct of men, who were negatively influenced by the gods, in a somewhat cynical remark: “They created great civilizations, and, having no other role model than their gods, they squabbled and warred for all sorts of silly reasons. Many of them admired Zeus and, aspiring to be like him, became jerks.” p. 35.
This almost casual ending remark refers to a cycle of violence, that begins with the gods and continues today, yet the moral is that those who acted “like jerks” did not lead a happy life eventually. Yet it is noteworthy that the author chooses to relate humankind’s wickedness to the gods, and not to innate human nature. While this does not mean that men are not responsible for their actions, it does convey a certain pessimistic fatalism, in that, in the end, the fate of the Greek gods and the human race is intertwined too much. As a result, mankind will continue to repeat the gods’ misconduct and violence. However, some will choose a different path.