Friday, March 13, 2009

Mary Renault's Greek Standard

Just curious for comment land’s perspective – have you read any of Mary Renault’s Greek books? Aside from her passion for Alexander, she was highly acclaimed fifty plus years ago for taking tales such as Theseus and the Minotaur and retelling the old myths without the supernatural. In other words, she explained away all the fanciful elements.

It’s a matter of preference, I suppose, but I can’t help but think that Ms. Renault stripped out the most beautiful pieces of the old tales. The immortals and monsters embodied the rawest fears and beliefs of the ancient Greeks. It seems a shame to me to not utilize this poetic imagery into one’s story. Granted, a stigma against ‘fantasy’ prevailed back in her day.

Ms. Renault's books tend to be the standard for contemporary Greek fiction to which all new Bronze Age works are measured. Would you agree? We’ll have to talk more on Ms. Renault later.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry – for deleting above, trying here to clarify my thoughts.
    Personally, I did not care for Mary Renault's story of Theseus. Her "Bull from the Sea" was hard reading for me because I do not see the story as seriously as she did. Granted, in my own novel of Theseus (still in draft), I too provide a logical explanation for the myth, but still maintain - and even expand on some of the fantasy.

  3. Hey Marty, I knew you would have read Renault. I agree that her works are hard reading. Unfortunately, I think she's influenced most people on how they approach the Greek Dark Age. Most seem to follow her approach of explaining away rather than tackle the immortals.

    In my mind, adding the immortals is almost historical fiction (versus fantasy) in a sense because they were a firm part of Greek life. For the old Greeks, it really was what they believed and how they explained events. Well, even if they didn't believe, it still makes for a great tale.