Myth in Modern Writings


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Myth in Modern Writings

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Apr 13, 2010, 7:00 pm

Does anybody have an allusion to myth in modern writing to talk about??

Apr 13, 2010, 9:22 pm

What sort of allusion do you mean, and what sort of myth? There are plenty of books featuring ancient mythology, like Gods Behaving Badly, Oh. my. Gods., The Lightning Thief, Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire, Till We Have Faces, etc.

There are also plenty of invented mythologies, mostly in fantasy books... and combos like American Gods or The Sandman.

Apr 13, 2010, 9:27 pm

Oh, yes, sorry. I meant Greek myth and EGyptian myth for this post. :D

Apr 14, 2010, 5:00 am

Well, for one James Joyce's Ulysses a novel in which the characters and situations were modeled after those of The Odyssey by Homer. Also, the obvious, Sigmund Freud comes to mind with his theories based on several Greek myths such as Oedipus and Electra. Camus wrote an essay titled Sysiphus' Plight A soul in Hades condemned to carry a heavy rock up a mountain for eternity, only for it to fall back down and having to carry it up again. He compares this punishment with the human situation. There's also an anthology of poems titled After Ovid penned by several poets and all retelling stories from Ovid's Metamorphosis

Apr 14, 2010, 12:09 pm

There is an Argentinian novel by Humberto Costantini named The Gods, the Little guys and the Police, which came out in English translation in 1984.

It was a humorous novel which ascribed nasty or random actions of politicians to their acting like Roman gods. This was the time of the disappearances.

There is a similar novel, The Great Indian Novel, written by Shashi Tharoor, which ascribes actions of 20th century Indian politicians to the figures found in the Mahabharata.

Edited: Apr 15, 2010, 10:43 am

>3 iaia852:
Ffortuna mentioned Till We Have Faces in post #2, which is, in fact, a re-telling of the Cupid/Psyche myth.

Another retelling, this time of the Odessy from the point of view of Odesseus' wife, is Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad.

Edited to point touchstone to right work

Apr 14, 2010, 3:32 pm

My Orpheus research has led me to a couple about him:

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie - its a pretty obscure allusion to Orpheus and Eurydice
Gregory Orr wrote a lyric sequence about Orpheus and Eurydice, and of course the touchstone is not working but it is in my library.
The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh is a kids book, but still good.

For some humor: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

Black Ships by Jo Graham is a story of Troy
Another one is Troy by Adele Geras - which is also in the kids section I believe

Edited: Apr 14, 2010, 7:09 pm

One of Jorge Luis Borges' stories uses the Minotaur myth.

I looked up the story name: The House of Asterion.

Apr 14, 2010, 5:01 pm

Theseus and his search for a father - and discovery that he is royal (and demi-god) - is a theme that shows up again and again, from King Arthur to Luke Skywalker.

Apr 14, 2010, 8:08 pm

I just checked, and I only have to wait until May 4 for the new Rick Riordan series on Egyptian myths, The Kane Chronicles

Apr 14, 2010, 8:50 pm

Not Greek or Egyptian, but Mickey Zucker Reichert's Renshai fantasy novels are loosely based on Norse mythology.

Apr 15, 2010, 12:21 am

Speaking of Norse myths, Tolkien based his The Lord of The Rings on Teutonic mythology. This is explained in detail by David Day in his book Tolkien's ring with breathtaking illustrations.

Edited: Apr 15, 2010, 10:23 am

There is a series by Sherrilyn Kenyon called the Dark-Hunters that has the greek gods in it as well as references to other mythologies in it. If you don't mind some romance, it's really good.
If you are looking for some more uncommon mythologies though like the celtic mythology, then Karen Marie Moning is more in that area.
These two are better at creating fiction around fact than other authors that I have read the works of.

Edited: Apr 15, 2010, 12:18 pm

In the SciFi world, there are Dan Simmons' Illium and Olympos. Very interesting take on both myths, these novels (they are a set) also explore the power of imagination in myth-making, with heavy reliance on Shakespeare and Proust. I loved them all (meaning the two novels, Proust and Shakespeare).

Apr 15, 2010, 1:22 pm

Earlier novels of Dan Simmons, the four Hyperion and Endymion novels, harp back to John Keats, but these are inspired by Greek myths, particularly from the age of the titans.

Apr 15, 2010, 9:16 pm

The success of The Lightning Thief may have had something to do with this, but I'm seeing a lot of children's and young adult books loosely based on Greek/Roman mythology, as well as retellings of myths -- Pandora Gets Vain and sequels (lighthearted take on Pandora for elementary readers), Radiant Darkness (retelling of the Persephone myth for teens), Nobody's Princess and Nobody's Prize (about Helen of Troy's girlhood) . . . to name just a few.

Also, I believe Rick Riordan (author of The Lightning Thief) is doing a series on Egyptian mythology next, starting with The Red Pyramid -- it will be interesting to see if that sparks a lot of Egyptian-themed read-alikes for kids and teens.

Apr 16, 2010, 7:45 pm

I'm reading ((Douglas Adams)) novel (The dark tea time of the soul) which has the Norse gods as protagonists. It's great and features the essential Adams philosophy of the interconnectedness of all things.

Apr 17, 2010, 12:53 am

charmella: use square brackets instead of parentheses to get your touchstone. Dark Tea Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams.

Apr 17, 2010, 7:37 am

Hey, I just remembered to briefly mention to you guys that I'm doing a non profit organization making kids learn to read English in Brazil for the 2016 olympics. Because of this I need easy children's books to construct a library. If any of you have children's books and would like to donate reply here or at my email:

Edited: Apr 17, 2010, 12:29 pm

The ones I own:

* Peter David's Darkness of the Light (some mythological creatures as races in a sci-fi/fantasy setting);
* Robina Williams's "Quantum Cat" series: Jerome and the Seraph, Angelos and Gaea (comedy mixing Greek gods, Christian angels and saints, and quantum physics)
* John C. Wright's "Chronicles of Chaos" series: Orphans of Chaos, Fugitives of Chaos and Titans of Chaos (sci-fi/fantasy where the Greek gods are real, are somewhat explainable through physics, but physics itself is a character trait: some are governed by the Aristotelean one, others by the Newtonian one, others by the Relativistic one, and so on and so forth);
* And Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" fantasy comedy series, which draws heavily (and parodies) lots and lots of fantasy clichés, including the Greek gods.

May 23, 2010, 1:33 pm


Thanks for the heads up! I think I'm going to check out that book today.

Anybody else know good sources for Egyptian mythology? Translations of ancient sources would be of great interest to me too.

May 24, 2010, 3:06 pm

I know quite a bit about scholarly tomes on Egyptian mythology - I'm studying egyptology at university at the moment. I'm less familiar with 'popular' books on Egyptian myth, though Barbara Mertz's books on ancient Egypt are fun, less serious reads.

The most popular and well known translations of Egyptian texts (including mythological ones) are Miriam Lichtheim's Ancient Egyptian Literature (Three volumes). They get the general point across, though Lichtheim can be a bit liberal at times with her translations.

A good general (though again, scholarly) overview of Egyptian religion is Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practices by Byron Shafer (ed.).

These are all pretty general though. Is there anything more specific you're interested in? I've read a lot on the subject over the years.

Nov 21, 2010, 12:17 pm

What comes to mind is that 1960's Brazilian movie "Black Orpheus" which takes place in the slums of modern Rio de Janeiro. It is from the play Orfeu da Conceicau by Vinicius de Moraes which was inspired from the story of Orpheus and Euridice.

Nov 21, 2010, 10:00 pm

Are you brazilian your self?

Nov 22, 2010, 5:15 pm

No. I am Cuban. Different country, different language. I researched Black Orpheus because it impressed me when I saw it. Besides, I love Brazilian music.

Jul 8, 2011, 12:23 am

I just read a mystery set in modern Greece that uses mythology very cleverly. The author creates a mythological allusion that's integrated into the whole book and deeply relevant to the plot and themes. It's called The Taint of Midas For a review

Edited: Jul 29, 2011, 5:01 pm

Bernard Malamud's A New Life uses the myth* of the Garden of Eden (Bible: Genesis) in what I regard as an one of the few
allegories in 20th century novels.
The hero (or is he "anti-hero?) Seymour# Levin is the Serpent. His love, Pauline, is Eve.
The Chairman of the English Dept.,who dies early in the novel, is God. I suppose this is a nod to Nietzscne and/or to the
"God is Dead" theory of that era, ( A New Life was published about 1961.) The most-satirized character, Pauline's husband**, who takes over from "God" as
Chairman of English, represents Adam. This probably represents human beings (Adam) taking Godʻs place. But, inept though"God" was, this doensʻt depict Humanity as much of an improvement.
In the denoument of this
version of "Adam-and-Eve", Adam doesn't get to keep Eve; the Serpent gets her, but ,at the end of the novel, is already having second thoughts about their relationship.

*myth: at least I suppose most critics would regard it as Myth; I don't mean that any critics are supporting my interpretation given here.
# Seymour: He prefers to be known as "S. Levin"-- another' indication of his being identified with the Serpent of Genesis.

** I've forgotten his name, and that of his bureaucrat-predecessor, the "God" character,

Jul 10, 2011, 4:06 pm

Living Next Door to the God of Love by Justina Robson...on my TBR list and looks to be entertaining.

Jul 29, 2011, 11:27 am

Gene Wolfe's Latro in the Mist does a brilliant job of incorporating myth in his story of a Roman mercenary in the Greece/Persian wars who, because of a head injury, can see ghosts and talk to gods. Check out the reviews on the work page for details.