“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”Madeline Miller, Circe
D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths is one of the many books I had read to me as a child, and is a book I consider to be one of the most influential books of my childhood.
I LOVED this book. I loved it so much I labeled all the Gods as they sit on their thrones of Olympus in the first few pages. It was my seven-year-old way of ensuring that I, nor any other poor soul, would mistake Zeus for Poseidon or Hera for Hestia… because we all know how that would turn out (and for those of you who might not know, it’d probably result in having some sort of lightning rod thrown at your head. Let’s avoid that).
I remember being so entirely engrossed in these stories over and over again, going back through this book well after my dad had finished reading it to me when I was little. Every myth, from Narcissus to Paris and the Golden Apple, really imprinted on my young mind. These myths informed my ideas, my creativity, my moral compass, my fervor for reading and my perspective on life for years to come.
Of course, you can probably already assume that I was a big Percy Jackson girl; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book of the series. But what was even more fun about knowing these myths is that I could spot them everywhere: from the symbols on the outside of hospitals to recognizing origins in the nomenclature of Harry Potter spells and characters (yes, it goes that deep).
This book has some phenomenally beautiful illustrations, and each of its magnificent tales are not just for children, but for any reader who loves a wonderfully creative and vivid (and a little wacky) story, and stories that still retain the narrative depth and moral lessons from the height of their significance, nearly 2500 years ago. So I guess what I’m saying is, yes, these are for adults too!
The myth of Pandora’s box is one of my favorites. Pandora, according to myth, was the world’s first woman. When given a box one day as a gift from the Gods, Zeus demanded Pandora not to open it. Unfortunately, curiosity got the cat, and Pandora did indeed open the box, and unleash all the world’s evils, including greed, envy, slander, vanity… you name it, Pandora probably unleashed it. But her unleashed-box-entities also included love, and hope; so, Pandora didn’t do us that dirty. This particular story is just one element of the creation myths that the Greeks envisioned for their society, looking to it for not only an explanation of humankind’s flaws, but also the hope that remains ever-present in the face of these ills.
For those of you who think this particular story sounds very familiar, you are right to think so: the Biblical story of the Eve in Garden of Eden is very similar to Pandora’s. This is certainly no coincidence: many Biblical parables or stories are both directly and indirectly a result of mythological influence, whether our society likes to admit it or not. This connectivity only goes to show the relevance of early creation myths as they travel from society to society, and how they change in the process — a process that I have always found fascinating, like a kind of historical game of telephone. What a wild ride that must’ve been.
But most importantly, I believe that understanding the connectivity of our early beliefs to our modern ones provides a wonderfully rich space to ruminate upon the human condition, and all the flaws we’ve carried around from the first day of our homo-sapien lives — and the hope that comes along with them as well.