One of my favorite books growing up was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths by Ingri D'Aulaire and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire. The funny thing about it, I never read it. I flipped through and made up my own stories with the illustrations or drew the characters like the D'Aulaires. Their illustrations look like pencil drawings filled in with coloring crayons.
In Ann Turball’s book, Greek Myths, she explains that her father loved the old stories and shared them with her. His favorites were the stories of Homer, but she was partial to Pan.
“I was captivated by Pan and by the mysterious nymphs, fauns, and satyrs, the spirits of woods and streams. I liked the way they could change shape, go from woman to tree, god to river, so that life and nature became one.”
Turnball continues, “To the ancient Greeks, the whole land – rocks, trees, rivers, caves, springs – was alive and inhabited by nature spirits. Tmolus was a god but also a mountain. Arethusa, a nymph with human form, could turn into a stream and emerge as a new spring. Pegasus, the winged horse, created springs with a stamp of his hoof. Hades lived in the Underworld and burst forth from fiery fissures in the earth.”
In Turball’s book, she tells the stories in a timeline fashion. She says that many stories standalone like Archne, but others flow into the next like a continuing episode such as Minotaur leading into Ariadne on Naxos.
My favorite is her retelling of “Phaethon and the Chariot of the Sun.” Phaethon finds out he is the son of the sun god, Helios, but his friends all call him a liar. In order to prove his lineage, he leaves Ethiopia and travels east to where the sun rises.
Once Helios sees Phaethon, he knows without a doubt that is his son. Celebration ensues, but Phaethon feels unsatisfied. He begs his father to allow him to chariot his horses through the heavens where everyone will see him and know he is the son of Helios.
Helios agrees but regrets it instantly knowing the horses will be too strong to control. As the story goes, Phaethon cannot control the chariot and the chaos sets both the heavens and the earth aflame. Zeus steps in and kills Phaethon before he destroys the world. In his guilt, Zeus raises the dead Phaethon to the heavens where he is known as the Charioteer constellation.
I bet Ann Turnbull loves the D'Aulaires' book, too. Wonder if she drew any of the gods or goddesses?