Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mythology vs. Reality

So, Bite Club members read a lot of fantasy, and we like some steamy romance from time to time, and we like the paranormal elements, right? So mythology seems like a natural fit as well. It has all of those elements- the drama, the super-human beings that get up to a lot of mischief and sexy times. For me, one of my favorite myths is Theseus and the Minotaur, and so I wanted to share with Bite Club one of my old, classic favorites in that genre. It's a two-part story that takes a look at the Theseus legend and history and says, "What might the legend have been based on, if Theseus was an actual person?"
The King Must Die, and The Bull From the Sea, by Mary Renault

 The King Must Die, Book Description:

 "The hero of this vivid and exciting novel is Theseus, a prince of ancient Athens. Taken as a slave to the island of Crete, he is condemned to certain death as a "bull dancer." But he abducts the sensuous Princess Ariadne and makes a daring escape.

Brave, aggressive, tough, proud and highly sexed, Theseus faces danger after danger and overcomes them all.

His adventures take him into a world of primitive orgies, sparkling jewels and gleaming bodies - and with Theseus you will live through the hot fights and swift, passionate loves of pagan times."

 The Bull From the Sea, Book Description:

"This second installment in the story of the legendary hero begins with Theseus' triumphant return from Crete after slaying the Minotaur.

Having freed the city of Athens from the onerous tribute demanded by the ruler of Knossos - the sacrifice of noble youths and maidens to the appetite of the Labyrinth's monster - Theseus has returned home to find his father dead and himself the new king. But his adventures have only just begun: he still must confront the Amazons, capture their queen, Hippolyta, and face the tragic results of Phaedra's jealous rage.

Piecing together the fragments of myth and using her deep understanding of the cultures reflected in these legends, Mary Renault has constructed an enthralling narrative of a time when heroes battled monsters and gods strode the earth."

These are oldies, but goodies. The King Must Die came out in 1958, and The Bull From the Sea followed in 1962. But they have always been two of my favorite books ever. I think it's because they manage to capture the intrigue of mythology and the drama and excitement of these more-than-human characters, but also satisfy my nerdy desire to understand history and make sense of myths. This Theseus is not truly a demi-god, but a man driven by desire to find his place and his destiny. The encounters he has with monsters aren't literal, but they are just as harrowing and thrilling. Theseus becomes a more real character, but trust me, that doesn't make him less interesting. He's still heroic but flawed, over-sexed, and ultimately tragic. And although the books are grounded in the real world, they read much like action, thriller and romance. 

So, if you haven't seen them before, these might be books you want to check out. I have loved them, and not only have I read them, I have read and re-read them over and over. Even after 50 years, these books still have the power to hold the reader captive.


Cylver said...

I know I've said this before, but I wanted to thank you for occasionally showcasing older books along with the newer releases. It's a great way to remind us of something we may of missed out on the first time around!

SkyRhino said...

Thanks, Cylver!