November books

The Aeneid- Virgil: Robert Fagles translation (physical book, new read)

‘’Robert Fagles’s latest achievement completes the magnificent triptych of Western epics. A sweeping story of arms and heroism, The Aeneid follows the adventures of Aeneas, who flees the ashes of Troy to embark upon a tortuous course that brings him to Italy and fulfills his destiny as founder of the Roman people. Retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, this powerful blend of poetry and myth remains as relevant today as when it was first written.’’ (The Aeneid synopsis)

I’ve never studied literature or classics so I definitely don’t get as much from books like this as others, however, I’ve finally binge read enough mythology retellings to be able to read and keep up with The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. I knew little about this book, but I found it interesting and fairly readable, although I did prefer the early chapters with Dido and the underworld, and I began to feel a bit restless by the end of the story as wars and battle scenes are not my favourite unless I’m extremely invested in characters. The most striking thing I did find was the parallels between ASOIAF, particularly Aeneas and Daenerys and to a lesser extent Jon (unsurprising as Dany/Jon’s stories parallel in themselves). I’m extremely interested in ASOIAF mythology parallels and already made a blog post about some Greek/Norse parallels if you’re interested 😊. I recently bought the illustrated Game of Thrones (I do enjoy wasting money hahaha) and I’d love to reread the series (maybe one character at a time?) analysing anything that interests me and looking for parallels. I think next year (woohoo goodbye 2020) I’ll definitely give this a go and incorporate it into some rambly blog posts in a way.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Do the gods light this fire in our hearts or does each man’s mad desire become his god?”

Pride and prejudice- Jane Austen (audiobook, reread)

‘’Pride and Prejudice is one of the most cherished love stories in English literature; Jane Austen’s 1813 masterpiece has a lasting effect on everyone who reads it. The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.’’ (Pride and Prejudice synopsis)

I read this in a very strange format, because I listened to Jen Campbell reading the book aloud. For those who don’t know, Jen is a writer with a youtube channel focusing on books. Over lockdown, she read Pride and Prejudice aloud and turned it into a youtube audiobook. This was a really interesting way to read this book! I’ve always loved the film, but I didn’t really have strong thoughts towards the book the first time I read it, around 6 years ago- I read wee bits at a time over a few months which made if feel a bit disjointed. I loved it a lot more this time around, I think with classics, audiobook can be the way to go for me to really bring the characters to life 😊. I’m sure everyone knows what this is about or has read it, but if you haven’t, I’d recommend giving it a go 😊. I love Lizzie as a character and the feminist themes throughout, particularly interesting due to the time period of the story. Also, not relevant to the book, but I’d recommend listening to the films score, especially ‘Your hands are cold’, it’s so beautiful.

Important/meaningful quote:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Great Goddesses: Life lessons from myths and monsters- Nikita Gill (physical book, new read)

‘’Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.’’
(Great Goddesses synopsis)

I read this at the start of the month and my memory is fading haha, but I found it interesting 😊. The writing style is lovely and I’m glad that I found it enjoyable as I don’t always love poetry. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, I’ve already stolen an idea to try and paint hahah. Again, it got me wanting to find more asoiaf parallels, such as Arya and Artemis, Stannis and Agamemnon. It’s a very engaging feminist retelling, however, there are trigger warnings for themes of rape and assault. The intention of these accounts is to shift the blame back to the men and Gods carrying out these horrific assaults, supporting woman to overcome trauma, however, it could nevertheless be triggering so it’s important to know going into the story. I would say, I enjoyed this book more before they started bringing the Goddesses into our modern world- apart from Percy Jackson, this seems to be a theme within my reading experiences of mythology, I don’t really enjoy reading about the Gods and Goddesses within the modern world.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Every woman is both match and spark, a light for each other from the dark.”

Athena’s Child- Hannah Lynn (physical book, new read)

‘’Gifted and burdened with beauty far beyond that of mere mortals, Medusa seeks sanctuary with the Goddess Athena. But when the lustful gaze of mighty Poseidon falls upon her, even the Temple of Athena cannot protect her. Young Perseus embarks on a seemingly impossible quest. Equipped with only bravado and determination, his only chance of success lays in the hands of his immortal siblings. Medusa and Perseus soon become pawns of spiteful and selfish gods. Faced with the repercussions of Athena’s wrath Medusa has no choice but to flee and hide. But can she do so without becoming the monster they say she is?’’ (Athena’s Child synopsis)

I can’t tell who this book was aimed for as it was interesting and fast paced but something about it felt young, it sometimes felt like YA but I’m not certain. Either way, it would be a good place to start in terms of myth retellings. This is a very glum story, but I enjoyed learning more about Perseus and his story (I knew quite a bit about Medusa already), particularly learning about his mother and I previously only knew what I’d read from Percy Jackson haha. I mentioned Jen Campbell earlier on, she has been discussing the use of disfigurement in characters as a negative trope being associated with ‘ugly’ or ‘evil’ characters, I’d recommend looking up her Instagram and reading her article. This is a very prevalent issue in stories and this book definitely equated disfigurement with ugliness and becoming evil or losing humanity in some way. This is not Lynn’s fault as this stems from early mythology itself, however, when retelling these stories, I think authors could be more conscious about this and use the opportunity to rewrite these tropes.

Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold- Stephen Fry (audiobook, new read)

‘’The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against that great city, to which they will lay siege for ten whole and very bloody years. The stage is set for the oldest and greatest story ever told, where monstrous passions meet the highest ideals and the lowest cunning. In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.’’ (Troy synopsis)

I loved listening to this, you can feel Fry’s interest in the subject and his enthusiasm makes it even better to listen to. This was my favourite listen of the trilogy as I’ve always been slightly more interested in the Trojan War and the people involved than the stories of the Gods alone (and I’ve never been particularly interested in the heroes, I can never seem to retain much info about Hercules/Heracles despite reading lots). This trilogy is definitely a great place to start with mythology and I enjoy the humour and input from Fry throughout. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading the story of the Trojan War, I enjoy the different perspectives of each writer and I was happy to see Achilles/Patroclus mentioned as lovers in this account as this is the version of their story that I prefer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I love that in every single myth retelling that I’ve read (including the Iliad), Patroclus is consistently a genuinely good compassionate person (there are few others that I can say the same about, except Briseis and some of the Trojan women).

Love lessons- Jacqueline Wilson (e-book, reread)

‘’Fourteen-year-old Prue and her sister Grace have been educated at home by their controlling, super-strict father all their lives. Forced to wear Mum’s odd hand-made garments and forbidden from reading teenage magazines, they know they’re very different to ‘normal’ girls – but when Dad has a stroke and ends up in hospital, unable to move or speak, Prue suddenly discovers what it’s like to have a little freedom.

Sent to a real school for the first time, Prue struggles to fit in. The only person she can talk to is her kindly, young – and handsome – art teacher, Rax. They quickly bond, and Prue feels more and more drawn to him. As her feelings grow stronger, she begins to realise that he might feel the same way about her. But nothing could ever happen between them – could it?’’ (Love Lessons synopsis)

I wanted to finish my nostalgic Wilson binge with another book that I loved as a child/teen. This is another of her older, darker books with themes of authoritative fathers (potentially verbally abusive) and heavily features a grooming type scenario between a 14 year old student and her art teacher. I’ve always found the tone of this book to feel far different from Wilson’s other books, you definitely get the sense of alienation Prue feels around others her age and the strain within her family and environments. Again, I appreciate Wilson’s approach to discussing heavy topics and would recommend this book if you enjoy her others.

Office Girl- Joe Meno (physical book, new read)

‘’Set in 1999 – just before the end of one world and the beginning of another – Office Girl is the story of two youths caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life. Odile is a lovely 23 year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a 25 year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious.’’ (Office Girl synopsis)

I don’t want to spend much time on this as I found it incredibly pretentious and want to roll my eyes even thinking back now. I can barely remember how it ended, the characters were manic-pixie dream girls and boys and the themes were so dull and pretentious, I bought this from a charity shop not knowing anything about it and the only reason I finished it is because it’s a quick read and I have a compulsive need to finish books haha. I’m genuinely getting annoyed thinking about it. I also mentioned the representation of disfigurement earlier, I can’t remember the specific quote but there was a disgusting comment from a character that was very anti-disfigurement. I would not recommend this book; I will be trying to forget it.

I hope you’ve been reading lots of good books recently, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and liked them! 😊 I’m currently on 91 reads this year so I now feel a compulsive need to reach 100 before 2021. I’ll see what happens because I’m lazy haha, but December is usually filled with childhood rereads. Anyway, Merry Christmas month!

A song of ice and fire Greek and Norse mythology parallels

I only really started learning about mythology by reading Greek myths and retellings last year, and one of the things I love to think about are parallels, particularly parallels between mythology and A Song of Ice and Fire. I LOVE asoiaf and game of thrones, reading the books in 2013 (I think I’ve read them two of three times since). I’m going off of memory and my still fairly limited knowledge of mythology- how can some of you retain so much information haha?- but I thought this would be a fun little place to ramble my thoughts about the (true or false) parallels I’ve observed. Please let me know of any you’ve thought of, this is honestly my favourite way to spend my time. I’ll also mention here, I know most about Greek mythology and a little about Norse but I haven’t spent time reading other world mythologies yet.

Greek Mythology

Trojan War/Roberts rebellion:

I’ve always had a basic knowledge of the trojan war (I think it’s just one of these things we all know about without knowing why), and when I read asoiaf the parallels between Roberts rebellion and the Trojan War struck me. I guess the rough similarities/roles would be Robert as Menelaus, Rhaegar as Paris, Lyanna as Helen, Ned as Odysseus and Catelyn as Penelope? I wondered about Agamemnon; Tywin strikes as a similar character with a similar part to play, but also has an Odysseus-like cunning and a sly part to play in the eventual ending of the War.  Rhaeger also reminds me a little bit of both Apollo and Achilles in personality depending on the depiction I’ve read 😊 The same variations of the story and perceptions of Helen/Paris and Rhaeger/Lyanna’s relationships are left to the reader and characters to perceive as they will.  I also love the cyclical nature of stories and the world that George R. R. Martin enjoys creating, interlinked with Greek and Norse stories. (I would like to say here, I believe GRRM to be a time traveling wizard, there is no other explanation for this masterpiece).

I’ve enjoyed thinking about the general parallels between the Targaryen’s and the recurring themes within Greek mythology- blood lust/madness, incest and the flip of the coin that seems almost fated from birth within the Targaryen blood lines. Daenerys also gives me a few little Helen vibes every now and again. I’ve also read theories linking Daenerys to Aeneas- I haven’t read the Aeneid yet but I’m really interested to look out for these themes when I do!

Again, I hadn’t yet noticed the parallels between Perspehone/Haydes and Sansa/Littlefinger, but since being pointed out it definitely makes lots of sense and I’ll be looking further into it 😊

When reading Song of Achilles, I thought about the character and role of Chiron and the maesters in Westeros- they play a very similar role for the ‘important’ characters, with traits of wisdom and knowledge of medicine, maintaining the knowledge, history and magic/myths of the worlds (particularly Chiron and Maester Aemon, I love both of their characters). The part that they play in almost keeping the balance of the worlds and guiding the characters reminded me of the elements of prophecy/sacrifice and ‘chosen one tropes’- I’m unsure if Jon’s life and ‘destiny’ are intentionally similar to Achilles in a number of ways? Ned hiding Jon’s identity for his safety, Thetis asking Achilles to hide among the daughters of Lycomedes and the eventuality of their essential part to play- and sacrifice of their own free will- in the Wars to save the world. I’m definitely going to look into this a lot more because I haven’t given it too much thought, but it really interests me. There are also lots of more general mini tropes like the depiction of Achilles/Patroclus as romantic couple (which I feel there’s lots of evidence for, I like this depiction), and the relationship between Renly and Loras (I watched two seasons of games of thrones before reading the books, I always wonder if I I would have known they were a couple in the books). Also, now I think about it Jon Connington’s feelings towards Rhaeger are quite similar to Patroclus and Achilles too.

Circe/Cersei:

Whilst reading Circe, I began to wonder if GRRM was intentionally inspired by Circe and took influence when visualising Cersei’s appearance and character. The depiction of Circe as the daughter of the God of son with a complicated father/daughter relationship and submission to the wishes of her domineering father is very similar to Cersei’s relationship to Tywin. Little things such as affinity to lions and the themes of gold/the sun can be seen. I’m taking everything I’ve read from the book ‘Circe’, but it appears that Circe was a loving, compassionate character who longed to be loved- the change in character of tendency for revenge occurred when this love was not returned- Glaucus chose Scylla and Circe became disillusioned and hardened. This is similar to Cersei’s account in her memories and depiction of her enthusiasm to marry Rhaegar. She instead spent years married to Robert who loved Lyanna. Both Circe and Cersei were raped, experiencing further horror, isolation and loneliness, driving the characters to their mistrust of men: in Circe’s case changing men to animals and in Cersei’s having Robert killed with poison (nice little Boar parallel thrown in). The exceptions to this hatred are Odysseus and Jaime, who both characters love and trust to an extent, becoming the father’s to Circe and Cersei’s children. Both characters refer to these children as the joy in their lives and become fiercely overprotective and wary. Circe becomes increasingly terrified that Athena will kill Telegonus whilst Cersei lives in constant fear of the valonqar prophecy resulting in the death of her children (didn’t actually realise how many parallels I noticed until writing this, very interested in other’s perspectives now). In a sense, Sansa’s characterisation and story is also very similar to Circe’s but this is to be expected as her story mirrors Cersei’s. Cersei also reminds me of Hera in a number of ways, with Robert portraying Zeus.

Norse mythology

I’m very new to learning about Norse Mythology and the vast majority of what I’m basing my knowledge on comes from Neil Gaiman’s book, but I was instantly struck by the Norse mythology universe and North of the wall.  The initial beginning of the world entirely mirrors Norse mythology- Odin defeating the frost giants to create a peaceful world with the knowledge that the world will one day end when they awaken is in complete synchrony with the long night and the building of the wall. Gjallarhorn or the ‘yelling horn’ are mirrored by the horn of Joramun and the inevitability that this story is going to be repeated. The wall was built to separate humans from north of the wall in the same way that the giant builder built the wall of Asgard. The long summers and Winters are very similar in both sources.

The happy, friendly and brave yet stoic individuals in the north- personified by Ned- display the same acceptance yet dread for the inevitable end to come with the words ‘Winter is coming’. The Norse Gods await the inevitable Ragnarok. I know that the mythical creatures from the dawn of time are also very similar with similar histories but I can’t remember enough to go into this, and I definitely need to look back at the history of Westeros (if you know what I’m rambling on about please feel free to enlighten me haha). I also wish I knew more about Odin, but I definitely see some parallels and characters with Ned and those beyond the wall from what I have read on Norse mythology. I enjoy thinking about the differences between the North and South of Westeros, with the dark harshness of the North and the beliefs that stem from the beginning of time- the Weirwood trees and the old Gods. Ned and Catelyn think about the difference between these Gods and the softer, ‘prettier’ and more decorative southern Gods- The North equates to ice and the South fire, both in Norse mythology and asoiaf. I like that these differences feel to me like the difference in tone between Norse mythology and Greek/Roman myths.

I’m very interested in the cyclical nature and patterns within the stories. In Norse mythology the the inevitable cycle of the world equates the Gods and humanity to chess pieces in a game- also prevalent themes in asoiaf.

‘That is how the worlds will end, in ash and flood, in darkness and in ice. That is the final destiny of the gods’.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

This quote sums up far more eloquently that I could the intense similarity in themes that are paralleled in asoiaf. There are also a whole lot of exciting parallels between Odin and the runes/tree of Yggdrasil and Bran/three eyed raven and the weirwoods/children of the forest that I am not very good at explaining but I will give it a go: Both Odin and Bran undertook a physical sacrifice to gain the knowledge required for their important roles in the ‘end of the world’- Odin sacrificing his eye and Bran losing his ability to walk. Odin can shapeshift into animals, and travel within his own and other memories, in the ways that Bran can similarly warg and is learning the depth of his powers and time dynamics at the end of his story in the books (so far). I feel that I need to understand Norse mythology to a far greater extent and reread asoiaf to make more sense of the parallels, but this was fun to think about (and I hope it was a little bit interesting to read haha). I’m also really excited to see where GRRM takes the story and Brans role as I feel there are many more exciting parallels to be seen (I refuse to believe that the final books will never be out, I need to know what happens and delete season 8 of game of thrones from my brain).

What a life I lead, I really got carried away here hahaha, but I honestly have the time of my life thinking about and writing things like this. Please please share any of your perspectives of parallels that you’ve seen, I’m incredibly interested! 😊 I’d also like to think more about parallels between asoiaf and fairy tales in the future (although I know that many fairy tales are derived from mythology) as well as the history of monarchs such as the tudors. I’ve heard that GRRM is very interested in and influenced by Scottish history so I’d love to find out more about that! I hope you’re all doing okay in the crazy times, thank you for reading this!