Greek Myths: Stories of Sun, Stone, and Sea

Written by Jane Ray Sally Pomme Clayton
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

Sally Pomme Clayton retells ten classic Greek myths, stories which, one way or another, have re-echoed in Western literature, music, poetry and theatre ever since.

There are stories of the gods involving themselves in human lives, such as the goddess Athena challenging the over-proud Arachne to a weaving contest – a warning against hubris.

There are the deeds of heroes, such as Perseus’s killing of the Gorgon Medusa. This is a series of stories within a story: Perseus, on pain of death, must bring the king of Argos Medusa’s head; first he asks the gods for help, and they give him a mirror-like shield, a helmet of invisibility and winged sandals. Then he must kill Medusa and take her head; this is dangerous because her look turns people to stone. On his way home, he saves the princess Andromeda from a dragon by turning it to stone. He then returns the gods’ gifts and claims Andromeda as his bride. As Sally Pomme Clayton says, human love is something the gods can never enjoy.

There are also tales of spirited girls like Atalanta who can run faster than all her unwanted suitors – until Melanion comes along and, with the help of the goddess of love, tricks her into losing concentration by rolling three golden apples in front of her.

The reader’s pleasure is greatly enhanced by Jane Ray’s subtly stylized illustrations which complement the stories perfectly.

I have been lucky enough to hear the author re-telling Greek legends in one of her storytelling performances before a spellbound audience. She uses the same storytelling technique in this book; the stories are plainly meant to be read out loud. I’m sure that children of 6 and up will be as enchanted as I was.