Greeks, Beasts and Heroes: The Beasts in the Jar



This is the first in a series of twelve books of myths and legends from ancient Greece retold for younger readers. The tales open chronologically with the birth of the Titans and the creation of various monsters like Typhon with his hundred heads, and Echnidna, who had a woman’s head and arms but the body of a repellent snake. The Titans were later overthrown by their children, the more familiar gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus, led by Zeus. Then came the creation of humans by the Titan Prometheus, who stole fire from Zeus to help humans survive in the world.

The author uses Atticus the Storyteller as narrator, who travels around Greece with his donkey, Melissa, telling stories to the people he meets in the locations where the stories are set.

Some of the stories are well-known, like that of Pandora whose curiosity leads her to open the box containing all the troubles of the world. Others, like the tale of Deucalion – the Greek Noah – may be less familiar, but there is something for everyone.

I’ve always enjoyed the Greek legends, though I confess I found the re-telling a touch bland. But Anthony Lewis’s lively illustrations are great. However, there is a more serious problem. In Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries, also published by Orion, a useful glossary tells the readers how to pronounce Greek names. Greek myths are no longer the common currency they once were: I met a teacher who pronounced Persephone like ‘telephone’ rather than, as it should be, like ‘Penelope’. Does Lucy Coats really expect her young readers, or even their teachers, to know how to pronounce ‘Epimetheus’, say? This series is obviously aimed at primary schools – so why no glossary?


This is an amazing book of lots of different Greek stories cleverly entwined into one book. I know a lot of these stories from other books but this was much easier to read because it was very child-friendly. By this I mean it had a lot of fun pictures that helped you, and the language was easy to read. It was so intriguing that I read the whole book in one sitting.

My favourite story is The Stone Baby because it’s a very imaginative story about a father who eats all his children to prevent them killing him. It’s well told and gives you a lot to think about, I certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.

Overall, it’s a great, funny colourful collection of Greek stories. I think it would be good for 7 to maybe 9 year olds. I enjoyed it, but it was a little bit easy for me.



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(UK) £4.99

(UK) 9781444000658