Circe – A refreshing take on ancient Greek mythology

Circe *oil on canvas *148 x 92 cm *1891

When it comes to Greek mythology, the first thing that may come to your mind is those disjointed, separate stories and legends of gods and demigods and monsters that are loosely connected to each other, making them hard to remember and quite messy to organize. You are absolutely right on that, so here comes the first effort to string those stories together, and I really enjoyed the way the story flowed and the characters were introduced by the book. So if you were discouraged by Greek mythology in the past, give Circe a chance and you may change your perspective totally, just like me.

Written by the talented Madeline Miller, the same author of the book The Song of Achiles, Circe cast the Greek witch and goddess in a rather positive light. It is a story of love, and everything in the story was driven by love. It was love that caused Circe to violate the ultimate rule of the gods, and therefore was abandoned to the beautiful but isolated island for eternity (after all, she was a goddess so she was immortal). It was love again that drove her to help Daedalus, the skilled craftman who made the labyrinth to trap the minotaur inside. It was also love that drove her towards Odysseus, the war hero on his long trip to return home to Cretes and his waiting wife Penelope. And finally it was love that drove Circe to make her final decision with Telemachus, son of Odysseus, the man she had loved deeply, and transformed herself forever.

If you follow traditional Greek mythology closely, you will notice that there are some differences in the details between that and the story weaved together in Circe. For example, the ending was the opposite of what was told traditionally. Also, there are differences in the introduction of Glaucus, the god of sailors and Scylla, the sea monster. That may offend those Greek purists who don’t want to accept any other variety of the story. However, to me, a casual reader and follower of the myths, the tweaks are all done for good, in order to link the stories together and make it become a whole. It helps me relate to the characters better, make the stories more logical, and encourages me to continue reading. So, in terms of story telling, Madeline Miller has done it well, again.

So, in overall, I love this book. It’s a really new, refreshing take on the characters that we have grown to love or hate over the years. The stories are told smoothly and naturally. The characters are introduced logically and groomed adequately to give enough time to create connection with the readers. And the twists and turns are peppered sparing but just enough to make the story less routine and more exciting. It’s definitely a novel, not a book of ancient history. Perhaps that is the reason why the book is so successful, HBO decided to make a mini series out of it, which will be airing very soon.

In summary, I love Circe the book. It’s a nice book, it’s easy to read, and it tells a beautilful story of love and desire. It’s both new and familiar, with the golden formula of weaving some novelty into a familiar story that we have grown to love over the years. It builds great characters and grooms them up, giving them enough space to come alive and for us readers to get to know them and connect with them. And best of all, it reportrays Circe, not as an evil witch, but a girl who is deeply in love and willing to go all out to follow her love and do whatever it takes to keep and grow her love and make it bloom. She is very human in this story, yet still divinely different, and that is the bright spot that makes the story really intriguing and exciting. So, if you have not yet, go ahead and pick it up, and you may be charmed by Circe’s magic spell, just like me.


One thought on “Circe – A refreshing take on ancient Greek mythology

  1. I have always loved mythology. In 10th grade, I loved when we studied Ancient Greek Mythology. I love the Illiad and the Odyssey. Whenever I think of myths, I think of gods/goddesses, quests, and monsters


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