Greek Myths

Lockdown Learning Spring/Summer 2020 to Back Together in School Autumn 2020 

Greek Myths had been retold by storyteller to storyteller for generations before they were written down. Here is an oral retelling of the tale. Greek storytellers didn't have books, may not have been able to read and carried the tales about in their heads. This meant no two retellings were ever quite the same. 

Greek Myths were not always to be found in books. In ancient Greek times, families and friends would sit around the fire and tell their stories by word of mouth; this is called an oral tradition and because of this the myths can be slippery, hard to put in any order and with different versions of the same tale. They entertained, informed and educated listeners, young and old. Autumn term's myths are from Geraldine McCaughrean's wonderful book Greek Gods and Goddesses. It starts with quite another tale of the Beginning, very different from the one you heard in Lockdown (and which you can find below).

You might have listened to the tale about how we little mud people came about back in April, but did you know about the race of gold, the races of silver, bronze and iron? This book opens with another Greek story of creation. One that not only attempts to explain how we humans came to be but answer the biggest question of all. What came before The Gods? Just like philosophers, theologians and thinkers of all ages today, Ancient Greeks would ask themselves big questions and their myths and their philosophy have much to teach us today, about our own beliefs and our very human nature.

Below are three A* books of tales from Ancient Greece. They are full of wisdom and excellent advice - as relvant to our lives as they were to the lives of those Greeks sitting around the fire listening to storytellers (called Homeridae) all those thousands of years ago. 

This book of some of Aesop's most famous fables contains five stories within a story. Aesop was an ancient Greek storyteller whose fables poked fun at the powerful. It is said that the powerful people got so fed up with Aesop that they threw him off a cliff. Aesop's fables have lasted many thousands of years, long after the powerful men who despised him were forgotten.
The Geraldine McCaughrean retellings of the Greek Myths are simply the best Ms S has found for reading aloud. Whether on holiday by the Aegean Sea in Greece or on a ewt November evening at home, Stewart boys and girls of all ages have loved them. 
This book of Greek Gods and Goddesses is another book of stories within a story. Will Hermes be able to put Argus Who Sees All to sleep so Zeus can meet up with Io the little white calf?

March Myths 2020

27th March 2020 - Echo and Narcissus

John William Waterhouses' painting is one of unrequited love and revenge. Waterhouse makes his narrative painting very naturalistic but there are dark, macabre undertones. Look closely at the flowers on the far left. There's nothing 'natural' about what's going on with Narcissus' left foot!
Do year 3 and 4 remember this picture from the Walker Art Gallery? Who is Echo interested in? How is she feeling? Who is Narcissus interested in? How has Waterhouse shown what happens to Narcissus in the end?CLUE - Did anyone deduce which flower Narcissi are? Do you remember the Really Weird Bit?!?! Click to get a close up and shock your parents!

April's Fables

24th April 2020 - Daedalus and Icarus and Arachne the Spinner

Daedalus and Icarus has been interpreted (thought about) in many different ways but I chose it because it's about heeding (listening to and following your parents' advice). The second, Arachne the Spinner helped Ms S see a creature she was scared of and didn't like with new eyes. Now they are very welcome in her house and garden!
Daedalus, Icarus and Arachne the Spinner

17th April 2020 - Persephone and the Pomegranate Seeds

The Greeks, like other ancient civilisations, didn't have radio telescopes, satellites and science to help them understand the world; but they had their myths and the myths explained the world to the ancient world much like our Scientists do for us today. What do you think this myth is explaining to the Greeks in the springtime evening all those thousands of years ago? 
Persephone and the Pomegranate seeds.mp4

10th April 2020 - In The Beginning and Pandora's Box

The Greek myths are not children's stories but were for people of all ages. They concern themselves with timeless things that fascinate us humans: why do people die? Why is life so hard. Prometheus and Pandora explained to the Greeks why life is hard but also why it is so worth living. 
Prometheus Bound and Pandora's Box.mp4

3rd April 2020 - One Fine Day in Summertime

Friday Fable (2020-04-03 at 11_00 GMT-7) (1).mp4
5 fables for the price of one in this book. Ms S loves this version of Aesop with stories within a story and read it to her daughter Maggie (whose book it is) almost 28 years ago!

May Myths

22nd May 2020 - Theseus and the Minotaur

Jackson's love and enthusiasm for this one was infectious so I chose it for tonight's story. 
Theseus and the Minotaur.mp4
Ms S made this illustration of the Myth at university studying Ancient Greek civilisation. Some of you may feel a bit sorry for Ariadne, but she has a happy outcome. The God Dionysus found her on Naxos, the island where Theseus left her. The God felt sorry for Ariadne, some say he even fell in love with her. Lucky for her, because Dionysus was the god of wine, parties and having a good time. I think she might have had a far better life on Naxos than she would have with Theseus. 

15th May 2020 - Perseus 

Perhaps the most loved hero of all.

8th May 2020 - VE Day and The Wooden Horse of Troy

The story of the Wooden Horse tells how to win a war against a strong opponent you need brains as well as brawn (strength). It was cunning Odysseus' intelligence and trickery that won the war for the Greeks when Achilles' and Ajax's strength had failed. You can read more about Odysseus in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (the story of Odysseus' long journey home) - two great poems about ancient times.
The Wooden Horse.mp4
Intelligence can be more important than strength and force in winning. For VE day we remembered the victory in Europe in 1945, a victory that owed a lot to a young man who never picked up a gun and would have been unlikely ever to win in a fight. Alan Turing was a mathematician and computer scientist who saved hundreds of thousands of lives by cracking the Nazi's code and finding out what they were up to and where their U boats (submarines) were. Alan Turing first came up with the idea of virtual intelligence and if a computer can trick someone into thinking it's human it is said to have passed the Turing Test. 

1st May 2020 - King Midas and Antlanta's Race

Two myths this week: a very silly King and a strong-headed, athletic young woman. You may hear people say someone has the 'Midas touch' when they can make lots of money. The Greeks thought about greed and wanting too much wealth very differently and this is reflected in the tale of King Midas.As for Atlanta, she never wanted to get married. Then along came Hippomenes...
King Midas and Atlanta's Race (2020-05-01 at 11:09 GMT-7)

June Myths

26th June 2020 - Two myths about love - Daphne and Apollo and Orpheus and Eurydice 

Love in the Greek myths is no sweet, syrupy thing. Oh no! The Greeks had much wisdom and much to teach us on the subject love. They share their wisdom about all different sorts with us today, through their myths. Hera and Zeus bicker like an old married couple. One of the most beautiful love stories is in the Iliad, which tells of the deep love between two young men: Achilles and Patroclus. Clytemnestra's love for Agamemnon turns to hate when he sacrifices their daughter to the Gods for a fair wind to Tory. Penelope waits years for Odysseus to return from Troy and despite many years apart, her love for him stays the course. Greek love is full of twists, turns, tricks and its path does not run smoothly. The Gods are often found meddling and making life difficult. Have you ever seen a baby with wings and a bow and arrow in paintings? This is Cupid, son of Venus (Goddess of Love) and Mars (God of War). He uses his arrows for both - as Apollo finds out in this story. Orpheus begs the Gods to let him make the most dangerous journey of all to rescue Eurydice but at the last hurdle, as happens when Greeks try to beat fate, fate wins in the end.
Two Tales of Love, Greek Style!

19th June 2020 - Jason and the Golden Fleece 

Jason braves clashing cliffs and a dragon that never sleeps for this quest. He has the help of the beautiful Princess Medea. Jason did marry Medea and their story is one of Sophocles' greatest tragedies. But that is definitely one for when you're a lot older!
Jason and the Golden Fleece

12th June 2020 - Odysseus 

After they defeated the Trojans and finally got to go home, Odysseus takes his ship and his men on a voyage back to Ithaca where his wife Penelope is patiently awaiting his return. Homer calls him 'Cunning Odysseus' and Odysseus certainly needs all his cunning to defeat Polyphemus the cyclops, Circe the witch and a palace full of suitors back on Ithaca. 
In this ancient Greek pot in Manchester Museum you can see Odysseus clinging onto the sheeps underbelly to escape the Cyclops.

5th June 2020 - The Twelve Labours of Heracles

We have been planning hard for people coming back into school. There have been lots of different things to think about: toilets, classrooms, cleaning and eating lunch...all before we even got to planning for learning! I wonder if that's why I chose this story!When, in times past, before COVID, children left the toilets a terrible mess Ms S would say 'It's like the Augean Stables in there!' Now you know what she means.
The 12 Labours of Heracles
Heracles takes on the Hydra!

July Stories

3rd July 2020 - Freedom for Prometheus, the Twilight of the Gods and Birth of Philosophy

The Greek Gods are rather like humans with knobs on; just like us but more beautiful, faster, stronger, cleverer. They are also more greedy, stupid, spiteful and jealous. The Greeks got rather fed up of their Gods and, two and a half thousand years ago, they were thinking about Philosophy as an alternative to their religion, a better way to understand their world and think about doing the right thing. 
12 Freedom for Prometheus, End of the Gods and the Birth of Philosophy