Stephen Fry

{EN} Mythos – Stephen Fry

1. There is absolutely nothing academic or intellectual about Greek mythology; it is addictive, entertaining, approachable and astonishingly human.

2. ‘Now. Consider how everything began. En arche en Chaos. In the beginning was Chaos. Out of Chaos came the First Order – Erebus, Nyx, Hemera and their generation – followed by the Second Order, our grandparents Gaia and Ouranos, yes?’ Prometheus gave a cautious nod. ‘Gaia and Ouranos, who then unleashed upon creation the catastrophic aberration of you people, the Titans –’ ‘Hey!’ ‘– and next came all those nymphs and spirits, endless minor deities and monsters and animals and what have you, and finally the culmination. Us. The gods. Heaven and earth perfected.’

3. Demeter was so overjoyed to see her daughter that the world immediately began to spring into bloom. It was a joy that was to last for half the length of the year, for six months later, in accordance with ineluctable divine law, Persephone was forced to return to the underworld. Demeter’s distress at this parting caused the trees to shed their leaves and a dead time to creep over the world. Another six months passed, Persephone emerged from Hades’ domain and the cycle of birth, renewal and growth began again. In this way the seasons came about, the autumn and winter of Demeter’s grieving for the absence of her daughter and the spring and summer of her jubilation at Persephone’s return.

4. When lust descends, discretion, common sense and wisdom fly off and what may seem cunning concealment to one in the grip of passion looks like transparently clumsy idiocy to everyone else.

5. Sorrowing at the death of her beloved servant, Hera took Argus’s hundred bright eyes and fixed them onto the tail of a very dull, dowdy old fowl, transforming it into what we know today as the peacock – which is how the now proud, colourful and haughty bird came for ever to be associated with the goddess.

6. He sat there on the bank mourning the loss of his lover with such a plaintive wail that a distraught Apollo struck him dumb and finally, out of pity and remorse for the youth’s ceaseless but now silent and inconsolable suffering, transformed him into a beautiful swan. This species, the mute swan, became holy to Apollo. In remembrance of the death of the beloved Phaeton the bird is silent all its life until the very moment of its death, when it sings with terrible melancholy its strange and lovely goodbye, its swan song.

7. Although nightingales are famous for the melodious beauty of their song, it is only the male of the species that sings. The females, like tongueless Philomela, remain mute.

8. It’s necessary for us to know that Adonis was lovely enough to attract, as no other mortal ever had, the one who had done so much to bring about his birth: the goddess of love and beauty herself, Aphrodite. They became lovers. It had been a wild and tortuous path to this coupling: the goddess, in a spirit of malicious revenge, had caused a father to commit a forbidden act with his daughter which brought forth a child whom Aphrodite loved perhaps more completely than any other being. A lifetime of therapy could surely not clear up such a psychic mess as that.


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