Mythos is practically perfect in every way.
I’ve adored Greek mythology since I was a child. I’ve also always been utterly charmed by Stephen Fry. The combination of these two things was an absolute delight. Fry’s writing is a perfect marriage of class and sass, and he gives the original source material tremendous respect while never taking those sources or himself too seriously. Take this line, for instance:
“Gaia visited her daughter Mnemosyne, who was busy being unpronounceable.”
Isn’t that just the right mix of informative and snarky? And the amount of word origin Fry included in this book was absolutely perfect. I learned tons of fun facts to share with friends and family but was never inundated to the point of boredom.
“Even meaning and destiny themselves can be read in ordinary things, if you have the gift.”
These are pretty much all stories with which I’ve familiar since childhood. My editions of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and Bulfinch’s Mythology are both ragged from countless rereads. But it’s been a few years since I spent time in Greece’s brilliant myths, and Fry’s Mythos looked like just the right way to revisit them. I couldn’t have been more right. Fry managed to breathe new life into these myths while still staying incredibly true to them. It requires a very deft hand to so impeccably balance freshness and timelessness, but that’s exactly what Fry managed to accomplish in this collection. Fry claims that:
“The Greeks created gods that were in their image; warlike but creative, wise but ferocious, loving but jealous, tender but brutal, compassionate, but vengeful.”
And I think that sentiment exactly captures why their myths are so much fun to read. They have all of the character flaws and failings of humans, but on a much grander and more eternal scale. Without these faults there would have been very few stories to tell.
“It is their refusal to see any divine beings as perfect, whole and complete of themselves, whether Zeus, Moros or Prometheus, that makes the Greeks so satisfying.”
I can’t sing this book’s praises enough, and thus I’m going to keep this review short so I’m not just repeating said praises over and over again. Every single minute spent with Mythos was a pure and unadulterated delight. And getting to hear it read in Fry’s own superb voice made an already wonderful experience into something amazing. If you’re an audiobook listener, please give this one a try in that format. It’s one of the few books I’ve ever listened to that I know for a fact I’ll be listening to again and again. I had actually borrowed it from the library and returned it before I hit the halfway point, because I knew I needed to own it and have it downloaded on my phone forever. If you love mythology or Stephen Fry or both or even neither, you’ve got to give Mythos a read.