In The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell evokes the simple pleasure of reading myth. “Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.” These words feel more intimate here in Stephen Fry’s Mythos than anywhere else.
Here is a collection of stories that define each other; a plethora of fantastical, imaginative, and captivating myths that demonstrate the rise and fall of gods and the liberation of the world from chaos to order. And vice versa. You’re better off if you let your imagination run wild while you sit back and enjoy.
The structure of the book is simple and straightforward. The writing is not dense, as most (if not all) Greek mythological texts can be. Rather Mythos is a sharply toned down version of the ancient myths. As you get acquainted with every god and divine creation, Stephen Fry has retained that sense of familiarity that we all adore about mythical creatures. I found it quite clever the way he has distilled and manifested some of the most complex Greek hierarchies into a digestible and entertaining spread.
Zeus, Kronos, Prometheus, Pandora, Hera, Echo, Sisyphus, Narcissus. It’s an absurd re-telling of myths that contain whole universes. I wouldn’t think of Mythos as a philosophical read. Rather, I see Mythos as a more imaginatively contemplative book. The book is deeply rooted in exploring the aliveness of the universe. And how one should see it as a lyrical and meditative journey to experience rather than extract any concrete reasoning from it.
A book like Mythos doesn’t muzzle the complexity of ancient myths. But it is helpful if you want to test the waters in a less intense book. Thanks to the audiobook that Stephen Fry himself narrates, my memory of Mythos is colorful, dramatic, and witty. Having said that, Mythos isn’t the most thought-provoking and intelligent book on ancient myths. But that’s a thread for me as a reader and I don’t think that it takes anything away from the book.