April 15, 2004

Dawn Comes Early, With Rosy Fingers

by peterb

It has been a long time since I've experienced a web site that filled me with such elation and glee as does Winged Sandals, a Shockwaveriffic introduction to Greek mythology for kids. It has really enjoyable, accessible movies that everyone can enjoy, some neat activities (I like the trading cards), and a wonderful searchable "Who's Who," which while not comprehensive is well designed. The art style is Samurai Jack meets Pocketskeleton. The load times are substantial, but worth the wait: do the Flash version if you can.

I am, as it were, a mythology geek, and love diving in to the legends, tales, and fables of just about any culture. There is something exciting to me about reading fables and myths; the archetypes that underlie consciousness are distilled and pickled in myths, and they can take your breath away when you taste them. True, a superb author, such as Italo Calvino or Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, can channel those archetypes to create a novel story that nonetheless feels like it came from the deepest recesses of cultural memory. But there are only so many Salman Rushdies (or J. K. Rowlings) in the world, and so I return to the oldest tales whenever the mood strikes me, which is often.

I have a special place in my heart for Greek mythology. The ancient Greeks were such a venal, corrupt people that they can't help but be interesting; they wear their sins on their Gods' sleeves. No sombre procession of order brought out of chaos here; the history of the Gods and Titans is, from the outset, filled with cannibalism, rape, murder, thievery, jealousy, pillaging, boasting, cowardice, and getting completely hideously smashed on cheap wine. It's like one long action sequence.

So yeah, you can read your copy of Bullfinch's Mythology or Frazier's The Golden Bough, or listen to Joseph Campbell drone on in Bill Moyer's ear about the mythic journey of the Hero with a Thousand Faces yadda yadda fertility rite yadda yadda sacrifice yadda yadda zzzzzzzzzzzzz, or you can just visit Winged Sandals and poke around and have fun. Maybe you'll even learn something you didn't know before. I certainly didn't know about the "goat ritual," for example.

Perseus Meets Andromeda

Perseus Meets Andromeda (Mark Fiore)

The Internet is, of course, a mythology geek's paradise, and Winged Sandals isn't the only (or the most comprehensive) site one will find. But it is one of the most engaging, I think, for someone who hasn't already developed a love of the subject. And that's worth something. Probably the closest analogue I've found is the superb (and slightly more comprehensive) MythWeb, which has excellent little animations by Mark Fiore. There are other resources too, but I won't laundry list them: I'd rather you chose a responsible guide and followed him or her down the path they recommend. I recommend Winged Sandals.

Oh, one more thing: whatever you do, once you start your journey, don't look back.

Additional Resources

Links to sites discussed in this article, and more:

  • Winged Sandals requires Shockwave Flash. It's worth it. (Like you haven't already installed it for Homestar Runner).

  • MythWeb is great too, especially thanks to Mark Fiore's animations. Be sure to check out their illustrated version of The Odyssey.

  • Some other resources for the Greek Geek: greekmythology.com is accessible and bright. Theoi.com is intended to be more encyclopedic, and is, but at the cost of being somewhat dry. It has a pretty nice family tree, though.

  • Pantheon.org is a useful resource that covers many mythologies, not just Greek. Although it's invaluable as a jumping-off point (they're very good about having links to source material), their very comprehensiveness can be overwhelming; a little more attention to presenting a limited selection (and providing reasonable links to the guides they do have) would go a long way here.

  • Elise Soroka of pocketskeleton is an artist.

  • Why not learn Ancient Greek? Or, if you hate life, Latin?

  • If you want to be my special friend, buy me this genealogical chart of Greek myth. It's only $75!

  • If you catch the bug and need real, actual books on your shelf, I suggest the old standbys: Bullfinch's Mythology, Frazer's The Golden Bough, and Robert Graves' Greek Gods and Heroes. There are also many modern fictional reinterpretations and explicit retellings of Greek myth (not counting O Brother, Where Art Thou?). That subject is big enough to deserve it's own article, but I'll put a good word in here for Mary Renault's books, specifically The King Must Die, the beginning of her take on the Theseus legends.

  • And, just because, you should also get Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales.
    (Also, everything else he's ever written, ever.)

Posted by peterb at April 15, 2004 09:54 PM | Bookmark This

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