Sacred Games: Mythological adaptations from the West
Long gone, are the days when stories were orally recited down to generations. Today, with the changing world, mythical works form the base for exciting modern-day story writing.Updated: Aug 22, 2019 14:58 IST
When young writers sit down to pen a tale, embody their vision on paper, a number of things encircle their mind. Of those ideas, ones that always stand out are the tales they were told in their formative years. Most prominent of them — mythologies. Every once in a while, they come across something so mesmerising that they decide to give it their own rendition. Maybe, that’s what makes mythological stories immortal, their ability to be open to interpretation.
Take a look at five such works, which have been adaptations of mythological stories with a modern twist.
The Jewel of Seven Stars — Bram Stoker (1903)
A classic Victorian Gothic tale by one of the most accomplished horror writers of all time has the signature Stoker’s style, characters and flare for storytelling. What makes this novel stand apart from Stoker’s other works is that this one borrows heavily from Egyptian mythology. The story follows Margaret Trelawney and Malcolm Ross as they try to unravel the mystery of what has happened to her father while they try to protect him from further harm by a mysterious presence that is only ever hinted at. As they do, they realise there is much more to the story than they first realised and that they are battling an ancient power beyond their comprehension. The dream trance-like narration continues throughout the novel.
The Ground Beneath Her Feet — Salman Rushdie (1999)
Salman Rushdie effortlessly weaves the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice with the modern world. The Ground Beneath Her Feet is a disorienting mix of a huge conglomeration of stories, and a very small, personal memoir. Rai is a child in Mumbai (then Bombay), when he meets Vina Apsara and immediately falls in love with her. Unfortunately, Ormus Cama also meets and falls in love with Vina at around the same time, and it’s Ormus that she chooses. The narrative travels from Mumbai to London to Manhattan to Mexico, and has an awe-inspiring mix of the myths that shapes all of our lives and fantasies.
American Gods — Neil Gaiman (2001)
Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods is a testament to the fact that mythological characters from different world do find a place together. The novel is about the life of Shadow, an ex-convict, who is distraught after finding out that his wife is no more. Everything starts changing for him when he is hired as a bodyguard for Mr Wednesday. The novel features characters from almost every major European mythology. Leprechauns from the Irish mythology, Norse God Odin and the German Goddess Ostara are some of the characters that find place in this novel.
The Penelopiad — Margaret Atwood (2005)
A modern retelling of the story of Penelope and Odysseus, the novel is an interesting exploration of the back story behind Homer’s tale. Penelope and Odysseus are well known and their story is one that has been told many times — this time, however, we delve much deeper and Margaret Atwood shares the tale of Penelope and her aspiring suitors plus that of the twelve handmaids whom Odysseus executed upon his return. Penelope is left behind when Odysseus goes off to the Trojan War. For 10 years of war and then a further 10 years of gallivanting around the Med, Penelope waits patiently at home for her man.
Home Fire — Kamila Shamsie (2017)
Kamila Shamsie’s latest novel is an intriguing blend of identity crisis faced by South Asians in the modern world (Europe; in the story) with a touch of Greek mythology. Shamsie’s Booker Prize longlisted novel borrows its plot from the Greek story in which Antigone, the protagonist is forced to choose between obeying the law of the land and religious law. This clash of ideas is portrayed when Aneeka’s twin brother, Parvaiz, leaves for London to work for a terrorist group, in search of his father. In the mythic story, Antigone defies the King Creon of Thebes who wants her brother Polyneices’ body to have a proper burial.
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First Published: Aug 22, 2019 14:56 IST