Saturday, August 14, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 17

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a fantasy author.

The Iliad
by Homer

The Iliad (Penguin Classics)The Iliad is one of the oldest works in literature known to the world, along with its companion tale The Odyssey. Over the centuries there has kind of been a tug-of-war among scholars between The Iliad and The Odyssey; for a while there will be general acceptance that The Iliad is the better of the two tales, then the tide will shift and The Odyssey is the better story.

The current trend tends toward The Odyssey being the better tale. But I don't follow that trend.

The Odyssey is definitely the more iconic of the two. I'll give it that. But for me, The Iliad has a strong resonance in its morality, and in its vision and descriptions of the heroic. I won't go into the plots of the two books, as I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers, but I'll break it down simplistically and say The Iliad is a tale of warfare while The Odyssey is the tale of one man's quest. But truly, both stories are so much more than that.

Being a reader of fantasy fiction and history, I had heard about The Iliad for years before finally deciding to read a modern translation from the Greek while I was in college. Then I immediately had to read it a second time.

Some might find The Iliad rather boring reading. There are pages upon pages of heroes spouting poetry and lists of names at one another. But through all the poems and bloodshed and backstabbing that goes on in The Iliad, the story truly comes to climax in one touching scene featuring the hero Achilles and Priam, the king of Troy. Again, I'd prefer not to give anything away.

For fantasy readers and writers, this tale has everything one could want. Heroes. Swords. Action. Adventure. Gods roaming the land. It's all there.

And it's all great reading.

Up next: Watership Down


Charles Gramlich said...

I preferred the Odyssey to the Iliad because of the translation by Fitzgerald, which is sheer genius if you ask me. But the Iliad was certainly very good.

Ty Johnston said...

See, everybody likes the Odyssey better but me. Maybe I'm just weird.

Bruce Durham said...

I've always preferred the Illiad, so count me among the minority.