May 1, 2013

Announcing Classics Retold

This past February I postponed my normal blogging schedule in favor of Project: Fairy Tale. For this event, I chose to read the Scottish ballad "Tam Lin" and then reviewed many different retellings and posted about common themes and other aspects of the tale. If for some reason you missed my month of Tam Lin posts and are curious, I encourage you to search my blog's tag: project fairy tale. 

I am bringing this up because Alison of The Cheap Reader is hosting another retelling event this September, and you can bet that I'm participating once again. The requirements are basically the same as they were for Project: Fairy Tale: choose an original source to review/discuss and then review at least three retellings. That's it. The Classics Retold event is much, much bigger in scope than Project: Fairy Tale, however, so Alison has brought in additional helpers. The main categories are Children's Classics, Ancient to Renaissance Classics, Classic Mythology, Nineteenth-Century and Gothic Classics, and American Literature/Miscellaneous. The hosts already have tons of suggestions, but of course you can always come up with your own classic to examine. Sign ups last until May 25, and I encourage everyone to look into it!

And which classic did I choose to do? I debated different classics for a while and ultimately decided on Virgil's The Aeneid! I own a copy but have yet to read it, so I figured Classics Retold offered the perfect opportunity to do so. There's some overlap between the Ancient to Renaissance Classics and Mythology section, so I'm not quite sure where I'll be posting links to my posts yet. I have plenty of time to figure it out, though. I'm still in the process of determining which retellings I'll be reviewing, but below are some of my initial ideas.

The Classic

The Aeneid by Virgil (translated by Robert Fagles) 

With his translations of Homer's classic poems, Robert Fagles gave new life to seminal works of the Western canon and became one of the preeminent translators of our time. His latest achievement completes the magnificent triptych of Western epics. A sweeping story of arms and heroism, The Aeneid follows the adventures of Aeneas, who flees the ashes of Troy to embark upon a tortuous course that brings him to Italy and fulfills his destiny as founder of the Roman people. Retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, this powerful blend of poetry and myth remains as relevant today as when it was first written. (Goodreads)
It appears that Fagles has translated many ancient Greek and Roman works into English. I can't recall whether I've read any of his works or not, but this is the version of the epic that I own, so it is what I will read first.

The Retellings
Dido by Adele Geras

While she was still trembling with the complete unexpectedness of what Aeneas had just said and done, he leaned forward a little and kissed her on the mouth. Just one swift, soft touch of his lips on hers and then he turned and walked away. Love can be deadly. Especially when two girls fall for the same man - one a queen, the other her serving girl. Elissa knows she is playing with fire, but she can't resist. Queen Dido suspects nothing, until one fateful night ...Secrets are revealed, hearts are broken and as dawn breaks, a terrible tragedy unfolds. This is a passionate tale of love, betrayal and revenge. (Goodreads)
I've read Adele Geras' Troy, which is...interesting. I did like how it offered the Trojan females' perspective on the war. I'm interested to see her take on Dido. 

Black Ships by Jo Graham
The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea. In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings. When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny. In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story. (Goodreads)

I read Graham's Hand of Isis, a YA historical fiction about Cleopatra and her two half-sisters, a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I've actually had my eye on Black Ships for a while now, so I am super excited to have a solid excuse to finally read this book!

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

In a richly imagined, beautiful new novel, an acclaimed writer gives an epic heroine her voice In The Aeneid, Vergil’s hero fights to claim the king’s daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills. Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom, until suitors come. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner—that she will be the cause of a bitter war—and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands. And so she tells us what Vergil did not: the story of her life, and of the love of her life. Lavinia is a book of passion and war, generous and austerely beautiful, from a writer working at the height of her powers. (Goodreads)

Le Guin is one of those well-known female fantasy authors I've heard about for years but haven't managed to read anything by yet. I already love the fact that this is giving a secondary female character a voice in this story.

Battlestar Galactica (2004 TV Series)

The story arc of Battlestar Galactica is set in a distant star system, where a civilization of humans live on a group of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. In the past, the Colonies had been at war with a cybernetic race of their own creation, known as the Cylons. With the unwitting help of a human named Gaius Baltar, the Cylons launch a sudden sneak attack on the Colonies, laying waste to the planets and devastating their populations. Out of a population numbering in the billions, only approximately 50,000 humans survive, most of whom were aboard civilian ships that avoided destruction. Of all the Colonial Fleet, the eponymous Battlestar Galactica appears to be the only military capital ship that survived the attack. Under the leadership of Colonial Fleet officer Commander William "Bill" Adama (Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (McDonnell), the Galactica and its crew take up the task of leading the small fugitive fleet of survivors into space in search of a fabled refuge known as Earth. (Wikipedia)
Battlestar Galactica is one of my favorite TV shows. A couple of people have argued that this is a retelling of The Aeneid. I'm eager to read Virgil's classic and see if I can make any comparisons. 

Interestingly, I haven't been able to find many literary retellings of The Aeneid. There have been adaptations for plays, opera, and films. Many, many books also reference The Aeneid. I'm not quite sure why there appears to be a lack of solid retellings of this fairly well-known tale. If you have any suggestions of other retellings of The Aeneid, please let me know in the comments! And please consider signing up for Classics Retold - it's going to be a lot of fun!
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I will be checking these out -- I LOVE the Aeneid -- I almost want to learn Latin so I can read it in the original. I had never heard of any of these retellings…
    And… Battlestar Gallactica? You have officially blown my mind with that.

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

    1. Latin's wayyy too difficult a language for me - but I totally understand you! I've read some Spanish classics in their original language, and it was a really cool reading experience. And I know, right?! I mean, I'm not quite sure I believe that BSG is retelling The Aeneid, but I plan on looking into it! :)

  2. I am so excited for the Classic's Retelling!!! It is going to be a fun fun month. I have chosen The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!! Also I am a big BSG fan so I look forward to your post on that!


    1. Ooh awesome choice! I'm not sure if I'm familiar with any Wizard of Oz retellings (other than the film), so I'll definitely have to see what you end up reviewing! :) And yay for BSG fans!

  3. I've noticed that some of the well-known classics don't have many retellings as compared to the fairy tales. More often than not, they just do adaptations of it through movies, plays, musicals, etc. I actually had a hard time searching for retellings/sequels of The Secret Garden.

    Looking forward to your posts for this project! I haven't read any of the books you've chosen as well as the classic itself.

    1. I know - it's definitely a strange phenomenon. I wonder why that is!

      And thanks! Hope you enjoy reading them (and that I do as well!).

  4. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood is what I recently read. It's a re-telling of the Odyssey-- from the POV of Odysseus's wife, Penelope. You can give that a shot; its a novella.

    1. I've read The Penelopiad too. It's definitely an interesting retelling, but it's a retelling of The Odyssey, not The Aeneid, so it's not too helpful for me to use for this project, unfortunately.

  5. I'm so glad you're taking part again, Amanda! I didn't do Project Fairy Tale, but I enjoyed reading the posts, particularly all of yours on Tam Lin. I was so curious when you said you were doing the Aenied as to what you would find for retellings. Really interested in the ones you did find though, particularly Black Ships.

    1. Me too, Heidi! I'm going to keep searching for retellings, but I don't think there are too many out there. I'm satisfied with these though. And I know! Black Ships just sounds so awesome!

  6. We read parts of the Aeneid in high school, but I haven't read the whole thing (even though I've been meaning to!). I'm looking forward to your posts!


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