We’re studying ancient Greeks as we head down the homestretch of this semester and totally enjoying Rosemary Sutclif’s Black Ships Before Troy, her rendering of The Iliad.
It had been a long, long time since I’d read Homer (or even a re-telling of Homer). I overdosed on Greek literature as a young adult. We read a lot of Greek drama and The Odyssey in my senior high literature class, and then I seemed to get both The Iliad and The Odyssey (not to mention Oedipus) over and over as a literature major in college. After a while, it just felt like…well, homework.
Encountering Homer again after all these years, and in a re-telling for younger readers, has been utterly delightful. I opted to turn Black Ships into a read-aloud because…well, it’s a telling of The Iliad, for goodness’ sake, based on an epic poem by a bard who himself knew the story from ancient oral traditions. Sutclif’s prose has a definite music to it.
(For those interested, I’m supplementing our reading time by having the sweet girl read up on the various gods and goddesses encountered in the story. After our read-aloud time, she reads assigned pages in D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology and writes up what she learns about the given character. I’m having her keep a list of the major immortal players.)
The story really is thrilling, the characters so relatable. I’m reading it in my best style, sometimes just letting the prose carry us along with its high, galloping drama. Yesterday I read at lunch so D., home from work, could enjoy it too. When I paused for breath in the middle of a chapter, the sweet girl exclaimed into the sudden silence: “This is the most exciting story ever!”
Gotta love those learning moments when the past feels vivid enough to be stalking around your kitchen.