This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, June 24, 1992

June 24, 1992 - Greek mythology

It all started when Maddy (my four-year-old daughter), picked out a tape from the library's video shelves. It was an animated version of the story of "Pegasus," narrated by Mia Farrow.

Pegasus, for those of you whose memory of Greek mythology is a little rusty, was the winged horse, born from the blood of Medusa, and ridden by Bellerophon to slay the Chimaera. In later years, Pegasus became for a time the bearer of Zeus' thunderbolt, and was eventually placed among the stars.

Well, Maddy was utterly enthralled by the tale. Then my wife happened to run across a book called "One-Minute Greek Myths," by puppeteer Shari Lewis of "Lambchop" fame. Shari Lewis has also written several other "One-Minute" storybooks, including "One Minute Bible Stories" (Old and New Testament versions), "One Minute Jewish Stories," "One Minute Bedtime Stories," and "One-Minute Favorite Fairy Tales." All of them are pretty good introductions -- but if you get really interested, they just don't provide enough detail.

So it was on to my old copy of "Mythology" by Edith Hamilton. Now, Edith wasn't your clean-'em-up, revisionist, low-vocabulary kind of writer. She was a classical scholar. Her compendiums of stories were complete, well-documented, and sometimes, a trifle dry.

No matter. Maddy was still fascinated. And a lot better-informed.

Suddenly, we found ourselves with a four-year-old who had an alarmingly comprehensive grasp of the names (Greek and Roman) of almost everybody in classical western mythology, including who married whom, who was a regular god or goddess, who was a Titan, and how many Muses there were (nine).

Maddy got us going on a new dinner game: "I'm thinking of Someone From Greek Mythology." One of us picked somebody, and the others asked questions like, "Mortal or immortal? Did he help anybody?" On this subject, I put my four-year-old against anybody, even my wife and me, who at this point, are pretty well read.

I had almost forgotten everything I knew about Greek mythology. But because of Maddy's interest, Suzanne and I got interested all over again.

And you know what? These are GREAT stories. We went on to the "Usborn Illustrated Guide to Greek Myths and Legends," for the kind of in-depth, magnificently well-organized presentation Usborn excels at. Then we snapped up "The Legend of Odysseus," by Peter Connolly. We sought, and found, Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire's "Book of Greek Myths" -- which is something of a classic itself.

Right here at the Philip S. Miller Library, we found another video: "Jason and the Argonauts," which has some of the best -- and the earliest -- special effects to hit Hollywood.

Then Suzanne found the audiocassette, "Greathall Productions Storyteller's Version of Greek Myths" as told by Jim Weiss. His telling of King Midas' desperation to turn his daughter back into flesh made me so emotional I almost drove into somebody on the highway.

Greek myths have proven to be a surprisingly broad and accurate introduction to human behavior. Not that what they say about human behavior is always flattering. Take Maddy's view of Medea, whom Maddy says she likes, although "she was kind of mean, especially after Jason dumped her."

And there are the lessons of Narcissus, of Penelope, of Pandora, of Echo, of Arachne, of Achilles. And many more.

All my life, I have had the suspicion that ANY deep childhood interest, if fanned as furiously as possible, will eventually connect to everything else. And each connection will grow ever richer, building on the previous knowledge.

Greek myths have proven to be both an entertaining and rich place to start.

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