Greek Mythology

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Jun 23, 2019 17:26
Today I read a sentence: “got to the edge of the River Styx, but luckily Charon's boat was all full.” I could easily guess the meaning from the context and I knew it must have come from Greek mythology. The word “Styx” sounded was recognizable. I guess the River Styx might be located in an otherworldly place like heaven or hell. Charon’s boat might be a vessel that carries bodies or souls across the river to somewhere else. This is relatable to me, because in Chinese culture, we also have that kind of myth about life and death.

I grew up hearing Chinese mythology. I barely read Greek mythology, which is an important part of the backdrop of Western culture. The English language quotes the stories often, so I think it’s quite important for advanced English learners to know a bit about this part of Greek heritage.

In fact, most of us Chinese people have heard the names of the main figures such as Zeus and Venus, but we don’t know the stories behind them. Because of the Hollywood influence, some people may know the story of Prometheus stealing fire and returning it to earth. However, knowing one story or two is still a far cry from getting the full picture and the basic storyline of Greek mythology.

Searching for Greek mythology on Amazon, I found quite a few highly-rated bestsellers. It looked like they were quite appealing to young Americans. Switching to Amazon China, I didn’t find many Chinese books on this topic. Most of them were translations. Anyways, the readership wasn’t as small as I’d expected. The most sold books had a few hundreds reviews. I “looked inside” three books, scrolling up and down for a few minutes. Well, to be honest, I think they are all poorly-written. I’m not alone in this assessment; some book reviews say that the prose is messy and the writing isn’t clear, and therefore the readability is poor.

I guess it’s because of the most common reason that masterpieces of classic English literature fall flat in the Chinese language:literary translation between two languages is extremely difficult and takes great effort. While translating Greek mythology into Mandarin, the Chinese translators don’t even bother to alter sentence structures, and therefore the readers have a hard time understanding the text.

On a side note, I've decided to study Greek mythology, and may some day retell the major stories for a Chinese young adult audience. No translate, but recount.

Do you have any good books to recommend? Any advice will be much appreciated.