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Remarks of Talmi Ranta: Leon Garfield, a prolific author for nearly a quarter-century, has become recognized as a leading British historical novelist for young people, surpassed only by Rosemary Sutcliff. Often his setting has been the eighteenth century, his atmosphere Dickensian, his characters experiencing a rags-to-riches change. However, in the early 1970s Garfield turned to retellings of Greek mythology and in the early and middle 1980s to picture books, these often retellings of Bible stories. In 1970 (U.S. 1971), he published his Carnegie Award-winning The God Beneath the Sea and in 1973 The Golden Shadow. Both were co-authored by Edward Blishen, a man weH-versed in Greek myths, and an editor and friend. The God Beneath the Sea is a retelling of Greek myths, framed with the two violent expulsions of Hephaestus from Olympus by each of his cruel and angry parents. The two authors attempt to restructure the collection of myths into a continuous narrative. They divide their work into three sections: "The Making of the Gods," "The Making of Man," and "Gods and Men." In "Part One: The Making of the Gods," Garfield and Blishen begin with the account of the ugly infant Hephaestus' expulsion from the heavens when his mother Hera rejects him. The authors follow the myth found In the Iliad which makes Hephaestus the first child of Hera and Zeus and has him cast out of heaven and down into the depths of the sea by his mother because of his monstrous deformities. The goddesses of the sea, Thetis and Eurynome, become his guardians, protecting and raising the deformed child. As they tell him the history of the gods beginning with the birth of the Titans and continuing through the birth of his own brothers and sisters, they reveal the history of Olympus. Part One concludes with Ares' birthday party when Hephaestus Is restored to Olympus and is granted the beautiful Aphrodite, "the magical goddess of desire" (72), as his wife, which follows closely the story found in the Odyssey. "Part Two: The Making of Man" recounts Prometheus' creation of man from clay. Prometheus, in defiance, does not follow Zeus' order to destroy his creation, but instead gives man the gift of fire. Zeus, greatly angered, does not strike out against Prometheus immediately, but rather bestows on him the gift of lovely Pandora as a wife. Through her, mankind wiH suffer opposition of their own passions as they mingle with the gods. Prometheus Is then thrown into chains and besieged by the vicious vulture who Is to torment him by day. "Part Three: Gods and Man" relates the mingling of gods with mankind. The bulk of this section includes the retelling of the story of Persephone, the child of Demeter and Zeus, and her fate to Hve in the underworld with dark Hades, and that of Autolycus, child of Chlone and Hernies, and his rivalry with Sisyphus. Garfield and Blishen conclude the work with Zeus' overthrow by Hera and their children. With the help of the sea goddess Thetis and the hundred-handed giant Briareus, Zeus Is freed and wreaks revenge on his wife and children. Zeus then flings Hephaestus, who is sympathetic to Hera's plight, out of Olympus again. When readers have finished the book, they have been exposed to a sweeping narrative from the Titans to the birth of Odysseus and the building of Troy. This piece of fiction is written in a poetic style befitting the passionate tales it relates. The ugly and violent passions of the Titans in Part One are equalled by the tender and compassionate emotions felt by Prometheus for his little creatures in Part Two. The authors weave the two worlds of gods and men together briefly in Part Three. Although the beauty of their style is appreciated by some, Garfield and Blishen frequently sacrifice clarity in an effort to link so many myths into a flowing narrative. Often too many characters create confusion, and the text has to be read slowly, with frequent references to Hamilton or Burfinch for clarification. Its swift pace, the compacting of so much in so short a work, and the authors' seeming assumption that the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-1201
Print ISSN
0885-0429
Pages
pp. 22-24
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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