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I know he's a famous children's writer and an Oxford academic who has rewritten a number of introductory books to Greek myths and other mythological works such as the Tale of Troy and King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table. However, I have found his writing style quite confusing, which surprises me because I suppose it is a children's writer's duty to write clearly.

Recently, I am reading his book, Tales of the Greek Heroes. Oftentimes it seems to me quite hard to deconstruct his sentences to understand his exact meaning. I find his punctuations and convoluted sentence structures quite frustrating.

Two examples from the first chapter of the book, which you can read here at this link:

Over the blue sea, with its streaks like purple wine, lie islands dotted away into the distance: and they too have each a tale to tell. It may be Delos, perhaps: no one lives on it now, but the ruins of cities and temples, harbours and theatres, cluster from the shore to the hilltop on which Apollo the Shining One and his sister Artemis the Maiden Huntress were born. Or it may be rocky rugged Ithaca, from which Odysseus sailed to the siege of Troy, and found again after ten years' wandering over strange and dragon-haunted seas.

Problems:

  1. Referencing problem: The word "it" has been used twice in this passage but it is not clear what "it" refers to. Perhaps the author meant "One of the islands"?

  2. Unclear meaning: In the sentence, "Or it may be rocky rugged Ithaca, from which Odysseus sailed to the siege of Troy, and found again after ten years' wandering over strange and dragon-haunted seas.", I am not so sure what the phrase "found again after ten years' wandering over strange and dragon-haunted seas" means. Does it mean that Odysseus found Ithaca again after ten years' wandering?

The Greeks called these Immortals the 'Gods', and worshipped them, making sacrifices to them at their particular shrines: Zeus at Olympia, Apollo at Delphi, Athena at Athens, and so on. When they began to tell the stories about them they had very little idea of what gods should be, and quite naturally pictured them as very like themselves, but much more powerful, more beautiful, and more free. Nor did it seem wrong to them to imagine that gods and goddesses could be cruel, or mean, deceitful, selfish, jealous, or even wicked, according to our ideas, and as they themselves would have thought if ordinary men and women had done as the gods did.

Problem:

  1. I am not sure what the phrase "as they themselves would have thought if ordinary men and women had done as the gods did" means. Does he mean that ancient Greeks thought it right to imagine that gods and goddesses could be as they themselves would have thought if ordinary men and women had done as the gods did?

This seems to be the compelling interpretation but the reasoning of this sentence seems circular to me.

Is it just me or is Green's writing style problematic? Please help. Thanks a lot in advance.

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    Welcome to Mythology! (Just as a warning, you may receive downvotes on this question as it is asked in a way that might cast answers as "opinion based", but I think think it is a good and useful question that can be answered based on analysis, which is distinct from mere opinion. If you can re-edit to address this, it would work in your favor.) – DukeZhou Aug 14 '17 at 20:03
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Part I:

  1. He is indeed referring to the islands, "and they too have each a tale to tell", using a degree of anthropomorphism, consistent with Greek and Roman mythology, but not applied to geographical locations in the traditional canon.

  2. You are correct. 10 years cycles seem to be quite important. The war at Troy was said to have lasted 10 years, and Odysseus was said to have wandered for 10 years before finally returning to his home at Ithaca.

Part II:

This is partly, but not exclusively, in reference to the Iliad, which has many subversive elements. Foremost is the diminishing of the dignity of the gods and elevating the dignity of man. In many polytheistic religions, gods and goddess are analogues of humans, in both form a behavior. (Contrast to the dignity of the gods in the newer religions such as Christianity or Buddhism.)

  1. He is indeed referring to the behavior of the Greek gods and goddesses which is often undignified, and even in some instances, foolish, just like the behavior of people. It's an ungainly sentence, but he's also drawing a link between human thought and reasoning and that of the gods.

Athena is wise, but Socrates may be wiser still!

  • No man nor god, nor woman, nor goddess is wiser than she who born of thought. – Andrew Johnson Jan 16 '18 at 18:54
  • @AndrewJohnson Haha. But look at where the gods are now! ("Sophocles is wise, Euripides wiser still, but wisest of all men is Socrates.") – DukeZhou Jan 17 '18 at 18:06

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