CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 14 . . . . March 17, 2000
Through his tears, Jason saw a swirl of mist that suddenly became dense and solid. A vast figure towered above him. The boy's eyes took in giant feet strapped into worn sandals, traveled up legs like tree trunks, and fixed on a huge club that dangled carelessly from a hand as big as a ham. Jason could see a garment of some kind. He knew, although he did not believe his eyes, that it would be a lion skin.Greek myths are complicated stories. Hercules, or Heracles in Greek, was the son of Zeus and Alcmena. Zeus was a frequent philanderer, and his offspring were greatly resented by his wife, Hera. She set out to meddle in and ruin Hercules's life. His superhuman strength proved to be both a benefit and a difficulty for him. In his life, Hercules kills lions, monsters, hydras, giant crabs, boars and birds. He cleaned the stables of King Augeus by himself in less than a day, captures the girdle of the Amazons, mares, cows, golden apples and holds the world on his shoulders. His exploits have lived on in literature for more than 2000 years and continue to capture our imagination.
Priscilla Galloway has taken the various events in Hercules's adventurous life and created a fictional account of it, using a stylized English that reflects the ancient times. The story begins with Jason, the son of a scribe, who recounts Hercules's tale. When Tellus is killed, Jason wonders what he will do for the stories he loves so much. To his surprise, Hercules descends from the heavens and takes Jason along to accomplish his tasks. Hercules must carry out assigned duties which he has incurred because of his temper and superhuman strength and because he must overcome Hera's deceit and trickery. Jason learns that the physical strength he so admired in Hercules is not enough and not the best way to solve problems. Jason also learns new respect for his late father's personal strengths, and Hercules comes to terms with the death of his son, Lysander.
Galloway has found a novel way to present a complicated story that children can digest. By adding the 10-year-old Jason to the story, she allows the young reader to experience vicariously Jason's time with Hercules. The difficult story is explained through the dialogue and explanations. This is not an easy novel to read, but it provides the reader with a basis to remember the myth of Hercules and serves an enticement to read more myths from ancient civilizations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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