Stephen Fry’s Mythos – book review

I listened to Stephen Fry’s Mythos as an audiobook – a version I highly recommend, as it is read by the author himself.


I ended up listening to Mythos because I had a few credits on Audible that I had to spend very quickly, as I had decided to unsubscribe. Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths was on the bestseller list and I decided to give it a go.


I was very fond of the Greek myths as a child, so part of the pleasure of this book for me was reminding myself of how much I had once known and forgotten. The story of baby Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle or Arion and the dolphin (that poor dolphin!) were a joy to listen to rediscover.


Stephen Fry’s retellings of the myths are the opposite of the heavily toned down versions from children’s books. He likes his gory details, spewing guts and semen, whenever the myths give him that option. I’m not sure how fond of Fry’s storytelling embellishments I would have been, had I encountered them in a book I was reading. But they feel natural enough when one listens to him narrating them, although they do make one wince sometimes. On a more positive note, he’s fond of linking the myths to the present day through tracing the origins of words back to the Greek (did you know the science of geology stems from the Greek goddess Gaia, the goddess of the Earth?).


Fry also includes several myths that I had heard of, but never actually known before: the story Pyramus an Thisbe (as referenced by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the origin of Hermaphroditus, and the full account of the crimes of Sisyphus. The first few chapters of the book are a complex genealogy of the gods and the names of all the titans– and if you remember more than a few details of those after you listen to them, I will be incredibly impressed.


Stephen Fry is an excellent reader (he narrated the original Harry Potter audiobooks) and just listening to his pleasant calm voice is very enjoyable. His fascination with Greek myths is infectious.


For anyone who wants to refresh their knowledge of Greek myths, with a very pleasant though slightly idiosyncratic guide, this audiobook highly-recommended.

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