By the Book - Literary Life Lessons

By the Book #15 (Conclusion) – How the Trojan War Was Won

This month, I've read three different versions of the same story. Want to know what I've learned from it? Read on!

It’s a funny thing, time is. This month, January, I wanted to analyse three different retellings of Homer’s Iliad. Even though this epic poem was written almost three thousand years ago, it remains as relevant and popular as ever. The gods and heroes featuring in it continue to inspire writers all over the world to write their own version of this famous story. Want to know what I’ve learned? Read on!

I’ve read a feminist version, I’ve read a personal interpretation, and I’ve read one that discusses the idea of storytelling itself. All tell the same story, but are also unique. It’s so interesting to read about the Trojan War from these different points of view, because it shows that there are always more sides to one story. For instance, I’ve learned that the Iliad wasn’t only about the valiant warriors on the battlefield. The Trojan war impacted women and ruined their lives, too, whether they were taken as slaves or never saw their husbands again. Most importantly, the Trojan war has always influenced storytellers to tell their own version of the Iliad.

In Ancient Greece, no poet could write a single thing without invoking the Muses. Depending on their mood, they would either inspire the artists to write the best poems the world had ever seen, or dry up their world flow completely. The world has changed: modern authors are no longer dependent on celestial beings when it comes to writing a good story. Instead, they turn their gaze on the world and decide what is worth writing about. The Trojan war, as it turns out, continues to inspire authors – could it be the call of the Muses after all?

Each of the novels I’ve read were based on the Iliad. However, all of them focused on different aspects of it. That’s because stories are nothing if not a product of the one who tells them. It’s the writer that shapes a story, makes it their own, and decides how it’s told. Writers are influenced by their own lives, as well as by the world around them. No two stories are ever the same, because no two persons ever are. 

While reading these books and writing these posts, I kept thinking about what my retelling of Homer’s work would be like. What would I focus on? Would I pay special attention to my favourite characters? Would I make sure my audience would know the smallest of details? Would I do so much research that people cannot help being impressed by my apparent vast knowledge of Greek mythology? Would I write it in the same way as the original, or would I use a modern style? Would I incorporate current affairs, or stay true to the original events?

I must admit I can’t tell you the answer to any of those questions. I’ve never attempted to write my own version – partly because I’m scared that my view isn’t particularly original, and partly because I’m too insecure to write my own version and share it with the world. Still, because I’ve read so many different retellings, I do know that my own attempt would be quite different from all of them.

The Iliad is thousands of years old, but it remains one of the most important stories ever written. The basics will always be the same; no author could change that much. Countless adaptations have been written over the years, all different from the other. I couldn’t possibly predict what future adaptations of the Iliad will be like. What I do know, however, is that writers will continue to breathe new life into this story for as long as mankind exists. 

It’s a funny thing, time is, indeed.

What is your favourite version of the Iliad? What would you focus on if you were to write your own story inspired by the Trojan War? Do let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book musings! 

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