Thursday, January 31, 2008

A box of myths

By the time Lucia was two years old, she had given up on naps altogether. I, however, still needed them. Sometimes I get a chance to lie on the couch for a little while to stave off the fatigue and crankiness. Usually, Lucia does not want me to sleep. Once, I asked her why she didn’t want me to sleep, and she said, “I get scared.” I can understand that—if I’m the only adult in the house and I’m sleeping, she feels alone. As a result, when I lie down on the couch, I’ll ask her to come over and be cozy with me for a few minutes, so that she doesn’t think I’m trying to trick her into taking a nap (though if she fell asleep, it would be a whole lot easier).

Two days ago, I was so tired, and I lay down on the couch with Lucia next to me. Bede and I had just talked with her recently about not staring directly at the sun, and that may be why I told her about the Greek god Helios, who drove the chariot of the sun across the sky. She wanted to know more about the Greek gods, so carefully, I chose some stories that I remembered and thought would be age-appropriate. Lucia was quite interested in Athena, the goddess of wisdom, who carried an owl on her shoulder. I told her about the contest between Athena and Poseidon, the god of the sea: both desired to be patron of a lovely city and decided that whoever gave the better gift would get that city. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, and a stream burbled up. However, the stream was salt-water, and the people of the city didn’t think it was useful. Athena then brought an olive tree to the city, which was the first olive tree the people had ever seen. The people could then make olive-oil. Athena won the patronage of the city, and it was named Athens.

Later, we looked through D’Aulaires' book of Greek Myths together. I chose to read to her parts of a story about the early life of the trickster god Hermes, and how he made the first lyre strings out of the guts of some of the cattle he stole from Apollo, god of light and music. However, what caught Lucia’s attention was the story of Pandora. She found the page of all the evils of the world let loose out of the box and asked for the story:

After Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Zeus (ruler of the gods) wanted to punish humankind, so he had Hephaestus, the god of craft-smiths and fire, create a woman full of great curiosity. Zeus gave her a box with all of the ills of the world, and told her not to open it. Of course, Pandora opened the box (that is the human condition), and everything escaped—everything except hope, which Pandora was able to keep inside the box.(A later version of the myth of Pandora indicates that the box was actually filled with blessings, and that when they escaped, only hope remained. The Wikipedia entry for Pandora has some interesting viewpoints on the myth.)

Lucia has been playing Pandora ever since. We found a yellow box that she carries around and refuses to open until everyone in the room agrees that the game is over and the box is just a box. She draws pictures of Athena with her owl and shepherds holding apples (i.e. Paris dealing with the apple of discord, which is another blog-post altogether). This morning, I found her yellow play-silk stuffed into a Playmobil carriage to represent the sun-chariot of Helios. There are many elements of the Greek myths for which she’s not yet ready, but I know she’s excited about discovering a whole new collection of stories.


Kelly said...

Ah...I had a non-napper like that. Barely survived her early childhood. (She was also a non-sleeper.)

But, the myths! A whole Pandora's Box in and of themselves. Enjoy :)

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I love the way Lucia has been playing Pandora with the box. We've been reading the Greek and Roman myths for the first time with both kids; it's so interesting to see which ones speak to which child. Milly (my three year old daughter) is especially fond of "Feather Boy" (guess who?).
Is the D'Aulaires' your favorite for kids? We've been reading Geraldine McCaughrean's retellings --I like them a lot--and are waiting for the new Kimmel collection.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Kelly: I just don't get non-sleepers. What could be lovelier than sleep? Ahhh, when you're a child, there's way too many interesting things to do. Wait until Lucia finds out about Argus...

Anamaria: Thanks for the McCaughrean recommendation. I'm glad Kimmel is going to publish a new one. D'Aulaires' was the one I grew up with, but I read everything I could get my hands on, including novels that incorporated the Greek myths. Percy Jackson was way before my time, but Norma Johnston had two that I enjoyed.

Lone Star Ma said...

How charming she is! (Except for the not-sleeping - I know how not-charming that feels).

Coming to mythology as an older child (I think 10), I mostly read Edith Hamilton. As an adult, I was entranced to find that she was sister to physician Alice Hamilton - settlement house worker and founder of epidemiology.

HipWriterMama said...

How I feel your pain. All three of mine stopped napping at two.

I love how you got some great storytelling in while trying to rest. Nothing like Greek mythology to create wonder in a child. Glad Lucia enjoyed them. I hope you were able to get some much needed rest!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: I enjoy finding out how people are related to each other (even if I was, ahem, ignorant of the existence of Alice Hamilton).

HWM: Thanks. I feel like a cat, sometimes (minus the furballs and the ability to drape myself over the back of a chair). My mom used to fall asleep in the dentist's chair, and now I can understand.

I didn't really get into Greek myths until 6th grade. Before then, I studied Norse myths. I got a bit tired of the fatalism, though, and went for the Greeks because they were arrogant, beautiful and never died. What does that say about me? Of course, now I admire the Norse gods more, what with their stoicism in the knowing that Ragnarok was indeed going to happen, and all they could go was go down with courage.

blogapotamus said...

When I was a kid, the Greek Myths were always my favorite unit in Language Arts. I'll have to get a lovely illustrated version of the myths for when the Prawn gets older!

Lone Star Ma said...

Norse myths depressed me far too much. I couldn't handle it.

SevenImpossible said...

There is this old Paula Poundstone routine that used to make me laugh so hard I'd cry where she talks about kids not wanting to nap, that if a kid walked up to her and said, "listen, I'm beat. I've been at the Legos all day. The bigwheel is jack-knifed in the driveway. I'm gonna get some shut-eye," she'd pass out.

I just have to say: What a lucky daughter to have a storyteller mama. I used to think I'd tell my girls stories all the time when I became a mom, that they'd just flow out of me. But, dang, I can't remember them. They just are right there for you, though.

Jules, 7-Imp

Noodle said...

My children *love* mythology! Their current favorite myth is Persephone. It changes often though. :)

limpy99 said...

I remember that D'Aulaire's book; I had it as a kid. We recently dug it out from my mother's attic and passed it along to our kids. My son loved it, as we'd recently bought a computer game called "Zeus", where the object is to build of various Greek cities while dealing with your troublesome neighbors, (Sparta and Troy are real pests), quarrelsome gods and bad-ass monsters who will knock down whole sections of your cities until you retain a hero to dish out a righteous cup of whup-ass.

In short, a great game for kids.

adrienne said...

That D'Aulaire book is The Bomb. I have five copies in WPL's collection, and they're often all checked out, which always makes me happy.

I agree with Jules, I wish I could pop out stories that easily. It seems to take me about forever to learn a new one. I need a lot of repetition to get the details straight, and if I don't practice a story periodically, it drips out of my ears at night or something.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Blogapotamus: I have high hopes for the Kimmel version when it comes out. (Thanks again to Anamaria for bringing it to my attention.)

LSM: I hear you. However, Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer is a must-read. (Not so much the sequel, IMO.)

Jules: Telling my daughter stories is much, much different than telling stories in front of an audience. When I tell my insatiable daughter stories, I'm big on filler and small on actual plot-development. I get a lot of mileage out of describing what the characters had for their picnic lunches.

Noodle: There's an old variation of Persephone I read somewhere that I just loved. Persephone was in an active, compassionate role and wasn't captured by Hades. I'll have to track it down and send it to you.

Limpy99: I am no video-game player, but "Zeus" sounds mighty tempting. I must resist.

Adrienne: I am right there with you on the repetition and keeping stories in my mind. Really! As I said to Jules, it's different telling my own daughter stories. And hey, if I get a detail wrong, she corrects me.

Noodle said...

Oh, Alkelda. There is a song that I adore that is based on that same thought -- that Persephone wasn't captured, but went willingly. If you remember the story, please do let me know.