Monday, March 27, 2017

Labyrinthine! Bull by David Elliott

Minos thought he could
Pull a fast one
On me.
God of the Sea.

The nerve of that guy.
I got capacity.

What is it with you mortals?
If you play with fire, babies,
You're gonna get burned.

Shakespeare had it all figured out. "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport," he said (King Lear, Act IV).

But unfortunately for Minos, Shakespeare was not in the curriculum when he was a lad in Crete High School. So Minos, who's got this thing to be king, seals a deal with Poseidon to impress the populace of Crete, his chosen realm, and the Ocean god conjures of a big snow white bull who walks right out of the sea during an opportune outdoor event, giving Minos the bragging rights and the keys to the kingdom. But instead of paying homage to Poseidon properly, Minos keeps the white bull for himself and sacrifices a look-alike.

Zeus on the loose! It's not nice to try to trick the God of the Sea.

And the rest, as we say, is Greek mythology, Poseidon waves his trident, causing Minos' formerly virtuous wife Pasiphae to fall in love with the white bull, bearing a son named Asterion with the head of a bull and the body of a human. It's all a bit embarrassing.

And even though Pasiphae soon gives Minos a son, Androgeos, a golden prince to be proud of, and a virtuous daughter Ariadne, who dotes on her bully boy brother, Poseidon's score is still not settled. He arranges for Androgeos to be killed "accidentally" at the Athenian games.

Eyewitnesses report the spear
Was almost to ground
When a sudden wind found the weapon,
As if a god's invisible hand, they said.
Who could that nasty god be!
Oh, wait a minute! It was me.

And of course, Poseidon is not yet done with his manic manipulations of mere mortals--Asterion, the Minotaur, Theseus, Daedalus, and Ariadne, all pawns in his game of revenge, in David Elliott's forthcoming code-breaking, free-verse rewrite of the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Bull (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Written in humorous, spirited, and irreverent rap-style rhyming stanzas that both parallel and parody the lusty drama of myths whose weighty narrations often veil the human foibles hidden in antiquity, this one really lets it rip. Young adult readers who have already devoured the Rick Riordan sagas of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology in their middle reader days will find this recasting of a classic of literature absolutely accessible and absorbing, done as it is in the au courant rap form of the hit musical "Hamilton." And Poseidon has a typical retort to objections to his admittedly rough language:

"You think a god should be more refined?
News Flash:
You don't want a god. You want a prude."

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