Book Review: The Story of the Greeks by Hélèna A. Guerber (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Story of the Greeks by Hélène A. Guerber (Three Stars)

The beginning of Greek history is therefore like a fairy tale; and while much of it cannot, of course, be true, it is the only information we have about the early Greeks. It is these strange fireside stories, which used to amuse Greek children so many years ago, that you are first going to hear.

The key word in the title is story. Do not confuse this book with a history of the Greeks, rather a dumbing of Greek history for an assumed audience of young readers. Very young. Guerber commits several errors about the role of myths in culture. (Interested readers may consult J. R. R. Tolkien’s “On Fairy Stories” in The Tolkien Reader.)

The Greeks used to tell their children that Deu-ca´li-on, the leader of the Thes-sa´li-ans, was a descendant of the gods,

While a rehash myths and legends, the author engages young readers at the level they are most likely to be interested—even to the point of indicating the syllabication of daunting Greek names. Compared to Thucydides, Guerber tells more readable stories.

Northwest of Sparta, in the country called E´lis and in the city of O-lym´pi-a, rose a beautiful temple for the worship of Ju´pi-ter (or Zeus), the principal god of the Greeks.

First published 125 years ago, the book reflects Guerber’s Anglo-Christian point of view. One wonders why she refers to the Greek gods by the names of their Roman counterparts. (Nice, if inaccurate, cover art.)

Thus ends the history of ancient Greece, which, though so small, was yet the most famous country the world has ever known,-the country from which later nations learned their best lessons in art, philosophy, and literature.

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