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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-10-21 12:18
Metamorphoses by Ovid
Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney,Ovid,David Raeburn
Metamorphoses - Mary M. Innes,Ovid
Metamorphoses: The New, Annotated Edition - Rolfe Humphries

TITLE:  Metamorphoses


AUTHOR:  Ovid [Publius /ovidus Naso]


DATE PUBLISHED: A long time ago, somewhere around 8 A.D.?





Prized through the ages for its splendor and its savage, sophisticated wit, The Metamorphoses is a masterpiece of Western culture--the first attempt to link all the Greek myths, before and after Homer, in a cohesive whole, to the Roman myths of Ovid's day.


Ovid's sensuous and witty poetry brings together a dazzling array of mythological tales, ingeniously linked by the idea of transformation - often as a result of love or lust - where men and women find themselves magically changed into new and sometimes extraordinary beings. Beginning with the creation of the world and ending with the deification of Augustus, Ovid interweaves many of the best-known myths and legends of Ancient Greece and Rome, including Daedalus and Icarus, Pyramus and Thisbe, Pygmalion, Perseus and Andromeda, and the fall of Troy. Erudite but light-hearted, dramatic yet playful, the Metamorphoses has influenced writers and artists throughout the centuries from Shakespeare and Titian to Picasso and Ted Hughes.




Metamorphoses is a poem in 15 books in which Ovid has collected a variety (and variation) of Greek and Roman myths and legends with the overarching theme of transformation.  Some of the stories are well known, others somewhat obscure.  Ovid starts with the creation of the ordered universe from Chaos and ends with the diefication of Julius Caesar.  In between, there is a lot of sex/rape, violence, love, bad decisions, vivid scenes and emotional passages.  Metamorphoses is episodic in nature, with one story/myth/legend leading into another and includes many story within a story devices.


I started out with the Penguin Classics edition, translated by David Raeburn into hexameter verse.  Then found an old copy of the Penguin Classics Mary M Innes prose translation and also an Indiana Press copy translated by Rolfe Humphries into ten-beat, unrhymed lines.  I decided to alternate between these translations (why not, if I have the books anyway?).  All these editions have notes, commentaries and introductions.  The David Raeburn/Penguin Classics edition includes a map of Ovid's Mediterranean World, which is rather useful.  Each edition is perfectly readible and enjoyable, though I did in the end prefer the Raeburn translation.


I've included a few lines from each translation I've come across, for anyone interested in comparing:


Translation by A.D Melville




AND now the Argonauts from Thessaly
Were cutting through the billows. They had seen
Old Phineus* dragging out his helpless age
In endless night and Boreas’ two sons
Had driven the Harpies from his piteous lips.
At last illustrious Jason and his men
Reached after many travails the swift stream
Of muddy Phasis.* Going to the king,*
They claimed the famous Golden Fleece* and learnt
The fearful terms and monstrous toils imposed.
And then it was Medea, the king’s daughter,
Conceived a mastering passion; long she fought
Her frenzy, but the voice of reason failed.
‘Oh, vain!’ she cried, ‘Medea, is your struggle;
Some deity must thwart you. Strange if this—
Or something surely like—is not called love.
Else why do my father’s orders seem too harsh?
Too harsh they are indeed! Why do I dread
His death whose face I first have seen today?
What cause, what reason for a fear so great?
Thrust down the flames that burn your virgin heart,
If you have strength!——Such strength would be my cure!
But against my will some force bewitches me;
One way desire, another reason calls;
The better course I see and do approve—
The worse I follow.*——Why long thus for him,
A princess for a stranger, why admit
Wild thoughts of wedlock with an alien world?
This land too offers what may win your love.
Whether he live or die, the gods decide.——
Yet may he live! That prayer, though I loved not,
Were surely licit. What has Jason done?
What heart would not be touched by Jason’s youth,
His prowess, his proud birth? Who, if all else
He lacked, would not be moved by Jason’s beauty?
My heart for sure is moved! Unless I help,
The bulls’ hot breath will blast him; he will meet
Fierce foes of his own sowing, earth-created,

Or to the dragon be cast for prey and prize.
If I permit such things, I’ll surely own
A tigress* was my dam and in my heart
I nurture iron and stone!*——Yet why not watch*
Him dying there, my gazing guilty eyes
Sharing the crime? Why not urge on the bulls,
The earth-born warriors and the unsleeping dragon?——
The gods forfend! Yet it’s not what I pray
But what I do! Shall I betray* my father’s throne,
And by my aid preserve some nameless stranger,
Who, saved by me, without me sails away
To win another wife across the sea
And I, Medea, am left to pay the price!


Translated by David Raeburn


Book Seven


Medea and Jason


Behold the Argonauts ploughing the sea on their voyage from Greece!

Behind them was Thrace, where they’d seen King Phíneus, blind and impoverished,

passing a bleak old age, and Bóreas’ twins had routed

the Harpies who’d tortured that wretched old man by snatching his food.

After many adventures under their captain, Jason,

they finally came to the muddy stream of the swift-flowing Phasis.

On reaching Aeëtes’ palace, they laid their claim to the Golden

Fleece,* and the king dictated his terms to the heroes, a series

of hard and dangerous tasks. Meanwhile, his daughter Medéa

fell deeply in love with the handsome Jason. Despite a long struggle

against her feelings, her reason was powerless to master her passion.*

‘It’s useless to fight, Medea,’ she said. ‘Some god is against you.

This, or something akin to it surely, is what they call love.

How else should I find my father’s conditions

excessively harsh? For certain they are too harsh. How else should I fear for the life

of a man I have only just seen? – But why should I feel so afraid?

How wretched I am! I must extinguish the fire which is raging

inside my innocent heart. I should be more sane, if I could!

I am dragged along by a strange new force. Desire and reason

are pulling in different directions. I see the right way and approve it,

but follow the wrong. I am royal; so why should I sigh for a stranger,

or ever conceive of a marriage which takes me away from my home?

Love can be found here too. It rests in the lap of the gods

whether Jason survives or is killed. – But I want him to live! I don’t

have to love him to pray for that. What crime has Jason committed?

Only a cruel and heartless person could fail to be struck

by his youthfulness, breeding and courage. And who could be blind to his handsome

looks, if he lacked all else? My heart, at least, has been stirred.

But unless I assist him, those fire-breathing bulls will blast him to ashes;

the warriors sprung from the seeds which he sows in the earth will fight

and destroy him; or else the greedy dragon will make him its prey.

If I can allow all this, I’ll confess that I’m born of a tigress,

confess that my heart is composed of nothing but rock and steel. –

Oh, why don’t I watch him dying and so infect my eyes

with the taint of the spectacle? Why don’t I shout to the fire-breathing bulls

or the earth-born brutes or the sleepless dragon to charge and attack him? –

O heavens, grant me better than that! Yet better is not

to be idly prayed for but done! – By me? Is it truly better

that I should betray my king and my father, that some tall stranger

should owe his life to my kind assistance, only to thank me,

the woman who saved him, by spreading his sails to the wind without me,

marrying somebody else and leaving Medea to be punished?



Translated by Mary M. Innes


Book Seven


Now the Minyans were cutting their way through the waters, on board the ship built at Pagasae.  Thy had seen Phineus, old and helpless, dragging on his life in the eternal darkness of the blind, and the young sons of the North wind had scared away from his lips the harpies that tormented the wretched old man.  At last, when they had come through many dangers and difficulties under the leadership of the famous Jason, they reached the swift-flowing waters of the muddy river Phasis. 

   While they were entering the presence of King Aeetes, and were asking for the fleece of the ram which had carried Phrixus, while Aeetes was imposing his monstrous conditions, requiring them to perform prodigious tasks, the king's daughter, Medea was seized by an overwhelming passion of love and, though she long fought against it, her reason could not subdue her mad desire.  'Medea, you struggles are useless,' she said to herself, 'for some god, though I know not which, is opposing you.  Surely this, or something like it, is what men call love.  Why else do my father's commands seem to me too harsh?  And indeed they are too harsh!  Why am I afraid lest Jason perish, when I have only just seen him?  What is the reason for such fear?  Unhappy girl, rid your inexperienced heart, if you can, of the flames that have been kindled there.  Oh, if I could, I should be more like myself!  But against my own wishes, some strange influence weights heavily upon me, and deisre sways me one way, reason another.  I see which is the better course, and I approve it; but still I follow the worse.  Why do you, a princess, burn with love for a stranger?  Why dream of marriage with a foreigner?  This land, as much as any other, can provide you with one to love.  Whether Jason lives or dies, is in the lap of the gods.  Yet I hope that he may live!  I can pray for that, even without loving him:  for what wrong has he done?  who but a monster of cruelty could fail to be stirred by his youth, his noble birth, his valour?  Though he had none of these virtues, who would not be moved by his words?  He has certainly touched my heart.  But, unless I help him, he will be blasted by the breath of the bulls, or come into conflict with the crop of earth-born foemen, raised from the seeds which he himself must sow; or else, like some creature of the wilds, he will become the prey of the greedy dragon.  To allow this to happen is to confess myself the child of a tigress, to admit that I have a heart of stone or iron.  Why should I not go further, and incriminate my eyes by watching him die?  Why should I not encourage the bulls against him, urge on the earth-born warriors and the sleepless dragon?  Heaven grant him a happier fate!  But I must work for that, not pray or it!

   'Shall I then betray my father's kingdom, and by my help rescue an unknown stranger so that, thanks to my efforts, he may set sail without me, and become another woman' husband, while I, Medea, am left to be punished?



Translated by Rolfe Humphries


Book Seven


The Story of Jason and Medea


So over the deep the Minyans went sailing.

They had seen Phineus, dragging out his years

In everlasting night, and Boreas’ sons

Had driven the Harpies from the poor old king.

They suffered much, but came at last with Jason,

Their brilliant leader, to the muddy waters

Where Phasis meets the sea. They went to the king,

Claiming the golden fleece, by Phrixus given,

And heard the dreadful terms, enormous labors.

And the king’s daughter burned with sudden passion,

And fought against it long, and when her reason

Could not subdue her madness, cried: “Medea,

You fight in vain; there is some god or other

Against you. I am wondering whether this

May be the thing called love, or something like it.

Why should my father’s orders seem too cruel?

They are too cruel! A fellow I have hardly

Much more than seen may die, and I am fearful!

What for? Unhappy girl, shake from the bosom

This burning fire, if you can. If I could do it,

I would be more sensible, but some new power

Holds me against my will, and reason calls

One way, desire another. I see, approving,

Things that are good, and yet I follow worse ones.

Why do you burn for a stranger, royal maiden?

Why think of marriage into a foreign circle?

This land can give you something to love. If he

Should live or die, let the gods decide; but let him

Live! That I can pray for, even without loving.

What has he done? Only the cruel-hearted

Would not be moved by Jason’s youth, his manhood,

His noble birth. And even if these were lacking,

His beauty would move a heart of stone—at least

It has moved mine. And if I do not help him,

The bulls will blow their fiery breath upon him,

The enemy he has sown in earth attack him,

The greedy dragon snatch and seize upon him.

And this, if I allow it, will prove me daughter

Of tigress, stony-hearted, iron-hearted!

Why can not I look on as he is dying,

Disgrace my eyes by looking on? Why can not

I urge the bulls against him, and the warriors

Sprung from the earth, and the unsleeping dragon?

God grant me better grace! But this is not

A question of praying, but doing. Shall I then

Betray my father’s kingdom, rescue a stranger,

Who, saved, sails off without me, marries another,

Leaves me to punishment? If he can do it,

If he can place another woman above me,

Then let him die, the ingrate! No! He could not,

He does not look as if he could, his spirit

Is noble, his body handsome. I need never

Fear he would cheat me, or forget my service.


Translated by Allen Mandelbaum


Book VII


Jason and Medea


NOW, IN THE SHIP they built at Pagasa,

the Argonauts were furrowing the sea.

They had already seen the Thracian seer,

King Phineus, dragging out his final years

in endless blindness. Boreas’ twin sons

had eased his sufferings: they’d driven off

the Harpies, women-birds who tortured him;

in recompense, the old king helped them chart

the way to Colchis. After many trials,

led by the hero Jason, they had reached

the rapid current of the muddy Phasis.

There, when they went to King Aeetes, claiming

the Golden Fleece he had obtained from Phrixus,

the king agreed to yield the fleece they sought—

but only on his terms: he set three tasks,

horrendous tests that Jason had to pass.


Meanwhile the raging flame of love has struck

Medea, daughter of the king: when she,

who struggled long against that passion, sees

that reason cannot win again her frenzy,

she says:


“Medea, you are doomed to fail:

the force you face must be some deity.

I wonder if this power (or something like it)

is not the power known to men as love.

Indeed, why do the terms my father set

seem harsh to me? But then . . . they are just that!

Why do I dread the death of one whom I

have seen but once—a first and only time!

What led to this? Why am I terrified?

Come, quench the flame that burns your virgin breast—

would you, unhappy girl, could do just that!

If it could blaze no more, I would be healed.

Instead, despite myself, a force that I

have never known before impels me now:

my longing needs one thing; my reason seeks

another. I can see—and I approve

the better course, and yet I choose the worse.

Oh, why do you, the daughter of a king,

burn for a stranger? Why, why must you dream

of wedding one whose world is alien?

You can, in your own land, find one to love.

The fate of Jason—life or death—depends

upon the gods. But I do hope he lives—

a hope that would be rightful even if

I did not love him! After all, what wrong

has Jason done! How could one be so cruel

as to ignore his noble birth, his youth,

his worth! But even if he lacked all these,

would Jason’s face alone not be enough

to stir one’s heart? At least, my heart—the heart

he has entranced. If I don’t take his part,

he will be blasted by the bulls’ hot breath,

and then face foes that he himself begets—

sprung from the very soil that he will sow—

or else fall prey to the voracious dragon.

If I let him become their victim, then

I must confess that I’m a tigress’ daughter,

who carries steel and stones within her breast.

And why don’t I look on as Jason dies—

why would that spectacle defile my eyes?

Why not incite the bulls, and savage foes

the earth engenders, and the sleepless dragon?

O gods, forbid that! . . . Yet, why do I pray?

I have to act! But shall I then betray

my father’s kingdom—be the one to save

this foreigner (I only know his name—

and nothing more), who then can sail away

without me, once he has escaped the fates,

and marry someone else, while I remain

alone—to face the penalty I’ll pay?



Translated by Horace Gregory

Signet Classic - ISBN 0-451-52793-3


Book 7


Now in a ship that had been built at Pagasae
The Argonauts cut through the restless waves.
And on their way they saw blind Phineus,
His pitiful old age in endless night;
Sons of the North Wind came to drive away
The girl-faced vultures plucking at his lips.
This scene was one of many swift adventures
Shared by the Argonauts, led by bright Captain Jason,
Who steered them safe at last; the ship was beached
Within the rapids of the mud-brown Phasis.
Officers and crew had come to take the fleece
Stolen by King Aeetes (as his gift
From Phrixus) nor would this hard-driving king
Give up the fleece without harsh terms and trials.
As the dispute ran high, the king's own daughter,
Sharp-eyed Medea, burned with quickening heat.
She fought against her fever: it was madness;
Nor could she cool her brains with hope of reason.
She cried aloud, "Medea, wits are futile
Against this heat. Some god's bewitched my senses,
Chained my will. Is this called love? Why do
The trials my father offers these young men
Seem difficult and cruel? His price is high:
Why do I fear the death of one I've seen
But for a moment and for the first time only?
What lies behind this fear? Then come, Medea,
Tear out the flames that scorch your innocent heart,
You poor unlucky child! Brace up, my darling,
Be yourself again: O if I could, I would,
But now against my will an unknown power
Has made me weak: heat sways me one way,
And my mind another: I see the wiser,
Yet I take the wrong. And why do you, king's
Daughter as you are, grow hot with love because
You see a stranger? To seek a wedding bed
In an alien world? There's much to love
At home. And if he lives or dies? Gods' will
Take care of that. And yet I hope he lives!
Let me hope, pray for him, and yet not love!
What harm has Jason done? It is inhuman
Not to be moved by Jason's manliness
That shines like summer's day, and his green vigour,
Even that clear line of his gentility;
If nothing else, look at his lovely face!
Surely he stirs my heart! Now to his rescue:
Great bulls will burn him blind with fiery breath,
And from the seeds that fall from his own hand
An army sprung from earth will strike him down
And he'll be fed as carrion to a dragon.
If he's destroyed, his very death shall prove
that I'm no more than a mad tigress' daughter,
My heart a bloodless weight of iron and stone.
Why can't I look down at him as he falls?
Why is that vision tainted in my eyes?
Why don't I order great bulls to charge, armies
To cut him down, and spur the watchful dragon
Who never sleeps? These questions are not answered
By a prayer; they call for action now - and yet
Shall I betray my father's kingdom, crown,
to shield an alien hero in my bed,
Then see him set his sails and make away
With some new bride? And I, Medea, pitiful,
Alone? But if another woman takes
His love, he's earned his death. No, no - his manly
Look, aristocratic air, his poise, his grace
Deny my foolish fear of being tricked.


P.S.:  Don't piss Hera/Juno off by having the misfortune of being raped by her husband, Zeus/Jove.  She's likely to turn you into something, probably a cow!



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review 2018-08-21 18:27
Cleverus Dickus: "Metamorphoses (Norton Critical Edition)" by Ovid (Author), Charles Martin (Translator)
Metamorphoses: A New Translation - Ovid,Charles Martin,Bernard Knox

“God himself helps those who dare.” 

in "Metamorphoses (Norton Critical Edition)" by Ovid (Author), Charles Martin (Translator)

When I think on Ovid and Shakespeare, my own poetic streak resurfaces. Read at your own peril (word of warning: If you don't know either your Shakespeare or your Ovid, what follows won't make much sense):

Sentenced to exile! - be seated-
Let me roll back the years-
(Please lend me your ears)-
And give me the closure I've needed.



If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-03-07 00:00
Tales from Ovid
Tales from Ovid - Ted Hughes The ancient Mediterranean world was sustained by potent myths which retain the power to grip our imaginations and provoke the deepest thoughts about our nature and circumstances; Ovid was one ancient writer who was able to tell these stories with immense skill. Ted Hughes has presented two dozen of his tales in modern English, using language and images which clearly belong to the late 20th Century but nevertheless carry the reader away into ancient ways of seeing and feeling. In his introduction, he explains that "Above all, Ovid was interested in passion. Or rather, what a passion feels like to the one possessed by it. Not just ordinary passion either, but human passion in extremis - passion where it combusts, or levitates, or mutates into an experience of the supernatural." ... "However impossible these intensities might seem to be on one level, on another, apparently more significant level Ovid renders them with compelling psychological truth and force." Ted Hughes deploys all his skill as a poet to convey this intensity to the modern reader.
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review 2018-03-07 00:00
Tales from Ovid
Tales from Ovid - Ted Hughes The ancient Mediterranean world was sustained by potent myths which retain the power to grip our imaginations and provoke the deepest thoughts about our nature and circumstances; Ovid was one ancient writer who was able to tell these stories with immense skill. Ted Hughes has presented two dozen of his tales in modern English, using language and images which clearly belong to the late 20th Century but nevertheless carry the reader away into ancient ways of seeing and feeling. In his introduction, he explains that "Above all, Ovid was interested in passion. Or rather, what a passion feels like to the one possessed by it. Not just ordinary passion either, but human passion in extremis - passion where it combusts, or levitates, or mutates into an experience of the supernatural." ... "However impossible these intensities might seem to be on one level, on another, apparently more significant level Ovid renders them with compelling psychological truth and force." Ted Hughes deploys all his skill as a poet to convey this intensity to the modern reader.
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review 2017-10-01 23:45
Halloween Bingo 2017: Update 4
Grandmother Spider - James D. Doss
Men at Arms (Discworld, #15) - Terry Pratchett
Metamorphosen - Ovid
Metamorphoses - Ovid,David Horovitch,Ian Johnston
The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics) - Robin Hard,Apollodorus
Plutarch’s Lives: Life of Theseus - Plutarch,John Dryden
The Devil in the Marshalsea - Antonia Hodgson
The Snowman - Jo Nesbo



My Square Markers and "Virgin" Bingo Card:

"Virgin" card posted for ease of tracking and comparison.

Black Kitty:
Read but not called

Black Vignette:
Called but not read

Black Kitty in Black Vignette:
Read and Called

Black Kitty Center Square:

                    Read = Called



Current Status of Spreadsheet:

(Note: Physical print editions unless stated otherwise)



Books Read / Listened to - Update 4:

James D. Doss: Grandmother Spider

I "rediscovered" James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series during last year's bingo -- in fact, I had been sufficiently impressed with what I'd read about the books when I first found out about them years ago to buy several of them at a time, only to let them get buried, however, under a pile of other purchases in the interim.  Thank God, therefore, for last year's "Full Moon" square, which made me undust White Shell Woman, the serie's no.7 book ... whose events follow closely on the heels of Grandmother Spider, the book I chose for this year's "Diverse Voices" square!


Charlie Moon, the series's protagonist, is Acting Chief of the Ute Tribal Police; he usually teams up in his investigations with his friend Scott Parris, the Police Chief of Granite Creek, CO (who used to be the protagonist of the series's first book -- though Charlie took over from him soon enough).


Doss seemed to have a penchant for doings during dark and stormy nights; however, there is nothing Bulwer-Lytton'ish about his settings: You could easily be scared sh*tless by the atmosphere that he creates, if it weren't for the laugh-out-loud crap shots that he takes at himself and his characters just when things are on the point of getting serously spooky.  As such, at the beginning of Grandmother Spider, Charlie Moon's aunt Daisy -- a Ute shaman and tribal elder -- at nightfall tells her nine year old ward Sarah the legend of Grandmother Spider, a giant arachnid demon / deity / monster / spirit believed to live below Navajo Lake, to come out and avenge the death of any spiders killed by humans (such as, you guessed it, Sarah has just done) and to store any human bodies she isn't ready to eat just yet high up in a convenient tree.  (Shelob and her kin from The Hobbit, anyone?)  Only minutes later, they are confronted by a huge, round thing with eight tentacle-like legs and flashing lights that may or may not be eyes, flying past Daisy's trailer at the mouth of Canyon del Espíritu in Southern Colorado ... which does an instant vanishing act after having absorbed two rounds of bird shot that Daisy has emptied into it on the suspicion that it just might be a UFO carrying space aliens.  Minutes earlier, the same mysterious apparition has already been witnessed, in not-quite-biblical fashion, by a lone sheperd watching his flock at night on a nearby mountain ridge (failing any other logical explanation, he blames the apparition on the Government in D.C., once more out to annoy its loyal citizens out West), and somehow, the whole thing also seems to have something to do with the unlikely drinking-and-fishing -- mostly drinking -- fellowship spontaneously formed on the shores of Lake Navajo by a Ute tribesman and a New Mexico scientist passing through on his way to Albuquerque, who maybe would have done better heeding the warning in the rearview mirror of the Ute's truck: "Caution: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear."  (One of them will, shortly thereafter, be discovered in a state of severe hypothermia up a tree quite a distance away, which of course does nothing for dispelling the supernatural overtones of these events.)


The solution to it all is, I am happy to report, anything but supernatural; however, high marks to Mr. Doss for sheer wackiness and invention alone.  What I like most about his books, though -- aside from his dry and spot-on sense of humor -- is the way in which the Native American spiritual world and beliefs and the secular world of the late 20th century blend together in a truly engaging storyline, with equal respect being paid to both; and on that count, Grandmother Spider delivers every bit as successfully as White Shell Woman.  What a pity Mr. Doss passed away in 2012 and there will be no new instalments to the series ... though I am looking forward to the 15 volumes I have yet to discover!



Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

I'm not a big fan of werewolf or shifter literature -- but I'll gladly use any excuse out there to read another book from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, so here we go!


Men at Arms is part of the Night Watch subseries; it's the first book in which the Watch's werewolf recruit Angua makes her appearance, and to lasting effect ... though the star of this particular instalment, truth be told, is a flea-ridden canine mongrel about a third (or a forth) Angua's size named Gaspode who's acquired the gift of speech (and trust Pratchett not to go all soppy and anthropomorphic on this one).  After a bit of a meandering beginning, the story settles on the mysterious disappearance of a unique, lethal invention by local polymath Leonardo da Quirm, consisting of a barrel connected to a cylinder holding six cartridges filled with a "No.1 Powder" that are discharged pyrotechnically, and known as "the gonne".  Very much to the Guild of Assassins' annoyance, Sam Vimes and his Watch (which in addition to Angua has also acquired a dwarf and a troll recruit) discover

(1) the "gonne"'s existance, which had heretofore been a closely-guarded secret, (2) the fact that it had been entrusted to the Guild of Assassins for safekeeping, (3) the fact that it seems to have been stolen, and (4) the fact that it seems to be associated with several suspicious deaths occurring in quick succession.

(spoiler show)


Furthermore, we learn that Sam Vimes is getting married, and how it comes about that

(despite all appearances to the contrary) he remains with the Watch after all and the subseries doesn't come to a grinding halt with this particular book.

(spoiler show)


Although I loved Angua's and Gaspode's exchanges in particular, for some reason this book didn't grab me quite as much as some of the others in the series -- though don't get me wrong, this is measured only by Pratchett's very particular standards.  I'll be the first to admit I'm fairly spoiled at this point, and I'll gladly take any book by Pratchett over many another writer's best efforts.



Ovid: Metamorphoses
(German / Latin parallel print edition and David Horovitch audio)

Apollodorus: Library of Greek Mythology

Plutarch: Life of Theseus

For the "Monsters" square, I decided to revisit Ovid's Metamorphoses -- I had initially only been planning on the "Perseus and Medusa" and "Theseus and the Minotauros" episodes, but David Horovitch's fabulous reading drew me right back in and I decided to -- with apologies to Odysseus and his companions at Circe's court -- go the whole hog after all. If you only know Mr. Horovitch as the Inspector Slack of the BBC's 1980s adaptations of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple mysteries, do yourself a favor and run, don't walk to get an audiobook narrated by him.  I recently listened to his reading of Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, and his narration alone lifts the gut-punch quality of that novel to a wholly different visceral level in a way I would never have believed it to be possible, short of Franco Zeffirelli's movie adaptation, that is.  I get goosebumps merely thinking about that audio recording.

The Metamorphoses are Roman poet Ovid's tour de force parcours through a millennium's worth of Greek and Roman mythology, focusing on the stories that (as the title says) involve some sort of transformation of one being into another -- nymphs into plants and animals, humans into all sorts of creatures (animal, vegetable, mineral, you name it) ... and of course, gods into whatever they please to be as well.  The book begins with the Greek creation myth (the three "prehistoric" ages -- golden, silver, and iron --, the creation of humanity from "the bones of mother Earth," i.e., rocks, by Deucalion and Pyrrha after the end of the Deluge, and the beginning of a new age), and it successively moves forward until it reaches the Trojan War, the travels of Aeneas, the mythical origins of Rome and, finally, the ages of Caesar and Augustus (i.e., Ovid's own lifetime).  The narration is somewhat difficult to follow at times, as it is not strictly linear and contains numerous "stories within a story"; yet, for its sheer narrative and topical audacity this is justifiedly one of world literature's great classics.


Yet, for almost all of their topical content, the Metamorphoses are only one of several sources; many of the myths recounted by Ovid are also to be found in other collections, such as those by Hesiod, Homer (of course), Vergil's Aeneid (ditto), even historians such as Plutarch and Livy -- as mythology and history formed a seamless blend in Antiquity -- and, especially, also the Library of Greek Mythology traditionally attributed to Apollodorus of Alexandria.


So for comparison's sake, I also consulted some of these sources; namely, Apollodorus's Library -- which contains among the most detailed renditions extant of both the Perseus and the Theseus myth -- as well as Plutarch's Life of Theseus, which collectively relies on all Greek sources available to Plutarch (some of which are now considered lost) and gives an overview of the, in part, substantially different versions of the Theseus saga.


(Just in case, for those unfamiliar with Greek mythology:


Medusa was a Gorgon, one of three erstwhile very beautiful sisters bewitched so as to have snakes for hair; whoever looked directly at Medusa's face was instantly turned to stone. Perseus was able to kill her after the goddess Athena (Minerva to the Romans) had given him a shield polished to mirror clarity; he cut off Medusa's head while she was sleeping and later used it to rescue a princess (Andromeda) from a sea dragon -- as a result of which her grateful parents gave him Andromeda's hand in marriage -- and to defeat his own enemies, including Andromeda's former suitor.


The Minotauros was half human and half bull; he was the offspring of an adulterous relationship of the wife of the king of Crete (Minos) and the sacred bull of Zeus (to the Romans; Jove / Jupiter). (Minotauros means "Minos's bull"). As a result of a war between Crete and Athens that Crete (Minos) had won, Minos was entitled to demand tribute from Athens, and his demand was a yearly tribute of seven Athenean young men and seven Athenean virgins.  Theseus, the son of Athen's king, sailed to Crete as one of the seven young men to be delivered on the third such voyage, and with the help of Minos's daughter Ariadne (who had fallen in love with him and had given him a thread so as to not lose his way), he was able to make his way into the labyrinth where the Minotauros was kept and kill the monster, thus freeing Athens from its obligation.



The Minoan Palace at Knossos, Crete:

Even in Antiquity, not everybody believed the version that Minos had a labyrinth built in which to hide the Minotauros, and indeed, the royal palace itself consists of such a myriad of rooms and hallways that it must have been very easy to get lost there: very likely it was reports of the palace itself that were embellished and expanded on in the process of repetition, until the legend of the labyrinth was born. (Photos: mine.)


Agios Nikolaos, Crete: Statue of Europa and the Bull

Crete is the location of a number of important Greek myths; among others, that of the abduction of Europa by Zeus / Jupiter, who is believed to have approached her in the guise of a bull.  This story, too, is (of course) recounted in Ovid's Metamorphoses. (Photo: mine.)



Next Reads:




First Bingo (Update 3 -- Sept. 23, 2017): Squares and Books Read:




Books Read / Listened to - Update 1:

Terry Pratchett: Equal Rites



Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)




Martin Edwards / British Library:
Miraculous Mysteries - Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes



Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(Hugh Fraser audio)



Books Read / Listened to - Update 2:

 Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings



Ruth Rendell:

The Babes in the Wood

& Not in the Flesh



Robert Louis Stevenson: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde



Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black

 Raymond Chandler:

Farewell, My Lovely

  The Long Goodbye

The High Window



Books Read / Listened to - Update 3:

Martin Edwards: The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books



Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(Prunella Scales & Samuel West audio)



Simon Brett: An Amateur Corpse




The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows




Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

(Bernadette Dunne audio)




Murder Most Foul (Anthology)

Edgar Allan Poe: The Dupin Stories -- The Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Mystery of Marie Rogêt / The Purloined Letter

(Kerry Shale audio)

 Agatha Christie: Endless Night
(BBC full cast dramatization)

 Dick Francis: Knockdown (Tim Pigott-Smith audio)



 Ngaio Marsh:

Artists in Crime (Benedict Cumberbatch audio)

Overture to Death (Anton Lesser audio)

Death and the Dancing Footman (Anton Lesser audio)

Surfet of Lampreys (Anton Lesser audio)

Opening Night (aka Night at the Vulcan) (Anton Lesser audio)



The Book Pool:

Most likely: Donna Andrews: Lord of the Wings


* Diane Mott Davidson: Catering to Nobody
* One or more stories from Martin Greenberg's and Ed Gorman's (eds.) Cat Crimes
* ... or something by Lilian Jackson Braun

Most likely: Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights
(audio return visit courtesy of
either Michael Kitchen or Prunella Scales and Samuel West)


* Wilkie Collins: The Woman In White
(audio version read by Nigel Anthony and Susan Jameson)

* Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
(audio return visit courtesy of Anna Massey)
* Isak Dinesen: Seven Gothic Tales
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* ... or something by Daphne du Maurier

Candace Robb: The Apothecary Rose

Most likely: Simon Brett: A book from a four-novel omibus edition including An Amateur Corpse, Star Trap, So Much Blood, and Cast, in Order of Disappearance


* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes

Most likely: Something from James D. Doss's Charlie Moon series (one of my great discoveries from last year's bingo)

Or one of Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins mysteries


Sherman Alexie: Indian Killer

Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum

One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Miraculous Mysteries: Locked-Room Murders and Impossible Crimes

Most likely: Agatha Christie: Mrs. McGinty's Dead
(audio return visit courtesy of Hugh Fraser)

Or one or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Serpents in Eden: Countryside Crimes


* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Josephine Tey: Brat Farrar, To Love and Be Wise, or The Singing Sands
* Georgette Heyer: Why Shoot a Butler?
* Peter May: The Lewis Man
* S.D. Sykes: Plague Land
* Arthur Conan Doyle: The Mystery of Cloomber
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte
* Stephen Booth: Dancing with the Virgins
* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Martha Grimes: The End of the Pier
* Minette Walters: The Breaker

One of two "Joker" Squares:


To be filled in as my whimsy takes me (with apologies to Dorothy L. Sayers), either with one of the other mystery squares' alternate books, or with a murder mystery that doesn't meet any of the more specific squares' requirements.  In going through my shelves, I found to my shame that I own several bingo cards' worth of books that would fill this square alone, some of them bought years ago ... clearly something needs to be done about that, even if it's one book at a time!

Isabel Allende: Cuentos de Eva Luna (The Stories of Eva Luna) or
Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

Most likely: One or more stories from Charles Dickens: Complete Ghost Stories or
Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills


* Wilkie Collins: Mrs. Zant and the Ghost
(Gillian Anderson audio)

* Stephen King: Bag of Bones

Terry Pratchett: Men at Arms

Obviously and as per definition in the rules, the second "Joker" Square.


Equally as per definition, the possibles for this square also include my alternate reads for the non-mystery squares.

Most likely: Cornell Woolrich: The Bride Wore Black


* Raymond Chandler: Farewell My Lovely or The Long Goodbye / The High Window

* James M. Cain: Mildred Pierce
* Horace McCoy: They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
* David Goodis: Shoot the Piano Player or Dark Passage
* ... or something else by Cornell Woolrich, e.g., Phantom Lady or I Married a Dead Man

Most likely: Ruth Rendell: Not in the Flesh or The Babes in the Wood (audio versions read by Christopher Ravenscroft, aka Inspector Burden in the TV series)


* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills

Most likely: Peter May: Coffin Road


* Stephen King: Bag of Bones or Hearts in Atlantis
* Denise Mina: Field of Blood
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Minette Walters: The Breaker
* Jonathan Kellerman: When The Bough Breaks, Time Bomb, Blood Test, or Billy Straight

* Greg Iles: 24 Hours

Most likely: Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills


* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers
* Greg Iles: Sleep No More

Most likely: Margery Allingham: The Crime at Black Dudley
(audio version read by David Thorpe)


* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries
* Georgette Heyer: They Found Him Dead
* Ellis Peters: Black is the Colour of My True-Love's Heart

Most likely: Something from Terry Pratchett's Discworld / Witches subseries -- either Equal Rites or Maskerade


* Karen Maitland: The Owl Killers

* Shirley Jackson: The Witchcraft of Salem Village

Most likely: Antonia Hodgson: The Devil in the Marshalsea


* Rory Clements: Martyr
* Philip Gooden: Sleep of Death 
* Minette Walters: The Shape of Snakes
* Ngaio Marsh: Death in Ecstasy

* One or more stories from Martin Edwards's (ed.) and the British Library's Capital Crimes: London Mysteries

Most likely: Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
(audio return visit courtesy of Sir Christopher Lee)


* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau 

* ... or something by Edgar Allan Poe

Most likely: Something from Ovid's Metamorphoses


* Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bottle Imp
* Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market
* H.G. Wells: The Island of Dr. Moreau

Most likely: Jo Nesbø: The Snowman


* Val McDermid: The Retribution
* Denise Mina: Sanctum 
* Mo Hayder: Birdman
* Caleb Carr: The Alienist
* Jonathan Kellerman: The Butcher's Theater
* Greg Iles: Mortal Fear

Most likely: The Medieval Murderers: House of Shadows
or Hill of Bones


* Sharyn McCrumb: She Walks These Hills
* Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House
* Stephen King: Bag of Bones
* Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
* Michael Jecks: The Devil's Acolyte

Ooohhh, you know -- something by Shirley Jackson ... if I don't wimp out in the end; otherwise something by Daphne du Maurier.














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