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Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,604 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
A powerful version of the Latin classic by England's late Poet Laureate, now in paperback.When it was published in 1997, Tales from Ovid was immediately recognized as a classic in its own right, as the best rendering of Ovid in generations, and as a major book in Ted Hughes's oeuvre. The Metamorphoses of Ovid stands with the works of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton as a c
Paperback, 257 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 1997)
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The Odyssey by HomerThe Iliad by HomerThe Aeneid by VirgilTales from Ovid by OvidMedea by Euripides
For Classicists and Those That Love Good Myths
4th out of 26 books — 23 voters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Subtle Knife by Philip PullmanElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared DiamondA Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Best Books of 1997
41st out of 239 books — 130 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,870)
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Bill  Kerwin

Ovid's Metamorphoses can be a delight for anyone who loves classical mythology, a good complement to the versions of tales you learned from Bulfinch, Hamilton, the D'Aulaires, etc. Besides, Ovid gives you the sex and violence too, which those nice children's illustrated versions leave out.

There are many translations of Metamorphoses available, but one I definitely would recommend is Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes. As the title suggests, this is not a literal translation and does not contain every
Nov 30, 2010 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody: Beg, borrow or buy it and be amazed!
I've not read any other translations of Ovid and I don't know Latin, so I have little choice but to take these selections from the Metamorphoses at face value.

That value is very high: Hughes writes gripping, driving poetry that impatiently whips you along the narrative, with hardly a chance to catch your breathe sometimes. Faster paced than many a novel, there is no chance of being lulled to sleep by endless iambs here. Startling, powerful, often brutal metaphors pay no heed to shouts of "Anachr
Ted Hughes' translation/interpretation of some of the tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses is a really good example of the way translation is always an interpretation -- he's played to that, and used anachronistic images and modern language, and created something dynamic and energetic and entirely his. It's much like the way Seamus Heaney and Simon Armitage took Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and used their own dialects to flavour it, bringing in what felt appropriate to them and what mi ...more
May 13, 2015 Melanie rated it really liked it
Wat hou ik van deze verhalen. Sommige vertellingen herinnerde ik me nog omdat ik ze ooit als tiener uit het Latijn moest vertalen. Ik vertelde 3 verhalen - Phaeton, Callisto & Arcas en Echo & Narcissus- ook aan mijn zonen omdat ze zo mooi en magisch zijn.

How I loved reading these tales. I remembered some of them because I had to translate them from Latin as a teenager. I told three stories - Phaeton, Callisto & Arcas and Echo & Narcissus - to my sons because they're so beautiful
Aug 14, 2011 max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: latin
This is not really a "translation," since in rendering certain well known stories from the Metamorphoses into English Hughes makes up stuff out of thin air, sometimes quite a lot of material that is nowhere found in Ovid's Latin text.

But why should that be a problem? This is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of work, one that effectively captures the essence of Ovid's brilliant style: the shifting narrative tones, authorial interventions, subtle (and not so subtle) ironies, and storytelling that is
Matthew Gatheringwater
If I had picked up this book without ever having read the tales of Ovid, I might have enjoyed it merely for the fantastic stories of transformation, which are engagingly told in a rhythm that seemed more modern than timeless to me. But since I was already familiar with the tales, what really kept me turning the pages was Ted Hughes' creativity as a translator. Throughout the book there are passages that startled me with vivid imagery. His use of anachronistic language and concepts made me change ...more
Jul 12, 2016 Pink rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, metamorphosis
Loved these. Greek and Roman myths are some of my favourite things to read. I don't know how much was Ovid's original and how much was Hughes' translation, but it felt like a perfect blending of the two.
Ben Loory
Apr 15, 2009 Ben Loory rated it liked it
nothing against ted hughes, or ovid, but i just get bored after a while. partly because of all the long crazy greek names and the fact that i'm supposed to know who these people and places are, which i don't (and don't care to) and partly just because after the first couple it's really easy to see where things are going (or at least how things are going to get there). some of the stories work better than others... callisto and arcas is pretty devastating, and tereus is amazing, and there are lot ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Sonya rated it it was amazing
Having only previously read Ovid's love poems, I find this work illuminating. Here is his talent, his way with words, the reason for his legacy. My favorite quotes were:

From the Age of Gold (in Four Ages)

"Cities had not dug themselves in
Behind deep moats, guarded by towers.
No sword had bitten its own
Reflection in the shield. No trumpets
Magnified the battle-cries
Of lions and bulls
Out through the mouth-holes in helmets."

From the Age of Iron

"Now sails bulged and the cordage cracked
In winds that st
Hamda Almuhairi
As I was reading this, I kept taking pictures of some parts of the text and sending them over to some of my friends. At one point, one of my friend was like, "The f*** you're reading?" That is exactly how it feels to read this. Entertaining but insane. At least now I know where Shakespeare got his inspiration for Romeo & Juliet (read: Pyramus and Thisbe).

There are some obvious anachronisms in Ted Hughes's translation but the whole thing flows better for it. I also don't think I would have g
Jun 12, 2015 Pete rated it really liked it
i felt like the line and rhythm of the translation, or rather the poetry resulting from the translation, since i can't read latin, sagged a little in the middle before rebounding at the end. but yeah these are wonderful stories. they are themselves retellings and expansions of foundational myths, based on who knows what, then retold and expanded themselves, and constantly reborn and dismantled.

these versions bring across the insanity and magic of desire so well. also totally PG-13. hella people
Jim Coughenour
Hughes is one of the great English poets of the 20th century, a terrific translator, and an inventor of his own mythology. His selection from Ovid's masterpiece is no substitute for the full version, but it's a powerful, satisfying recapitulation of the most famous episodes.
Bernard Norcott-mahany
Feb 23, 2015 Bernard Norcott-mahany rated it it was amazing
This is a selection of poems from Ovid's "Metamorphoses," and not the whole work. That said, Ted Hughes was a great poet in his own right and captures Ovid's flair and sardonic charm. Though there are complete translations of the "Metamorphoses" out there (including an excellent translation by Rolfe Humphries), this would be my first choice for someone wanting to get a good taste of Ovid.
Carey Combe
Jun 23, 2014 Carey Combe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A wonderful re-imagining of some wonderful stories to begin with.
May 11, 2016 Killthepopular rated it really liked it
Hughes brings his typical style to these myths; an intense, peering, pondering vision - resonant, soaked in blood and perhaps a little lugubrious.

It's better written, more insightful, more immersive and more readable than perhaps any other volume of mythology i've read.

I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been written with a lighter tone. On the other hand, as it was a transcription of Greek Myths by a poet known for his seriousness who happened to be dying of cancer at the time, I g
Nov 23, 2015 Qi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books

*** First Read: Notes on April 2015

Greek mythology is not an idle exercise of fancy and imagination. In its core, these are dark tales of how ancient people related their existential conditions among the order and chaos within and around them. Civilization has tamed some of horror of natural forces, yet much less has accomplished for the psyche. The psyche of extremes is always hovering around the air, ready to take its stake in each stage of human life. Greek myth has much to do with the drama
BeccaAudra Smith
At the minute I'm trying to respond to Ovid, Metamorphoses, with my own poems, so it was great to read Hughes interpretation of Ovid, twenty four stories. And they included stories I know from Shakespeare, from Carol Ann Duffy The World's Wife, from Tales Of Ancient Greece by Enid Blyton which I read when I was younger and is my first reference point!

I haven't read Ovid the original properly yet so where it becomes more Ted Hughes than Ovid I can't judge. But it was compelling reading, within a
Aug 30, 2008 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: makaris
It was Dante's Inferno that first led me to Ovid's Metmorphoses: tales that explore the ways in which the violent passions of the soul apply pressure to the body until it changes shape. In Dante's Hell, shape-changes are governed by divine justice--punishments fitted to the sinners' crimes--but Ovid's world is governed by the gods' caprice, punishing, rescuing, rewarding and destroying sinners and victims alike. It is hard to say which is the more true depiction of the way we live, but reading O ...more
This is not so much a translation of twenty-four tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses as a transformation of them, and a brilliant one. Sinewy and exciting, it's hard to imagine a more vital gateway to classical mythology, or a more thrilling example of modern narrative verse. Hughes works with language that is both familiar (I found only a couple of words that were new to me in the whole book) and reinvigorated. Sometimes this is done by stunning but never jarring imagery - the "nuclear blast / Of [ ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Jesst rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed it as I have an interest in Greek and roman mythology. During the process of reading I had many complaints against the action of the men and woman in this book and the actions they took for love or revenge.

I really enjoyed the transitions from each story that Ted Hughes has used from the original because It made it easier to keep on reading as opposed to reading just one story and leaving it at that.

I also enjoyed the stories that I have read in other texts such as many of the
Jan 26, 2013 Broderick rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, literature
Tales from Ovid was a surprisingly enjoyable collection of stories. I enjoyed reading about how the Roman gods and the demi-gods interacted with the characters in the myths. One of the things that I believe made many of the stories more significant is how most of them had morals and alternate meanings in them, even if I missed some of them. I don't have a huge amount to say on Tales from Ovid because each story was different. In a few of the stories/myths I was a little confused as to who was do ...more
Rita	 Marie
Mar 20, 2013 Rita Marie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I never knew Ovid could be so enthralling. Ted Hughes has done a magnificent job of translating/interpreting these stories for the modern reader. One of the more standard translations of "Metamorphoses" was required reading in my first year of college, and oh, what a dreadful slog it was.

But I've been taking a Teaching Company course on Greek mythology and wanted to brush up, see how Ovid compared to Hesiod's Theogony too. Dreading the effort, I went to the library and found this wonderful book
Mar 24, 2012 Vickie rated it really liked it
After "The Odyssey" (and a scattering of mention of myths in my childhood) I was really keen to get into "Tales from Ovid".

A much more vicious pantheon of gods take the forefront here in the tales of sex, scandal, blood and betrayal. An absolutely riveting collection of tales that I found surprisingly easy to read (I was expecting a more Odyssey-like delivery).

I think that before reading this anthology, it is important to know a little bit about Ovid and the times he lived in - so I would advi
Feb 28, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ten poems from Ted Hughes's Tales of Ovid are adapted for the stage by Tim Supple and Simon Reade. Wonderful.
Lachlan Pezet
Using Hughes' Ovid as a wonderful base while i dive in and out of Charles Martin's translation (Norton critical), which is rather hefty. Each time I return to the larger volume I wish Hughes had translated more than the 24 tales presented here.
But maybe its size is a strength, giving us a glimpse into what Hughes thought were the tales that excited readers the most. I hope that others appreciate its beauty and that it also inspires readers who were struggling with or unaware of Ovid to maybe gi
Vivid and powerful. Great poetry.

"You forget the hard face of the future
With its hungry mouth and its battle cry
That waits behind the time of plenty
Hungry for all you have,
And that massacres for amusement, for thrills.
You forget the strangers that are not friendly.
They will lift off your roofs and remove your walls like driftwood
And take all you have,
Leaving you hugging the burnt earth."

Bacchus and Pentheus

Feb 28, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Ted Hughes was a brilliant translator.
I've only read a few excerpts from Metamorphoses before, but it's pretty obvious that these aren't very literal versions of the original stories. Hughes's translations are very loose, but he perfectly captures the beauty and horror of the myths. I still plan to read a complete translation, eventually, but I loved these. Some are well known, like "The Rape of Proserpina" or "Echo and Narcissus" but most of them I'd never heard of before.

Some of my favorite quotes:

from "Creation"

“He conjured spri
Terence Carlisle
As I've never read any other version of Ovid's classic, I can't comment on Hughes' faithfulness to the original, but if you like your poetry rip-snorting, earthy, sensual, blood-warming, soul-stirring, this is the book for you. I've read a lot of Hughes' work, and I think this is his greatest poetic legacy.
Feb 01, 2014 Oliver rated it it was amazing
Myth can pretty much encapsulate everything through the device of archetypes - and that is what Ovid does. Then comes the psychological interpretation of Ted Hughes to elucidate and modernise these archetypes. These are tales of psychological metamorphosis - and probably my favourite book of poetry.
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Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 43 BCE – CE 17/18), known as Ovid (/ˈɒvɪd/) in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, and for collections of love poetry in elegiac couplets, especially the Amores ("Love Affairs") and Ars Amatoria ("Art of Love"). His poetry was much imitated during Late ...more
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“He plunged his arms deep to embrace
One who vanished in agitated water.
Again and again he kissed
The lips that seemed to be rising to kiss his
But dissolved, as he touched them,
Into a soft splash and a shiver of ripples.
How could he clasp and caress his own reflection?
And still he could not comprehend
What the deception was, what the delusion.
He simply became more excited by it.
Poor misguided boy! Why clutch so vainly
At such a brittle figment? What you hope
To lay hold of has no existence.
Look away and what you love is nowhere.”
“But now as Phoebus anointed Phaethon
With medicinal blocker
To protect him from the burning
And fixed the crown of rays on the boy’s head
He saw the tragedy to come

And sighed: “At least, if you can,
Stick to these instructions, my son.
First: use the whip not at all, or lightly.
But rein the team hard. It is not easy.
Their whole inclination is to be gone.

Second: avoid careering
Over the whole five zones of heaven.
Keep to that broad highway that curves
Within three zones, temperate and tropic.
Avoid the poles, and their killing blizzards.

Keep to that highway, follow the wheel ruts.
Share your heat fairly
Between heaven and earth, not too low
And not crashing in among the stars. Too high,
You will set heaven aflame—and, too low, earth.

The middle way is best, and safest.
And do not veer too far to the right
Where your wheels might crush the Serpent, nor to the left
Where they might be shattered against the Altar.
Take a bearing between them.”
More quotes…