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Tales from Ovid: 24 Passages from the Metamorphoses

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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  1,347 ratings  ·  73 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 rering 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 clas
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 30th 1999 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 1997)
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Subtle Knife by Philip PullmanElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineInto Thin Air by Jon KrakauerGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Books of 1997
35th out of 225 books — 116 voters
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For Classicists and Those That Love Good Myths
6th out of 29 books — 11 voters


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Community Reviews

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Robert
Nov 30, 2010 Robert rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Nikki
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
Melanie
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
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max
Aug 14, 2011 max rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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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
Sonya
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
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Ben Loory
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
Bernard Norcott-mahany
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.
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.
Richard
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
Qi
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 and madness in birthing, mating, an ...more
Carey Combe
A wonderful re-imagining of some wonderful stories to begin with.
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
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Terry
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
Jesst
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
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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
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Oliver
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.
Gurldoggie
This is wonderful. Even for those who have read these tales many many times, Hughes' loose translations are glorious and musical. The best stories ever, magically retold. Read this book. Read it again.
Broderick
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
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
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Mike Jensen
A great stage version of Ovid derived from Ted Hughes great translation.
Emily Sorrells
amazing. easily my newest favorite book. bravo, ted hughes.
Vickie
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
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Rosalie
A wonderful, hypnotic translation of the classic myths. Ted Hughes doesn't shy away from the brutality or emotional ferocity of the original tales, adding his own lyrical touches. I would recommend this collection to anyone.
Clarence
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



Ginny
These tales of metamorphosis are profoundly disturbing and Hughes' language is vivid. I made the mistake of reading the story of Erysichthon after eating a chocolate sundae, right before I fell asleep:

But none of it was enough. Whatever he ate
Maddened and tormented that hunger
To angrier, uglier life. The life

Of a monster no longer a man. And so,
At last, the inevitable.
He began to savage his own limbs.
And there, at a final feast, devoured himself.
Nathan Pearson
Forget any thoughts of stale ghost stories. Ovid's rendering of these Mediterranean myths moves with a delicious narrative rhythm, and steeps even the most well trod allegory in deep human pathos. Hughes' nervy translation lets the reader (or listener) inhabit Ovid's characters thoroughly, so that their magical world becomes as natural as ours. In school, Greek myths could ring flat to me -- like chants recorded in mono. Read them anew here, as real songs, in stereo.
Katheryn Thompson
Bursting full of imagination and poetic beauty. Hughes was definitely the right choice to retell these wonderful tales from Ovid.
Johanne
Hughes takes the best of the myths from Ovid's Metamorphoses and updates them into sharp contemporary poetry that brings out the best in both the original material and in his writing. I recommend Arachne & Phaeton in particular
Benjamin
Although I spread out the reading of this book over 6 months, I thought the writing was quite lovely, despite the gore and tragedy that usually ended these stories.

Ted Hughes liberally translated a tenth of Ovid's Metamorphosis (and the book is still about 250 pages long) creating a series of poems that resonate both ancient and modern. The style merger works—I found delicious writing on every page.
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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
More about Ovid...
Metamorphoses The Art of Love The Erotic Poems Heroides Ovid III: Metamorphoses: Volume I, Books I-VIII

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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.”
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“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.”
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