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While it could be argued that Tristram Shandy is the first modern novel, and while the works of Homer are both technically poems and true histories (sWhile it could be argued that Tristram Shandy is the first modern novel, and while the works of Homer are both technically poems and true histories (sort of), I'd like to just put down in writing that I think The Iliad is the first fantasy paperback ever written. Maybe the first paranormal romance, too. I can think of several genres this beautiful little saga could be dropped into with no problem. A lot of people have never read this thing simply because it sits on the "Classics" shelf. For some reason when you say "classical Greek verse" to people their eyes just sort of glaze over.
This is the semi-true accounting of the battle of Troy. Homer heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy who heard it et cetera on back a couple hundred years. EVERYone (apparently) knew it happened, no one had bothered to write much about it down. They didn't need to because, well, everyone already knew. But Homer thought he could sell it better than anyone else had sold it and so wrote up this long, lovely, epic saga of love and adventure and betrayal and war! Because he threw in god and monsters and Amazons and such, modern scholars just assumed it was ALL fake-y fake-fake. And not just the magic and supernatural parts. About a decade ago, archeologists found the remains of Troy and everyone said....oops.
Anyhoo: it's essentially about the most beautiful woman on Earth: the daughter of a god and a human. Every man who sees her loves her, but she eventually is forced to marry Menelaus, a king over in Greece. He makes all the other kings who were in love with Helen (the afore-mentioned most-beautiful-woman) vow that they will protect his marriage. (Sort of. It's complicated) So when Priam, the king of Troy, sends sons number two and four as ambassadors to Menelaus and Helen decides to run off with one of them, all those kings who swore the vow to protect that marriage pack up all their armies and cross the sea to Troy where they proceed to get their asses handed to them. So then they cheat.
There's lots of other stuff in there, too. The sex and violence and puns and drama. There are about a billion and two translations of this story, too, so if the formal poetry isn't your thing, there's a version out there for you somewhere.
This is a really fine story. High adventure. Love and revenge. Sword fighting. All that good stuff. I like it a good deal more than the Three MusketeeThis is a really fine story. High adventure. Love and revenge. Sword fighting. All that good stuff. I like it a good deal more than the Three Musketeers, and I liked that quite well.
Look, books like this just aren't written any more. There are no more Treasure Islands or Captain Bloods. We have to stick with The Scarlet Pimpernel that we were given, because there's not going to be another one. These books, at least for me, inspired dreaming.
I really like The Count of Monte Cristo especially because in order to get his revenge, the main character had to become well-read as well as a hell of a sword fighter.