Monday, January 3, 2011

Ancient Greece: Greek Myth of Pegasus (Picture Books)

In our study of ancient Greece this year, we have been reading many myths and tales. There are two picture books about Pegasus that I found exceptional--Pegasus and Pegasus, the Flying Horse.  Both are well-written and include stunning illustrations. 
The Pegasus legend is expanded from well-known adventures with Hercules and Perseus to include another legendary hero, Bellerophon.   There are some variations in the storytelling between the two books which makes for an ideal opportunity for comparing and contrasting.  Whether you read both for comparison and variety or only one for enjoyment and education, Pegasus and Pegasus, the Flying Horse are essential to any study of the Greeks or mythology. 

Pegasus (ages 6 and up) by Marianna Mayer  
Foolishly believing that the young prince Bellerophon had fallen in love with his wife, King Proetus sends him to the king of Lycia to be killed.  The Lycian king (and his daughter) becomes so fond of the young prince that he cannot bear to put him to death.  Instead, the king sends him to challenge the horrible Chimera that has been destroying crops, villages, and lives.  As Bellerophon sets out for the task, a wise man tells him that in order to succeed, he must convinced the winged horse Pegasus to fly him to the Chimera’s lair.  With perseverance and some assistance from the gods, Bellerophon teams up with Pegasus.  Together, they defeat the Chimera.  The young hero returns to the palace of the king of Lycia with the news of his conquest.  As a reward, Bellerophon is given the king’s beautiful daughter in marriage.  He lives as a hero and a ruler with her.   Every now and then though, Bellerophon slips away to spend time with his beloved friend Pegasus.  Eye-catching, two page spreads illustrate the terror and battles as well as the motifs of heroism, loyalty, and love in this remarkable retelling.

Pegasus: The Flying Horse

Pegasus, the Flying Horse (ages 6 and up) by Jane Yolen 
As a young boy and his father are on their way to the market to buy a horse, they stumble across a beggar man who wishes to tell them the story of a flying horse named Pegasus.  The story begins with a young man named Bellerophon who is a demi-god and son of a king.  He is not content with his status, beauty, and charisma though.  All he wants is to ride the great winged horse, Pegasus.  With Athena’s help, Bellerophon gets his one wish.  Flying on Pegasus is even greater than he imagined!  His selfishness induces him to hurt someone he loves while his naiveté causes a brush with death.  He ends up on a quest to defeat the Chimera, a horrible beast, and he wins the hand of a beautiful princess.   Bellerophon is not content though with love, power, and riches.   His pride and selfishness lead him away from his many blessings.  Eventually, Bellerophon ends up a crippled beggar on the streets, sharing his adventure stories with anyone who will listen. 

For other ancient Greek posts, click here.

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