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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Argos Blog Tour (guest post & giveaway)

Welcome to Day #3 of The Argos Blog Tour!

To celebrate the paperback release of Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog on March 27th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Ralph Hardy and 5 chances to win a copy of the book!

My Three Favorite Myths
by Ralph Hardy

As the author of a middle grade novel that delves deeply into Greek mythology, readers often ask me what my favorite myths are. That question usually stumps me. There are so many myths that I read growing up that I have a hard time picking a favorite. When I was in middle school I read Bullfinch's mythology and was fascinated by the Greek and Roman myths I found there. I also read the Thor comics, so I dove into my World Book Encyclopedia (remember those?) and read about Odin, Loki, Asgaard, Frig, Freya, Sif and more to learn more about that great mythic tradition. In high school I read the many creation myths of the different Native American tribes, and I loved the way they explained their cosmologies. Finally, as an adult, I met and married a woman from India who introduced me to a vast trove of Hindu mythology. Later we traveled in Egypt and encountered yet another incredibly rich and sophisticated mythic world among their ruins. And of course there are myths from nearly every culture and civilization known to man, all of them created to help make sense of this confusing and sprawling planet and the worlds above it. But if I had to pick my three favorite myths, these would be my choices.

The Myth of Baldur

Baldur was beloved among the Norse gods. The son of Odin and Frigg, Baldur was so handsome and gracious that light seemed to emanate from him. Indeed, Baldur was so beloved that his fellow gods would shoot arrows at him, knowing that the very wood in the arrows would refuse to strike him. But one night Baldur had dreams of his death and these re-occurred night after night, leaving the majestic god morose and despondent. When Frigg learned of his dreams she traveled to every corner of the world and secured a solemn promise from every living thing that it would not hurt her son. 

But Loki, the trickster god, was jealous of Baldur and he saw a chance to hurt him. When Frigg returned from her quest, he asked her if she had indeed asked every living thing to protect her son. 

"All but a sprig of mistletoe," she said. "It was too small and harmless to bother with."

Loki flew immediately to the forest where he found the mistletoe clinging to the top of a tree. He cut it off and whittled the end to a sharp point, which he attached to a spear. That afternoon he found the gods engaged in their favorite sport, throwing spears and shooting arrows at Baldur. Loki convinced the blind god Hodr to throw his spear at Baldur, and when he did, the sharp point pierced the beloved god and he died. 

The gods were devastated by his death and sent Hermod, another of Odin's sons, to the underworld to see if the death goddess, Hel, would relinquish Baldur. He found Baldur sitting next to the fearsome goddess and begged her to release him. She agreed to do so if everything in the world wept for Baldur, to prove that he was universally loved as the gods claimed. Everything in the world did weep for Baldur except for one creature, the giantess Pokk--who was actually Loki in disguise. As a result Baldur remained in the underworld until Ragnarok, the end of the mythical cycle, when he returned to the land of the living.

For me this myth is one of the first examples of the effort to address theodicy, or the problem of evil. Every civilization has wrestled with this deep philosophical conundrum of why evil exists in a world created by all-powerful gods. 

The Myth of Prometheus

My second favorite myth is the Myth of Prometheus. Although I knew the story of Prometheus in middle school, I never fully appreciated the power of the myth until I read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, whose subtitle is "The Modern Prometheus, which gave me an even deeper appreciation of this tragic, yet noble, story. Prometheus, a Titan, is credited with creating man from clay and then giving him fire, which enabled humanity to become civilized but estranged mankind from the gods. Zeus punished Prometheus for this transgression by chaining him to a giant boulder. Each day an eagle--a symbol of Zeus--attacks Prometheus and rips out his liver, which the Greeks thought was the center of emotions. Each night his liver grows back, only for the eagle to return. In some versions of the story, Hercules freed Prometheus from his boulder, but I like to think of him permanently chained to it as a symbol of human striving and our efforts to advance scientific knowledge and dispel the darkness of ignorance. 

The Myth of Ganesha, Karthik and the Mango

Finally, my last myth comes from the rich Hindu mythological tradition, and it involves the divine figures of Ganesha and his brother Karthik. Both were the children of the god Shiva and the goddess Parvathi, and they both loved their parents deeply. Ganesha, the older of the pair, had a fat body topped by an elephant's head. Karthik was a strong-limbed, handsome boy, and both children were loved by all for their kind and generous spirits. One day, a few of the divinities asked each other which of the brothers was the wisest. Unable to answer the questions themselves, they asked Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe for the answer. But even he didn't know who was wiser, so he asked his mischievous son, Narada, to help solve the mystery, which he agreed to do.

Narada appeared before Shiva and Parvathi with a mango, but it was not just any mango, he told them, "This is the fruit of divine knowledge." (Where have you heard of that idea?) Parvathi and Shiva wanted to both eat the fruit, but Narada said it would only be consumed whole by one individual. Both deities wanted the other to enjoy this miraculous fruit and so they reached an impasse. Finally, Parvathi said, "Why don't we let one of our sons eat the fruit? Then one of them will be granted the greatest wisdom!"

"But which one should eat it?" Shiva asked. They are both worthy sons!"

Narada had the answer. "Why don't you hold a competition?" he said. "The first one to race around the world three times should win the mango as the prize."

The brothers agreed to the race because they both loved mangoes and wanted the secret of that fruit. Karthik left first. Mounted on his majestic peacock, he flew thrice around the world, stopping only at temples and sacred places to pay homage to the gods. Ganesh, whose divine vehicle was only a mouse, never left the palace. Finally, Karthik returned, only to find that Shiva had given the mango to Ganesha. "How did you win that prize?" Karthik demanded. Ganesha smiled, licking the mango juice from his trunk. "I knew I could never beat you around the world, brother, so instead I circled my beloved parents, three times, for they are the world to me."  And thus did Ganesha become known as the Hindu god of wisdom.

So these are some of my favorite myths. Feel free, readers, to send me some of your own! 


Blog Tour Schedule:

April 2nd — BookhoundsYA
April 3rd — Book Briefs
April 4th — Word Spelunking
April 5thThe OWL
April 6th — Crossroad Reviews

Follow Ralph: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series will love this reimagining of Homer’s The Odyssey told from the point of view of Odysseus’s loyal dog, Argos.

Now available in paperback, this rousing story of devotion and determination is an original take on one of the most beloved myths of all time.

For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to home on Ithaka. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He does whatever it takes to reunite with his family.

And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure whether they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master.

Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s epic voyage. These tales bring hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos the loyal dog watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.

About the Author: Ralph Hardy graduated from the University of North Carolina and received an MFA from Columbia College, Chicago. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and two children. He is also the author of Lefty and The Cheetah Diaries.

Win a finished copy of Argos!

  • One (1) winner will receive a finished copy of Argos
  • US only
  • ends 4/13/18
  • winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
  • Word Spelunking is not responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes
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Danielle H. said...

I am a huge fan of Rick Riordan's books and a retelling from the point of view of a dog sounds fun to read. Dogs have a special place in my life and always will. Love the cover!

Darlene said...

I love dogs, we have 3, I would love to actually see something from their point of few, looks like a good read.

John Smith said...

Sounds like an original and exciting story!

Dan Denman said...

Argos sounds like a great character. I look forward to reading what sounds like a fun adventure.