This is something of a golden age for stories based on the myths of the past as just in the past year alone there have been several novels published based on ancient Greek myths. Among these is Jennifer Saint’s new book, Elektra, which retells the story of Clytemenstra, her daughter Elektra, and the poor doomed Trojan girl, Cassandra.
These novels illustrate the extent to which the myths of the past still remain relevant to those living in the present. What’s more, with their compelling stories, their richly-drawn characters, and their immersive worlds, these stories seem tailor-made for the big screen.
The Song Of Achilles By Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller burst onto the literary scene with The Song of Achilles, her richly-reimagined story of Achilles and Patroclus, two famed warriors who participated in the Trojan War. With her evocative prose, Miller adeptly recreates the world of Ancient Greece in all of its beauty and brutality.
There’s no question, however, that it’s the fierce and passionate love between the two men that exists at the heart of the novel and, through Patroclus’ eyes, the viewer gets a richer, far more human sense of this most famous conflict of the ancient world and its impact on the lives of those involved.
Kaikeyi By Vaishnavi Patel
Though there have been many notable Greek mythology movies, fewer have been made from other traditions (at least in the United States). For this reason, Kaikeyi, which is a retelling of the Hindu epic the Ramayana, would make for a very good movie in its own right.
Though usually positioned as an enemy of Lord Rama, in this novel she is instead someone who has her own role to play in the epic hero’s journey, as well as her own fate to fulfill. Thus, there is a lot of potential for a movie to tell the female side of the story.
Ariadne By Jennifer Saint
The tale of Theseus is one that would make an excellent epic movie, but the role of the women in his triumph over the Minotaur has often been ignored. In Ariadne, however, Jennifer Saint depicts the lives of both Ariadne and Phaedra, the two Cretan sisters whose fates would be forever changed.
Like the best retellings of ancient Greek myth, it allows these extraordinary women the space to speak in their own voices, and a movie version would give viewers another opportunity to see ancient Greek mythology from a different point of view.
Circe By Madeline Miller
Circe is, in some ways, one of the most powerful villains to have appeared in literature. With her ability to turn men into swine, she has become synonymous with dangerous femininity. In Madeline Miller’s hands, however, she becomes a far more fascinating and complex figure, someone who wields tremendous power but who also yearns for human connection.
It is an emotionally powerful and resonant retelling of one of the ancient world’s most formidable figures, and thus it would make for a fascinating cinematic portrait of a sorceress determined to make a life on her own terms.
The Penelopiad By Margaret Atwood
Though Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has become famous for being one of the best series on Hulu, she is also responsible for The Penelopiad. As its title suggests, it is a retelling of The Odyssey from the point of view of Penelope, the loyal wife of Odysseus.
However, it also features several moments when her maids, hanged by Odysseus, interrupt the narrative. Filled with Atwood’s characteristic command of prose, it is a haunting and beautifully told story, and it could make for a very compelling and complexly drawn movie drama.
The Lost Queen By Signe Pike
The myths surrounding King Arthur have long made for rich source material for the movies, and they have generated several great fantasy movies. Signe Pike, however, does some fascinating things with the story, beginning by setting it in Scotland and expertly blending together both history and magic to create an inimitable tapestry all of her own.
Her Languoreth, the main character of the saga, repeatedly finds her loyalties torn in multiple directions as she confronts a rapidly changing world. With its mix of fantastic and historical elements, it’s easy to see how this could be made into one of the great Arthurian retellings.
The King Must Die And The Bull From The Sea By Mary Renault
The historical fiction of Mary Renault is often seen as some of the best ever written, and she was especially skilled at bringing the ancient Greek world to life. In both The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea, she offers a fascinating retelling of the Theseus myth, uncovering how it might have happened.
It is a haunting story, filled with blood and sacrifice, and Renault is skilled at keeping it unclear to what extent the gods are truly intervening in the lives of humans. With its richly textured history, it would make for a fascinating movie exploration of one of Ancient Greece’s most important mythological figures.
The Witch’s Heart By Genevieve Gornichec
Ancient Norse mythology is just as fascinating in its own way as that of the southern Mediterranean, and so it makes sense that it would also see its fair share of modern retellings. The Witch’s Heart, for example, focuses on Angrboda, the wife of Loki and the mother of monsters.
In this emotionally resonant story, she attempts to raise her family and keep them safe from Odin, and it is to Genevieve Gornichec’s credit that she manages to imbue this character with all the complexity that male heroes so often get. A movie would thus continue the project of giving this maligned figure the justice she richly deserves.
Spear By Nicola Griffith
Few Arthurian retellings have quite the power of The Spear, which focuses on the traditional Arthurian character of Percival, here a young woman yearning to make a name for herself and to discover her true identity. As with the best stories about King Arthur, this one has elements of both magic and history.
What’s more, it also broadens the traditional canvas to include those typically marginalized in such stories. It is thus all the more suitable for a modern cinematic interpretation, which would go a long way toward showing how versatile the King Arthur mythos remains.
The Silence Of The Girls By Pat Parker
Pat Barker has established a powerful reputation as someone who knows how to communicate the brutality of war. In The Silence of the Girls, she gives modern readers Briseis, the woman kidnapped by Achilles during the Trojan War.
In blunt, unsparing writing, Barker shows the modern audience the ugliness of ancient warfare, highlighting in particular the subaltern position women occupied. A movie adaptation of Briseis’ story would not only be strong in its own right, but it would also quite possibly become a truly great war movie.