Wachten op Apollo
An ideal introduction to ancient myths
Lida Dijkstra’s Waiting for Apollo for teenagers is an ideal intro- duction to ancient Greek and Roman myths, which are as relevant today as they were in their time. The Friesian author has retold six of the stories from Ovid’s famed Metamorphoses in an accessible book for young readers, without destroying the original beauty of this classic masterpiece.
Dijkstra sets her book in Delphi, amidst a long queue of people waiting in front of the temple of Apollo. It is oracle day, when those who are sick or wanting good advice come in the hope of persuading the temple maidens to put in a good word for them with the god of music and healing. This sacred gathering forms an unexpectedly boisterous market place, with merchants loudly crying their wares, attempting to fob believers off with statuettes of the gods and other knickknacks.
Amongst those waiting are a shepherd boy and a hooded crow, who is really the enchanted princess, Cornix. She hopes that Apollo will change her back into the beautiful king’s daughter she used to be. To kill time, she starts to relate tales of gods in love, of greedy people and their smart schemes that always turn out for the worst.
First, she tells the tale of her own enchantment, then the myths of arrogant Arachne, miserly Midas and the couple, Orpheus and Eurydice, whose love transcends even the veil between life and death. Dijkstra breathes new life into the old stories with plenty of humour and surprising twists. She has translated the Latin verses into fresh Dutch poetry, without rhyme and both witty and ingenious. These tongue-in-cheek yarns are unputdownable.
It is fortunate that Dijkstra was not afraid to remould such a classic masterpiece with her modern fingers and the result is therefore enthralling. She has succeeded in adding an extra dimension to the ancient work, with two contrasting versions of Orpheus and Eurydice as the climax. It is perfectly possible that her treatment of this selection from Metamorphoses will bring her readers closer to the original ironic, ornate Ovid than many translators before her.
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