With Bated Breath: Classics Retold


April 21, 2013 by Heidi

Classics Retold

We all know by now that I’m a sucker for a good retelling, so when my blogging buddy Alyssa got together with a group of gals to host a Classics Retold event in September, I was in.  Sign-ups go from now through May 25th, and there are a number of categories to strike your interest.  Alyssa will be hosting the Ancient to Renaissance Lit Classics, Brittany will be covering Mythology, Charlene will host 19th Century and Gothic Classics,   Alison will do Children’s Classics, and Wendy with cover American & Misc. Classics.  Which pretty much means, if you want to read retellings of anything from The Secret Garden to Persuasion to Medusa tales, they’re all over it.

I spent some time debating about a number of tales, working to find something where I loved the source material, there were lots of retellings available, but I hadn’t read any of them.  Which turned out to be a bit of a tricky combo givin as I read retellings a lot!  Genius struck, and I knew I had to go with a story where no matter how many times it is retold, it will be done in a completely different way: Homer’s The Odyssey.


I’ve read The Odyssey twice now, once in high school and once in college, and so instead of rereading the original text yet again I decided the best reminder for me is obviously going with Graphic Novel retellings.  Both of these come from authors/series that have tackled a few classics including Beowulf, King Lear, Dracula, Tom Sawyer and more–so if you’re participating it’s a good place to look for adaptations!

The Odyssey by Gareth HindsThe Odyssey: A Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds

Fresh from his triumphs in the Trojan War, Odysseus, King of Ithaca, wants nothing more than to return home to his family. Instead, he offends the sea god, Poseidon, who dooms him to years of shipwreck and wandering. Battling man-eating monsters, violent storms, and the supernatural seductions of sirens and sorceresses, Odysseus will need all his strength and cunning—and a little help from Mount Olympus—to make his way home and seize his kingdom from the schemers who seek to wed his queen and usurp his throne. Award-winning graphic artist Gareth Hinds masterfully reinterprets a story of heroism, adventure, and high action that has been told and retold for more than 2,500 years—though never quite like this.

All Action Classics Homer's The Odyssey

All-Action Classics’ The Odyssey by Tim Mucci

Welcome the next entry in the fabulously received and brilliantly created ALL-ACTION CLASSICS series. The brainchild of former Marvel Comics artist Ben Caldwell, these graphic novels are the freshest, coolest approach to the classics ever. Each one takes a famous work of fiction and translates it into a kid-friendly comic book narrative–with full-color illustrations and a fast-paced tone that will have even reluctant readers flying through.Shipwrecks, angry gods, magical lands, beautiful nymphs, and siren songs: this vivid retelling of Homer’s legendary Greek epic follows Odysseus on his long, arduous journey home from Ithaca after the fall of Troy. Done in comic-book style, it features the highest-energy kid-grabbing details and plot twists, all dramatized in brilliant, action-packed images. It’s the perfect way to introduce kids and fans of graphic novels to one of literature’s great works.


Big FIsh by Daniel WallaceBig Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace

In his prime, Edward Bloom was an extraordinary man. Or at least that’s what he told his son. Faced with the prospect of his father’s death, William Bloom sets about to discover who the man really is. Daniel Wallace’s magical first novel, Big Fish, is told as a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts that William knows. Through these tall tales-hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous-William begins to understand his elusive father’s great feats and great failings.

Big Fish by Columbia Pictures

The movie, Big Fish, has long been among my favorites, but I’ve never read the novel it’s based on, short as it is.  For this one, I’ll likely be doing a book vs. movie assessment–I have a feeling it may be one of those rare cases (like Stardust or The Princess Bride) where the movie is better than the book.



My first encounter with a physical copy of The Road was when I was shoving junk aside in a friend’s backseat to sit down.  I picked it up, and for the first time it occurred to me that Cormac McCarthy was an author I should probably be reading, because if said friend enjoyed him, so would I.  Years later, I’ve only read No Country For Old Men.  Clearly it’s time to listen to this.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.


Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, one that I’m sad to admit I haven’t read from in a few years.  I was thrilled to realize she has given Odysseus’s wife, Penelope a voice.  I’ll be listening to this one as well.

The Penelopiad by Margaret AtwoodThe Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope–wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy–is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and–curiously–twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality–and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.


My third audio selection, Cold Mountain is a book that has been sitting on the shelves in my parent’s house for years, but I never personally picked it up other than to look at the pretty cover (um…not this cover pictured, yuck for movie tie-in covers).  I did see the movie, but honestly I don’t remember it well, so I’m excited for some historical fiction.

Cold Mountain by Charles FrazierCold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain is an extraordinary novel about a soldier’s perilous journey back to his beloved at the end of the Civil War. Both a magnificent love story and a harrowing account of one man’s long walk home, this is a book by a major new talent that has touched the hearts of readers everywhere. Inman is a wounded soldier who walks away from the ravages of the war and back home to his prewar sweetheart, Ada. Inman’s odyssey through the devastated landscape of the soon-to-be-defeated South interweaves with Ada’s struggle to survive her father’s death and the loss of his income by reviving the family farm in the Cold Mountain community where she is an outsider. Based on a story handed down in Frazier’s own family, Cold Mountain is a beautifully-written and haunting novel of love and loss.


I’ve had my eye on this one since it came up as a nominee for the Andre Norton Award. Yay for some Odyssey retellings for younger readers!

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Marcia McCall

Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall


When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero’s journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer’s original tale.

With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona via a magical earring, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother’s house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity: a wily warlock, a coven of vicious half-human barn owls, and a bloodthirsty livestock-hunting chupacabras. Can these fantastic trials prepare Odilia and her sisters for what happens when they face their final test, returning home to the real world, where goddesses and ghosts can no longer help them?

Summer of the Mariposas is not just a magical Mexican American retelling of The Odyssey, it is a celebration of sisterhood and maternal love


The final retelling I’m planning to read is also for younger readers, and will conveniently be released just before Classics Retold takes place!

Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia BlockLove in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block

Seventeen-year-old Penelope (Pen) has lost everything—her home, her parents, and her ten-year-old brother. Like a female Odysseus in search of home, she navigates a dark world full of strange creatures, gathers companions and loses them, finds love and loses it, and faces her mortal enemy.

In her signature style, Francesca Lia Block has created a world that is beautiful in its destruction and as frightening as it is lovely. At the helm is Pen, a strong heroine who holds hope and love in her hands and refuses to be defeated.


Of course, I’ll also be watching Cold Mountain again, and another favorite of mine, O Brother, Where Art Thou?

What’s your favorite retelling of The Odyssey? Am I missing anything?

If you liked that you might like this:


  1. OH I absolutely LOVED the movie Cold Mountain! I am an absolute sucker for love stories, the Civil War, and Jude Law though, so I’m a little biased. I desperately want to read the book as well, so I might have to join in on this event. Also, the Odyssey is fantastic, so I probably should pick up Atwood’s novel about Penelope. I’ve never even heard of it before, so thanks for throwing that on my radar. I’m really excited about this event, now…I’ll have to see if I can fit into my busy studying schedule! :)

    • Heidi says:

      I honestly barely remember the movie for some reason! It’s possible that I never even watched the whole thing? I’m certainly going to though. I’ll let you know how Atwood’s Penopliad is! It’s under 200 pages, so it’ll be a quicky. It would be awesome if you could participate in this event! I understand the busy schedule, but because they announced it so early (don’t need to post till September), I feel I can get these books read.

  2. Wow, you’ve got a great list there! I signed up to do Nordic/Viking mythology and I don’t think I’ll come up with as many different texts as you. I liked Summer of the Mariposas and have really been meaning to read The Penelopiad. The Road has also been on my list and I didn’t realize it was modeled on the Odyssey! Looking forward to your reviews.

    • Heidi says:

      I’m so excited to see how this goes for you, Molly! I’m particularly interested if you read that Nancy Farmer trilogy, as I’d never heard of it before but have been wanting to read her House of the Scorpion for years now. I’m actually wondering how modeled on The Odyssey The Road is, I’ve seen it said that it’s a retelling, but part of me wonders if it is just ‘an odyssey’ aka journey tale. We shall see! I have the audio, and it’s quite short, so I’ll get through it soon.

  3. Andrea says:

    My fave is “Ulysses 31”, a French anime about Ulysses in space. It was all kinds of awesome.

  4. I look forward to seeing how this all turns out for you Heidi! I’ve yet to actually read the Odyssey so it will be fun to learn from you. :)

    • Heidi says:

      Oooh, you SHOULD read it someday. It’s very good, despite the difficulty of the language. I think it’s the most accessible of the old epics (The Illiad, The Aeneid, Beowulf), because it’s the most adventurous. I’m excited for this project!

  5. So many awesome choices! I’ve never actually read The Odyssey, but love the story of it! I’d really like to read it one day. I’m doing The Illiad for my choice! Can’t wait to get started!

    • Heidi says:

      Oooh, it’s well worth reading, Candice! Less heavy than you’d think once you get into the swing of things–very entertaining. Hehe, and lighter than The Illiad imho as well, though I’m excited to see what books you do!

  6. That’s great you’re participating in Classics Retold, Heidi! I am as well – I had too much fun with Project: Fairy Tale to NOT participate in this as well! I think that’s a smart idea to use graphic novels as refreshers for you, since you’ve already read The Odyssey. I’ve only read it once, but I loved it. I’ve loved all the epic poems that I’ve read, and I actually ended up picking The Aeneid since I own it but haven’t read it yet. Yay for epic poems about long journeys! :)
    You have such an eclectic group of reads! Some of them don’t necessarily look like they’re related to The Odyssey (or at least don’t mention it), so how did you find them? I’m trying to research retellings of The Aeneid and it’s been a bit tricky for me thus far. The Penelopiad is great – a bit bizarre and experimental, but definitely a fascinating retelling. I’ll be eager to read your thoughts on all of these retellings, but especially Summer of the Mariposas and Love in the Time of Global Warming!

    • Heidi says:

      Amanda, I think your posts on Tam Lin were my favorites that I read during Project: Fairy Tale and one of the big reasons I wanted to participate in Classics Retold! I’m so excited that you’re doing The Aeneid, which I enjoyed as well, I’m really interested to see what kind of retellings you come up with for it. It’s certainly the lesser know/read of them, but it’s really interesting, love me some Remus and Romulus!

      Some of these I already knew, but I hadn’t realized Cold Mountain or The Road till I did a basic search online and found discussions of both of them as Odysseys.

  7. WAIT! Are these ALL retellings of The Odyssey? I am so bad at spotting retellings, unless it’s completely obvious like Oh Brother Where Art Thou. But I LOVE this idea for an event, as well as how you are planning to tackle it. Fantastic idea!

    • Heidi says:

      They are! There were a couple I didn’t realize were Odyssey retellings until I’d started looking, but others I’d picked up specifically for that reason (like Love in the Time of Global Warming).

  8. Alexa Y. says:

    It looks like you’ve got some great reading (and viewing) ahead of you! I’m very excited about this project, as it seems like such fun to focus on a classic I’ve LOVED and to be able to read the books inspired by it and watch the movies or television shows or whatever else (ballets or photo series or whatever) made as a result of it. The Odyssey has got a great story, and I hope you enjoy all of these!

    • Heidi says:

      You’re doing Romeo and Juliet, right? I’ll be really interested to see which books you choose to read and what you think, Alexa!

  9. Oh, Heidi, this is going to be so excellent! I can’t wait to read your posts.

    Also, if you want to work some classic MG in there, you know what you should read? Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech. It’s one of those books that I read over and over and over again in middle school, and unless my memory is completely misfiring, it does include some nods to The Odyssey.

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Anna! I hadn’t heard of Absolutely Normal Chaos, but I love Sharon Creech, so of course I added it to my Odyssey stack.

  10. VeganYANerds says:

    I like re-tellings, too, but I have never read The Odyssey, I might have to now!

    • Heidi says:

      Oooh, I ‘had’ to read The Odyssey in both AP English and my Masterpieces of European Lit classes in high school/college, and really enjoy it. It’s one of the more fun epics.

  11. I hadn’t really made the connection between a lot of your selections and The Odyssey, but now that you’ve pointed them out, the connections are pretty cool to think about! Good luck with the challenge! :)

  12. […] time of year where the Classics Retold event will go down.  If you’ll hearken back to my With Bated Breath post, I listed seven books I was hoping to read for this challenge.  Since that time, the books […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

RSS FeedE-mailTwitterGoodreads

My Current Bunbury

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


FTC Disclaimer

While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.