Heroes by Stephen Fry

I am currently reading Heroes, an Entertaining and often tragic retelling of the Ancient Greek Myths by Television presenter, Broadcaster and Author Stephen Fry. It Features the exciting and often dangerous tales of Greek heroes such as Perseus, Heracles, Bellerophon, Jason and the Argonauts, Atalanta, Oedipus and Theseus as they battle the odds and a variety of monsters including the Graeae-three cannibalistic witches who have the gift of foresight but only have one tooth and one eye between them, the snake haired Gorgon Medusa whose gaze turns people to stone and her immortal sisters Stheno and Eurayle, Cerberus the three headed dog who guards the underworld, the seven headed Hydra, the Harpies, the monsterous Chimera, the Sphynx, the Nemean Lion, The Clashing Rocks and the Minotaur of Crete, to name but a few

PART ONE

The first part concerns Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius, King of Argos. Acrisius is warned by the oracle at Delphi that he would one day be killed by his daughter’s son. So In order to keep Danaë childless, Acrisius imprisons her in a bronze chamber, open to the sky, in the courtyard of his palace: However Zeus came to her in the form of a shower of gold, and impregnated her. Soon after, their child was born; Perseus

Fearful for his future, but unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing the offspring of Zeus and his daughter, Acrisius cast the two into the sea in a wooden chest. However Danaë and Perseus are eventaully washed ashore on the island of Serifos, where they were taken in by the fisherman Dictys who raises the boy to manhood. The brother of Dictys was Polydectes the king of the island.

Polydectes fell in love with the beautiful Danaë. However Perseus disliked Polydectes, and protected his mother from him, So Polydectes plotted to get rid of Perseus by giving him the seemingly impossible task of obtaining the head of the only mortal Gorgon, Medusa, whose gaze turned people to stone. Medusa had once been a beautiful but vain woman, who was raped by Poseidon in the Temple of Athena. In retribution for the desecration of her temple, Athena had changed Medusa’s hair into hideous snakes.

Athena tells Perseus to find the Hesperides, who had the weapons needed to defeat the Gorgon. Following Athena’s guidance, Perseus sought the Graeae, sisters of the Gorgons, to demand the whereabouts of the Hesperides. From the Hesperides he received a knapsack (kibisis) to safely contain Medusa’s head. Zeus gave him an adamantine sword (a Harpe) and Hades’ helm of darkness to hide. Hermes lent Perseus winged sandals to fly, and Athena gave him a polished shield. Perseus then proceeded to the Gorgons’ cave to confront Medusa. He then visit King Atlas, then  the kingdom of Aethiopia which is ruled by King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Unfortunately Cassiopeia, upsets Poseidon, so in revengs he sends the sea serpent, Cetus, which destroys everything. The oracle of Ammon tells King Cepheus that in order to stop Cetus he must sacrifice his daughter Andromeda, however Perseus intervenes….

PART TWO

Part two concerns Heracles who accidentally kills his son, daughter, and wife Megara after being Driven mad by Hera (queen of the gods), After recovering his sanity, Hercules deeply regretted his actions; and traveled to Delphi to inquire how he could atone for his actions. Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, advised him to go to Tiryns and serve his cousin King Eurystheus for twelve years ad penance, performing whatever labors Eurystheus might set him; in return, he would be rewarded with immortality.

Eurystheus ordered Hercules to perform ten labours including Slaying the Nemean lion, Slaying the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, Capturing the Ceryneian Hind, Capturing the Erymanthian Boar, Cleaning the Augean stables in a single day, Slaying the Stymphalian birds, Capturing the Cretan Bull, Stealing the Mares of Diomedes, Obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta, Obtaining the cattle of the monster Geryon, Stealing the apples of the Hesperides and Capturing Cerberus.

Hercules accomplished these tasks, However Eurystheus refused to recognize two: the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra, as Hercules’ nephew and charioteer Iolaus had helped him; and the cleansing of the Augeas, because Hercules accepted payment for the labour. So Eurystheus set two more tasks (fetching the Golden Apples of Hesperides and capturing Cerberus), which Hercules also performed, bringing the total number of tasks to twelve.

PART THREE

Part three concerns Bellerophon who was born at Corinth and was the son of the mortal Eurynome by either her husband Glaucus, or Poseidon. “. Bellerophon was asked by King Polyeidos to slay the Chimera a monster that Homer depicted with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail: “her breath came out in terrible blasts of burning flame. King Polyeidos told Bellerophon in order to slay the Chimera he would need Pegasus the untamed winged horse. So Bellerophon sets out to tame Pegasus before setting off to confronting the Chimera…

PART FOUR

Part four concerns the legendary Greek musician, poet, and prophet Orpheus.  He lived in the Odrysian city of Bisaltia and had the ability to charm all living things and even inanimate objects with his music.  Orpheus was venerated as the greatest of all poets and musicians; it was said that while Hermes had invented the lyre, Orpheus had perfected it. Poets such as Simonides of Ceos said that Orpheus’ music and singing could charm the birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and divert the course of rivers. Orpheus sailed with Jason and the Argonauts and used his skills to aid his companions. Chiron told Jason that without the aid of Orpheus, the Argonauts would never be able to pass the Sirens—the same Sirens encountered by Odysseus in Homer’s epic poem the Odyssey. The Sirens lived on three small, rocky islands called Sirenum scopuli and sang beautiful songs that enticed sailors to come to them, which resulted in the crashing of their ships into the islands. When Orpheus heard their voices, he drew his lyre and played music that was louder and more beautiful, drowning out the Sirens’ bewitching songs.

Orpheus also went to great lengths to rescue his wife Eurydice after she was set upon by a satyr and fell into a nest of vipers while escaping suffering a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld. Where His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world.

PART FIVE

Part five concerns Jason and the Argonauts. Jason’s father Aeson was rightful king of Thessaly but was usurped by his half brother the power-hungry Pelias who killed all the descendants of Aeson that he could. He spared his half-brother for unknown reasons. Aeson’s wife Alcimede I had a newborn son named Jason whom she saved from Pelias Fearing that Pelias would eventually kill her son, Alcimede sent him away to be reared by the centaur Chiron,

Pelias, fearing that his ill-gotten kingship might be challenged, consulted an oracle, who warned him to beware of a man wearing only one sandal. Many years later, Pelias was holding games in honor of Poseidon when the grown Jason arrived in Iolcus, having lost one of his sandals in the river Anauros

Jason, was aware that he was the rightful king, When He entered Iolcus (present-day city of Volos). Pelias replied, “To take my throne, which you shall, you must go on a quest to find the Golden Fleece.” So he embarks on a perilous journey to Colchis aboard his ship The Argo. to try and retreive the Fabled Godlen Fleece with a crew which included Orpheus and Heracles.

PART SIX
Part six features Atalanta. She was the daughter of Iasus, son of Lycurgus, and Clymene, daughter of Minyas. She is also mentioned as the daughter of Mainalos or Schoeneus, according to (Hyginus), of a Boeotian (according to Hesiod), or of an Arcadian princess (according to the Bibliotheca).

Her Father King Iasus wanted a son; however when Atalanta was born, he left her on a mountaintop to die. Some stories say that a she-bear suckled and cared for Atalanta until hunters found and raised her, and she learned to fight and hunt as a bear would. She was later reunited with her father. Having grown up in the wilderness, Atalanta became a fierce hunter and was always happy. She took an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis, and slew two centaurs, Hylaeus and Rhoecus, who attempted to ravish her.

When the god Artemis was neglected by King Oineus, Atalanta sent the Calydonian Boar to ravage the land, men, and cattle and prevented crops from being sown. Atalanta joined Meleager and many other famous heroes on a hunt for the boar. Many of the men were angry that a woman was joining them, but Meleager, though married, lusted for Atalanta, and so he persuaded them to include her. Several of the men were killed before Atalanta became the first to hit the boar and draw blood. After Meleager finally killed the boar and gave the hide to Atalanta. Meleager’s uncles, Plexippus and Toxeus, were angry and tried to take the skin from her. In revenge, Meleager killed his uncles, Which had tragic repercussions.

After the Calydonian boar hunt, Atalanta’s Father wanted her to be married, but Atalanta, uninterested in marriage, agreed to marry only if her suitors could outrun her in a footrace. Those who lost would be killed. King Schoeneus agreed, and many young men died in the attempt until Hippomenes came along. Hippomenes asked the goddess Aphrodite for help, And Hippomenes won the footrace and came to marry Atalanta. Eventually they had a son Parthenopaios, who was one of the Seven against Thebes.

PART SEVEN

Part seven concerns Oedipus, the was a mythical Greek king of Thebes who was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta. Laius wished to thwart a prophecy, so he sent a shepherd-servant to leave Oedipus to die on a mountainside. However, the shepherd took pity on the baby and passed Oedipus to King Polybus and Queen Merope to raise as their own. Oyedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi of the prophecy that he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother but, unaware of his true parentage, believed he was fated to murder Polybus and marry Merope, so left for Thebes. Along the way Oedipus encountered the Sphinx and killed the stranger. Upon arriving at Thebes, he found that the king of the city (Laius) had recently been killed and that the king’s widow, and (unbeknownst to him) was his mother Jocasta And he accidentally fulfilled a prophecy which brought disaster on Thebes and himself.

PART EIGHT

Part eight features Theseus Who was the mythical king and founder-hero of Athens. Theseus was raised in his mother’s land and grew up to become a brave young man. Theseus learnt that his father was a King who was usurped by King Aegeus and that he must take the sword and sandals back to king Aegeus to claim his birthright.

To journey to Athens, Theseus had a choice, to either go the safe way by sea or to follow a dangerous path around the Saronic Gulf. Of course being Young, brave, and ambitious, Theseus decided to go alone by the land route encountering many dangers. He first arrived at Epidaurus, which was sacred to Apollo and the healer Asclepius, and encountered the chthonic bandit, Periphetes, the Club Bearer. Then At the Isthmian entrance to the Underworld Theseus encountered a robber named Sinis, often called “Pityokamptes” (Greek: Πιτυοκάμπτης, “he who bends Pinetrees”). Sinis captured travellers, tie them between two pine trees that were bent down to the ground, and then let the trees go, tearing his victims apart. Then at Crommyon, Theseus encountered an enormous pig, the Crommyonian Sow, bred by an old crone named Phaea. Next Near Megara, Theseus encountered an elderly robber named Sciron who forced travellers along the narrow cliff-face pathway to wash his feet before kicking them off. Theseus next encountered Cercyon, king at the holy site of Eleusis, who challenged passers-by to a wrestling match and, when he had beaten them, he killed them. Next Theseus encountered a bandit named Procrustes the Stretcher,

When Theseus arrived at Athens, Aegeus was suspicious of the young, powerful stranger’s intentions. Aegeus’s wife Medea recognised Theseus immediately as Aegeus’ and tried to have him killed by the Marathonian Bull. Then Theseus learnt of King Minos of Crete who had an arrangement with the Athenians whereby they would send seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Labyrinth created by Daedalus. Theseus volunteered to stop the Minotaur And took the place of one of the youths meanwhile Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter, fell in love with Theseus and helped him. So Theseus entered the Labyrinth and with Ariadne’s help eventually confronted the Minotaur with exciting results.

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Star Trek into Darkness

I have recently Rewatched the exciting science fiction film Star Trek into Darkness again. It begins with Captain Kirk (Christopher Pine) and the crew of the Starship Enterprise observing the planet Nibiru, in order to prevent all the primitive inhabitants from being anialated by a volcano. However” Playing God” like this, is against Starfleet Regulations and is frowned upon by his superiors. So upon returning to Earth, Kirk is relieved of command, and Admiral Pike reassumes command of the Enterprise. However Shortly afterward, a Starfleet agent named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) bombs a secret “Section 31″ installation in London, Then attacks an emergency meeting at Starfleet headquarters during which Pike is killed, and Harrison escapes. So, Admiral Marcus authorizes Kirk to hunt down Harrison.

They find Harrison on the Klingon homeworld of Qo’noS which lies deep in Klingon territory, unfortunately relations between The Klingons and Starfleet are fragile and any action by the Enterprise could be seen as hostile, so the crew of the Enterprise try not to antagonize the Klingons which could start a war. However After arriving at Qo’nos the Enterprise breaks down and the Klingons try to clobber them until a mysterious figure shows up and Rescues them. They find Harrison who reveals his real identity: Khan, a genetically augmented superhuman, who has spent 300 years in cryo sleep after waging an unsuccessful war on Earth to eradicate all those inferior to himself and his superhuman genetically-engineered comrades who are all in cryo sleep hidden aboard the Enterprise. Khan explains that Admiral Marcus woke him from cryo sleep in order to use his superior intellect and savagery to develop advanced weapons to start a war with the Klingons,

Then An enormous unregistered Federation battleship, the USS Vengeance arrives with Admiral Marcus in command, demanding that Kirk hand over Khan. Kirk refuses, and the Enterprise warps away to Earth, to return Khan to stand trial for his crimes. However Admiral Marcus pursues the Enterprise back to Earth and Ultimately Kirk has to make a difficult decision in order to save the lives of his crew and protect millions of innocent lives on the Earth…

Fantastic Beasts and where to find them

I have recently rewatched the film “Fantastic beasts and Where to find them”. It stars Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jemma Chan, Ezra Miller, Catherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Zoe Kravitz, Ron Perlman, Sam Morton and Jon Voigt. It is Directed by David Yates and the score is composed by James Newton Howard. J. K. Rowling was also the screenwriter for the film, which was Produced by David Heyman, and written by Steve Kloves, who are both veterans of the Potter film franchise.

The film is Set in 1926, and follows the adventures of Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who embarks on a global expedition to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Meanwhile the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald goes missing after murdering several aurors in Europe. Newt Scamander arrives by ship to New York, en route to Arizona and encounters Mary Lou Barebone, a non-magical woman (“No-Maj” or “Muggle”) who heads the New Salem Philanthropic Society, which claims that witches and wizards are real and dangerous. He also meets No-Maj cannery worker, First World War veteran and aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski, and they accidentally swap suitcases. Then the auror Tina Goldstein arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard and takes him to the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) headquarters. However, as Jacob’s suitcase contains only baked goods, Newt is released. Meanwhile At Jacob’s tenement apartment, several creatures escape from Newt’s suitcase such as Bowtruckles, Nifflers, Erumpets, Firebirds, swooping Evil, Dragons and cause chaos. Jacob, offers to assist him with the escaped fantastic beasts. After Tina and Newt find Jacob and the suitcase, Tina takes them to her apartment and introduces them to Queenie, her Legilimens younger sister.

Newt takes Jacob inside his magically expanded suitcase, where Jacob encounters a contained Obscurus, a dark, destructive parasite that develops inside magically gifted children if they suppress their magical abilities. Newt extracted it from a young girl who died, those afflicted rarely living past the age of ten. Newt persuades Jacob to help search for the missing creatures. in Central Park Zoo, and they capture the missing Niffler and the missing Erumpet in the zoo.

Then Tina takes the suitcase to MACUSA where Officials arrest them, believing one of Newt’s beasts is responsible for killing Senator Henry Shaw Jr. Director of Magical Security Percival Graves accuses Newt of conspiring with the infamous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. Newt and Tina are sentenced to immediate death. However Newt’s Swooping Evil and Bowtruckle assist them to escape MACUSA and they continue looking for the final escaped beast with help of Goblin gangster Gnarlack, Tina’s old informant.

Meanwhile, Percival Graves approaches Credence Barebone, Mary Lou’s adopted son, and offers to free him from his abusive mother and teach him magic. In exchange, he wants Credence to find an Obscurus. Credence finds a wand under his adopted-sister, Modesty’s, bed. Mary Lou assumes it is Credence’s wand, but Modesty claims it is hers. The Obscurus kills everyone except Modesty and Credence, who reveals he is the Obscurus’ host, having lived longer than any other host due to the intensity of his magic. In a rage, he unleashes the Obscurus upon the city….

Hayao Miyazaki

Prolific Japanese film director, animator, manga artist, illustrator, producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki was born January 5, 1941 in Bunkyo Tokyo. Through a career that has spanned six decades, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki’s films has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park, and American director Steven Spielberg.

Mayazaki Began his animation career in 1963, when he joined Toei Animation. From there, Miyazaki worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon where he pitched his own ideas that eventually became the movie’s ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry over the decade until he was able to direct his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro which was released in 1979. After the success of his next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, he co-founded Studio Ghibli where he continued to produce many feature films. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind takes place Far in the future, after an apocalyptic conflict has devastated much of the world’s ecosystem, the few surviving humans live in scattered semi-hospitable environments within what has become a “toxic jungle.” Young Nausicaä lives in the arid Valley of the Wind and can communicate with the massive insects that populate the dangerous jungle. Under the guidance of the pensive veteran warrior, Lord Yupa, Nausicaä works to bring peace back to the ravaged planet.

While Miyazaki’s films enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West until Miramax Films released Princess Mononoke. This takes place In the 14th century, the harmony that humans, animals and gods have enjoyed begins to crumble. The protagonist, is a young man named Ashitaka who is infected by an animal attack,and seeks a cure from the deer-like god Shishigami. In his travels, he sees humans led by Lady Yiboshi causing polution, chpping down the forests and generally ravaging the earth, bringing down the wrath of wolf god Moro and his human companion Princess Mononoke. So Ashitaka attempts to broker peace between her and the humans brings however this only brings more conflict.

Princess Mononoke was the highest-grossing film in Japan—until it was eclipsed by another 1997 film, Titanic—and the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki returned to animation with Spirited Away. This concerns a young girl whos parents discover an abandoned theme park and she has to rescue them when they are changed into pigs by a witch named Yubaba and ends up working at a bath house for the spirits.

Spirited Away topped Titanic’s sales at the Japanese box office, also won Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award. He next co-wrote the films Arrietty and From Up on Poppy Hill. Miyazaki’s next film The Wind Rises was released in 2013 and concerns a Aeroplane designer during World War II. Miyazaki then released “When Marnie Was there” a heart warming tale which concerns a troubled young girl who moves to a new area where she discovers an abandoned house and become friends with another troubled young girl and they gradually find their lives becoming intertwined. Miyazaki’s next film was the Tale of Princess Kaguya. This concerns an otherworldly girl who is found in the bamboo forest by a woodcutter, who decides that she deserves better than a lowly Woodcutters upbringing, and decides to make her a princess with interesting results.

Miyazaki’s films often contain recurrent themes like humanity’s relationship with nature and technology,(Such as Princess Mononoke) and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities. In addition to his acclaimed film work, Miyazaki has also created manga that has reached world wide audiences. Among Miyazaki’s best films are Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Castle of Cagliostro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Laputa:Castle in the Sky, Howl’s moving Castle, Kiki’s delivery Service, Porko Rosso, My Neighbour Totoro, Ponyo, Arrietty, Up on Poppy Hill, When Marnie Was there and the Wind Rises.
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