The (uneasy?) marriage between fact and fiction

In the previous blog Entertainment over historical accuracy, the comments received ranged from not being impressed with the film or the depiction of Egypt and the “exodus”, the misinterpretation of information to acceptance that the film industry glosses and loosely portrays the truth. (I hope you’re not out of breath after that long sentence!) We know the main aim of the film industry is to make money. And as my colleague and fellow writer Adam Havarias pointed out, historical movies has generated interest in historical fiction.

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I’m a Believer

There were many characters in the story of The Iliad and I’m not counting the Olympian gods! The bards in Homer’s time, before and since, had unique mnemonic tricks to remember these legends as well as music to provide cues during the telling. The tale contains over 15,600 lines and though not considered the longest epic it is still quite extraordinary feat of mental acuity. I, for one, cannot remember the first few lines let alone try to memorise the entire story.

Idealised portrayal of Homer dating to the Hellenistic Period. British Museum

Idealised portrayal of Homer dating to the Hellenistic Period.
British Museum

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Fact versus Fiction

I tutor a few students and one had a research task for history and he chose to write about the legend of the 300 Spartans. Great, I thought, a topic I can provide insight and information. Before I continue any further, let me say this is a thirteen year old boy.

The first thing he asks is whether the movie 300 is true, did it happen? My answer was, it did happen but not exactly as the film depicted the events. What followed was a series of further questions and to my dismay, how he thought the movie was factual. I pointed out the movie was based on a graphic novel, a fiction story with elements of truths. It took some convincing that no hippopotamus or a hunchback was ever involved in the battle of Thermopylai.

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Did the Punishment Fit the Misdemeanour?

When I was in primary school we used to play a game called ‘Statues’, the object of the game was to outsmart the ‘curator’ and try to tag them without being seen. Whenever the curator turned everyone would freeze, you couldn’t move. The curator was free to move around at this point but when their back was turned, you start running again. If the curator catches you moving then you were out of the game. Then you start over. It was a lot of fun too.

Why am I telling you this? It came to mind when I was researching the myth of Medousa. Could it be possible this game was borne from a story about a monster that turned people into stone statues? An early children’s game? A bit like the innocuous rhyming game with a terrible tale ‘Ring a ring a rosie’ which came out of the Black Plague. It is very probable.

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