Project Ideas for

Greek Myths, Monsters, & Heroes
 

 

 

    There are 5 basic forms of Greek storytelling that are still alive and well today.  You can we will write and/or perform your own versions of these storytelling forms.  On this page we place special emphasis on the myth, the fable, illustrations on pottery, and an epic-like adventure tale.

    Below you will find an explanation of each form:

     

Some Basic Forms of
Greek Storytelling:

AESOP'S FABLES

GREEK MYTHOLOGY

EPICS

GREEK PLAYS & THEATER

ILLUSTRATIONS
&
POTTERY

 


    Aesop's Fables

    Aesop's Fables are still being told and retold -- in their original form and in slightly different form. People will change the characters a bit, or change the setting in which the story takes place, or maybe even update the problems that get resolved -- but the underlying tale, the meaning and the lesson remain the same.

    The Ant & The Grasshopper is an example of a fable that is still very popular today:

      The ant works hard storing away food for winter while the grasshopper just goofs off. The ant advises the grasshopper to follow his example and store up some food, but the grasshopper just laughs him off, making fun of him instead. Finally, the winter does come and the grasshopper finds himself cold and hungry. Some versions of this story have happy endings while some have very sad endings. The moral, or lesson, of the story is that it is wise to prepare for hard times ahead. (Note: fables always have a lesson or moral to them.)

    A fable is...

      very short

      has stock characters (i.e. very stereo-typed or two dimensional)

      often has animal characters (with human feelings/motives)


    and...

      "The beginning of the fable shows the setting and the situation in which the characters find themselves.

      The middle of the fable explains what the problem is and how characters attempt to solve the problem.

      The end of the fable shows the moral or lesson to be learned from the story.   (Lynn F. Muraoka)

       

    The whole focus of a fable is to teach a lesson. Therefore everything in the story must be kept simple, so as not to distract the reader from getting the point!

    Read several fables to see how it is done. Then try your own hand at writing a fable. You might begin with rewriting one of Aesop's fables in your own words. You could update your story -- by putting the characters in a place or situation that is similar to Aesop's, but more modern -- or change the way they talk. You could even have your moral be delivered rap style!

    In our class we wrote our own original fables. Maybe you have one inside of you!  Think about what moral or life lesson you would like to share with others. Then make up a story around it. Plug in some animal characters, slap on your lesson or moral saying, and -- voila! You've written your own fable!

     

 

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    Greek mythology

     

     



     
    Greek mythology isn't just something kids are made to read about in school -- it's the stuff of great movies, such as Disney's Hercules and great fiction such as Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels. You learn more about those stories on your own, so I won't retell them here.

    The Greek myths tell the stories of Greek gods, goddesses, and heroes (usually always the child of a god and a mortal human). They also can tell the stories of the beginnings of things -- how Life began, where did we all come from -- that sort of thing. The myths often involve magical creatures such as Pegasus, the Titans, or various nymphs and satyrs.

    Visit the Greek Links page (or your library) to read some of the Greek myths. Then have some fun making up a myth of your own. Your myth can be set in ancient Greece or in the present -- in your own house. A good myth in your own house might be "The Origin of Morning Coffee". You could tell a funny story about what life was like before your parents had morning coffee and how coffee pots came to exist. Or, make up a funny explanation of what the "Ritual of The Coffee" is "really" all about. (Is it an offering to appease the angry gods of sleep or traffic?)

    Remember there are myths from many other cultures, including: ancient China, Persia, India, the Native American cultures, as well as from various African nations -- including Egypt. So... check 'em out!

    (In our class we will be creating our own Mythological Zoo, with pop-up illustrations and mythological descriptions of the origins and abilities of our strange creations.)

     

     

    Want to read some Greek Mythology adapted for kids?  Browse our  Greek Links or try one of the books below. 

     

     

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    Epics



     
     
    While a fable is short and to the point, the epic is typically very long and very elaborate. The modern equivalent of the epic would probably be the TV mini-series!   Like Aesop's fables, the great Epics ― like The Iliad and The Odyssey  ― also get redone every now and again. The Odyssey is especially popular.  Even PBS's TV show Arthur did it's own version, with D.W. in the role of the hero Odysseus. Did you know that William Shakespeare did his own version of The Iliad?

    (Psst! If you think Shakespeare is ancient history, consider that Homer -- the author of the Iliad --lived an even longer time ago, about 2,500 years ago!)

    The epics are long adventure stories that were originally written in the form of poetry. (While there are other types of Greek poetry, I don't focus on it here.)

     

     

    Tales from the Odyssey  by popular Magic Tree House author Mary Pope Osborne. 

    Giants and Cannibals! Wonders and Witches! One Amazing Hero. Brave Odysseus is far from home, tossed by stormy seas, and cursed by an angry one-eyed giant. If he ever wants to see his family again, he will have to face hungry cannibals, outwit a beautiful witch, and sail past a six-headed serpent. His journey is the ultimate test of endurance and courage. In this exciting series, best-selling author Mary Pope Osborne retells Homer�s Odyssey, one of the most thrilling adventure stories of all time. For ages 8 and up.

     

     

     

    Tales of the Greek Heroes  by Roger Lancelyn Green.  

    While by no means the most scholarly collection of Greek myths and legends, Roger Lancelyn Green's retellings are among the most accessible, particularly to younger readers, while retaining the poetic quality of the ancient texts. TALES OF THE GREEK HEROES recounts the origins of the Greek pantheon, the adventures of Perseus, the seven labors of Heracles, and the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts. For ages 10 and up.

     

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    Greek plays

    You may not think of any ancient Greek plays you've seen recently, but their legacy does still live on. First of all, our own modern theater owes much to the ancient Greeks. Just think about the way you sit when you go to a play (or even a the movies, or a hockey game) -- you usually sit in seats, arranged in rows, which rise up higher toward the rear of the theater.

Here is a picture of the theater in Dodona Greece. Does it remind you of a modern stadium? The seating was designed this way so that everyone could see the action down on the stage below, and so that the sound of the actors would be contained in the theater arena and travel upward toward the audience. No microphones or P.A. systems in those days -- you just had to belt out your lines, good and loud!

    But it is not just the earlier technical aspects of Greek theater that live on today. Many of the ancient Greek plays were so popular, spoke so strongly to basic human emotions and problems, that they are still around today. Although, like Aesop's fables, some of the details have been changed. (Example.)

    Religious plays about the Greek gods and about honoring and giving thanks to them were a major part of the the Greek plays, especially in the early days of theater.

    One of the chief characteristics of the Greek plays was the "chorus". This was a group of men who would sing a narrative about the story. The earliest plays in Greek history had only a chorus. Later on, an actor was added who would speak his lines to the chorus. Even later in history, the format had become more complex, with many actors on stages, interacting with each other, acting out the story in the way that we are familiar with today in our own plays.

    Another important feature of the ancient Greek plays were the masks worn by the performers. If you would like to act out a fable or myth that you have written, take a piece of cardboard and trace the face or head of your character onto it. Then cut it out and paint it (or cover it with white paper and simply decorate with markers or crayons). Be sure to create an expression on your mask that shows your characters feelings. The ancient Greeks had sad faces for plays with sad endings and events (called a "tragedy") or happy faces for plays with positive outcomes (a "comedy").

     


    Greek Myth Plays  by Carol Pugliano-Martin. 

    Help students build fluency and gain confidence as readers with the timeless tales of King Midas, Daedalus and Icarus, Echo and Narcissus, and more. This collection of short scripts features parts that are written to accommodate readers at different proficiency levels-so everyone can participate. Includes tips for putting on the plays and related activities. Marketed for use with Grades 3-5, but used good for middle school also.

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    ILLUSTRATIONS & POTTERY.....

Anyone whose ever picked up a picture book knows that a story can be told without any words at all.

So it is here, with the story on the Grecian vase. This vase tells a story about Hercules.

Check out all the action going on in this picture.

 

Try drawing your own pictures.  You can draw pictures that illustrate a story you've already thought up, or... you can let the process of drawing help you imagine the story you want to tell.

 

 

Young Writers

 

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    for our links to Ancient Greek myths, fables, and epic hero tales, as well as maps, photos, and illustrations of ancient Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for a fun and effective way to learn more about Greek Mythology?  Try the Percy Jackson series by New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan. 

Funny, fast paced, and filled with quirky characters and wild action that kids love, they're a great way to bring the qualities and characters of the Greek pantheon to life!

 

 

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