Oedipus: Trapped by Destiny
Author: Yvan Pommaux [translated by Richard Kutner]
Publisher: TOON Books
Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.
This 48-page book for 8- to 12-year-olds presents in easy-to-read illustrated form the ancient Greek legend, made famous by Sophocles’ play “Oedipus the King” (429 B.C.) although it was already centuries old by then. A modern prologue shows two children asking their grandfather to tell them “the most TRAGIC“ Greek myth he knows. “Are you REALLY sure that’s what you want to hear?” “Yes! Tell us the worst, the most HORRIBLE of all your stories.”
The Oedipus myth is widely considered “the most TRAGIC” because it is about a handsome, honorable man forced to unknowingly commit horrible crimes by either the gods or by unalterable Fate. Oedipus’ parents are powerful King Laius and Queen Jocasta of the city of Thebes. Laius goes to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi before his birth to ask the oracle what the baby’s future will be, hoping for a son who will lead Thebes to military glory. Instead, the oracle tells him that the baby will be a son who will grow up to kill his own father and marry his own mother. Laius, horrified, orders that Oedipus be killed as soon as he is born. A servant abandons the baby on a barren mountaintop to be eaten by wild animals. However, what happens saves the baby to grow up not knowing his true parents, and accidentally fulfilling the prophecy. When Oedipus learns the truth, he is so horrified that he blinds himself and goes into self-imposed exile. The moral is that no mortal can avoid his or her Fate, which is divinely foretold.
This $16.95 hardcover book was originally published in France. Pommaux is a noted children’s scholar and artist who has also produced similar illustrated retellings of the myths of Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus in the Underworld. The legend of Oedipus is retold in rich detail, with footnote pronunciations of the Greek names. Pommaux adds an index with capsule biographies of every person and location mentioned in the myth. “Cithaeron – a mountain overlooking the sea, not far from Thebes, in Boeotia. Its summit was supposed to have been particularly unwelcoming. In theory, if one abandoned a newborn there with its legs tied together, it would die from cold or hunger or be devoured by wild beasts. Oedipus survived because a shepherd, Phoebas, found him.” (p. 46) This is an excellent pictorial retelling of the Oedipus myth, made both clear and exciting for modern children.