In our first lesson back this term, we took ourselves back to the Dark Ages that descended after the Trojan War, and explored how the stories of the Mycenaeans survived through the next few hundred years.
The answer is that they formed part of an oral tradition, stories told by singers who wandered the country, and sang the tales at dinners. These stories were memorised and passed on to others, and this is how they survived.
Inevitably, though, the stories morphed over time, and to demonstrate this, we took part in two activities. In the first, a member of each team table, was given a short story from the Iliad to memorise. The story was then passed on to each person – with the final person in each group then relating what they had heard. The stories had changed quite a bit, just from that short example of retelling!
The story was of the hero Bellerophon, told in book six of the Iliad. It contained creatures such as the Chimaera, and a complicated plot line. It was interesting that most of the groups remembered the Chimaera and Pegasus, but had very different versions of the plot itself -it shows how strange creatures are often the most memorable and enjoyable parts of the tales!
We also played a game called “no, it didn’t/make it worse”, where one person started narrating their day, and another could interrupt at any point by saying “no it didn’t!” (in which case the narrator would have to adjust his or her story to suit) or “make it worse”. This produced some very funny stories, and ordinary days at school became full of dire disaster and hilarious mishap! It is a simple way of showing how stories change and become exaggerated through time.
We will continue thinking about memory and oral tradition as we start to read the Iliad and Odyssey over the next few weeks!
We then translated the first half of the story of Deucalion and Pyrrha. Jupiter had flooded the world, but saved Deucalion and his wife, since he believed them to be the only good examples of a man and a woman (“bonus vir”, “bona femina” – we noted how the adjective changed depending on the noun it was describing!).
The story starts with a bird that is tired from constantly flying, since there is no land, and falls into the sea. Deucalion and Pyrrha are alone and they decide to pray for help. We will finish the story next time.