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Monday, April 05, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2021 - E Is For Electra

 Here is one of the darker Greek myths, with murder and vengeance a-plenty. Now I think of it, there is murder and vengeance in quite a lot of the myths, but this is nasty! 

Electra is the daughter of King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek troops in the Trojan War, and his Queen, Clytemnestra, sister of Helen of Troy. She is one of three children born to the couple. One of them, Iphigenia, was sacrificed to get the winds going for the expedition. The only son was Orestes. 

I won’t go too far into the background story, which is really too sad, though, like many other myths, it’s the subject of Greek tragedies. 

Agamemnon and his family were not happy or loving, and no wonder. Agamemnon was not Clytemnestra’s first husband. He had killed her first husband, along with her baby. And then, as if that was not bad enough, he sent her a letter from where the troops were waiting for a favourable wind to get them to Troy, saying, “Good news, young Achilles wants to marry our Iphigenia, send her immediately!” 

Instead, the girl found herself being hauled up to the altar of Artemis, who was angry because Agamemnon had killed one of her deer, and murdered to get that wind going. 

As you can imagine, Clytemnestra was not happy. She started plotting with her lover, one Aegisthus, who was also not pleased with Agamemnon’s family, the Atreus clan. Atreus, father of Agamemnon, had killed off Aegisthus’s siblings and done a bit of cooking... Really, not a nice man, but neither was Aegisthus. 

When Agamemnon returned from the war, these two lovers killed him and took over the throne of Mycenae.

That left Electra and her brother Orestes to avenge their Dad, which they did, with Orestes killing Aesgisthus and Clytemnestra, with his sister’s enthusiastic encouragement. 

In those days, vengeance was generally okay and fair enough, as long as you understood the vendetta started would just keep going, but you did not, repeat, not, kill your mother under any circumstances! If you did, you were likely to be chased by these three scary snake-haired women called the Erinyes, or Furies(Roman version) though you had to refer to them as the Kindly Ones. So, although Electra had been involved, it was only Orestes who suffered from their punishment, going mad. Don’t you love this painting? There is the murdered Clytemnestra, knife through her, with the three goddesses of vengeance yelling something like, “Look what you’ve done, you little sh-t!”

Orestes and the Furies - Public Domain

Eventually, there is a trial by the gods of Olympus, and Orestes is pardoned. 

I recommend a novel by Kerry Greenwood, Electra, part of the Delphic Women trilogy. In this version, Electra’s hatred for her mother and Aegisthus is explained by his having raped her, and her mother doing nothing about it. Orestes is, in fact, her child, not her brother. She is helped to escape by Trojan Princess Cassandra who, in this novel, didn’t get killed by Clytemnestra. It’s a lovely book, available with the other two novels in the trilogy, Medea and Cassandra, on the Clan Destine Press web site. Here is the link.

It’s available much cheaper in ebook on the Apple Books site. If you want it in Kindle you may be out of luck, but buy it in print if you can. 

You can probably read it without having read either of the other two books, but they, too, are worth a read.

Tomorrow - Fantasy and Greek Myths!


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Thanks for the book recommendation! And of course in Freudian psychoanalytic terms (for what THAT'S worth anymore), the "Electra Complex" is the female equivalent of the "Oedipus Complex."

Ann Bennett said...

Those are some family dynamics. Sometimes these stories seem so shocking and yet listen to the news and you come across a few doozies.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! The Electra complex sounds as scary as thr Oedipus one!

Hi Ann! Very true, there are some horrible things happening in the world. In fact, Kerry Greenwood’s book uses a conclusion she came to from the real world.

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Ooh, I gotta get those books! I always enjoy your recommendations :)

The Multicolored Diary

Jayashree (pagesfromjayashree) said...

I have not heard of Electra before. It was new to me but there is indeed a lot of bloodshed in the overall story.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

They're certainly a little dysfunctional. Really, though, when the gods require you to avenge your father's murder, and also require you not to murder your mother, but it's your mother who murdered your father... but of course she was only avenging the deaths of her daughter and your husband... You're not left with a lot of good options. Which why I'm glad I'm not a classical Greek royal.
Black and White: E for Eden

TWW said...

wow, this is awesome. I am so loving these stories.

TWW said...

Have you read Mythos and Heros by Stephen Fry?

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi TWW! Glad you’re enjoying! And no, I haven’t read Stephen zfry’s books, though I do know he is writing mythology stuff.mis he as good a writer as he is an actor?

Hi Zalka! I hope you can get the Kerry Greenwood books. Given that she wrote the very popular Phryne Fisher books, there may be overseas demand for these ebooks. If necessary you can get the print copies from the Clan Destine website - it’s a small press, so would probably be okay with sending overseas.

Hi, Jayashree! Yes, Greek myth is full of bloodshed.

Hi, Anne! Agreed, it’s a messy story. I suspect a lot of it is due to different versions of each story, but still, messy, and no, you wouldn’t want to be one of these people. Oddly, quite often the happy endings in these myths go to people who really don’t deserve them. In this case, it was probably a move from matriarchy to patriarchy, because Orestes was acquitted due to the fact that women were regarded by enough gods as unimportant and avenging thr father as vital. But I imagine the poor young man continued to suffer PTSD.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sorry, TWW, so many typos. Here is what I meant. Is Stephen Fry as good a writer as he is an actor?

Debs Carey said...

With all the violence and vengeance going on, it's interesting (and mildly amusing) to find that killing your mother is a no no :)

A-Zing from Fiction Can Be Fun
Normally found at Debs Despatches

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debs!

I think it’s to do with matriarchy vs patriarchy. The Kindly Ones were there specifically to make sure matricides didn’t get away with it, but the Olympian gods were very much a product of the patriarchy and the main arguments put in Orestes’ trial were: “Why are women so important anyway?”

AJ Blythe said...

Perfect material for a Greek tragedy. What a sad family. And I haven't heard of those Kerry Greenwood stories so I might have to see if our library has them.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Thanks for the book recommendations -- added them to my Goodreads TBR.

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Elementals