"Beauty's Daughter burrows into the recent interest in Greek mythology and builds a fictional account of the young woman’s quest to find her lost love."—VOYA "This title would make a great pairing for students studying Greek mythology or reading the Iliad or Odyssey and will appeal particularly to students interested in ancient history."—SLJ "For readers intimidated by the language of the Iliad, this makes a fine companion piece, highlighting the soap opera of relationships among the key players and the interventions of the gods into their daily affairs."—Bulletin "This account should whet readers' interest in additional source material."—BooklistPraise for Carolyn Meyer's Young Royals books: "High drama . . . irresistible."—Booklist "Riveting."—Publishers Weekly "Masterful."—VOYA "Captivating."—SLJ
Beauty's Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troyby Carolyn Meyer
What is it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world?
Hermione knows . . . her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim/b>/b>
What is it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world?
Hermione knows . . . her mother is Helen of Troy, the famed beauty of Greek myth. Helen is not only beautiful but also impulsive, and when she falls in love with charming Prince Paris, she runs off with him to Troy, abandoning her distraught daughter. Determined to reclaim their enchanting queen, the Greek army sails for Troy. Hermione stows away in one of the thousand ships in the fleet and witnesses the start of the legendary Trojan War.
In the rough Greek encampment outside the walls of Troy, Hermione’s life is far from that of a pampered princess. Meanwhile, her mother basks in luxury in the royal palace inside the city. Hermione desperately wishes for the gods and goddesses to intervene and end the brutal war—and to bring her love. Will she end up with the handsome archer Orestes, or the formidable Pyrrhus, leader of a tribe of fierce warriors? And will she ever forgive her mother for bringing such chaos to her life and the lives of so many others?
Gr 7 Up—Narrated by Hermione, daughter of Helen of Troy and King Menelaus of Sparta, this story chronicles several years in her life, starting when she was 11. The novel transpires from the time Helen leaves for Troy with Paris, through the Trojan War, and ends when Hermione marries Orestes. Hermione grows in strength and deals with atrocities to women such as arranged marriages to brutes or concubines being beaten. She also deals with the fact that she has an absent mother who is known as the most beautiful woman in the world, and that she looks nothing like her. Though not told in verse, the story is reminiscent of the style of the well-known epic poems, and many tales of Greek mythology are interwoven throughout. This title would make a great pairing for students studying Greek mythology or reading the Iliad or Odyssey and will appeal particularly to students interested in ancient history.—Adrienne L. Strock, Chicago Public Library
Read an Excerpt
I Look like my father. Everyone agrees about that. “Hermione, you’re the very likeness of King Menelaus!” they used to tell me when I was a child. “Red hair and all!”
This was not a compliment. I knew what they meant: You don’t look the least bit like your mother.
My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. Everyone is in agreement on that, too. Her name is Helen—Helen of Sparta at one time, but later Helen of Troy, after she went away with the Trojan prince and left me behind with my father. There was some disagreement about whether she went willingly or if the prince abducted her. Knowing my mother, I would not be surprised if it was her idea—she and the prince sailing off while my father was away, and taking most of my father’s treasure with them. It’s something she would do.
My father went to war against Troy, vowing to get Helen back and his treasure, as well. I’m not sure which was more important to him—his wife or his gold. Most likely it was his honor that was at stake, sending him and his brother—Agamemnon, king of Mycenae—and a vast array of armies from all around Greece to fight and to die, all because of my mother.
Helen’s story has been told many times, by many men. But this story is mine.
The Magnificent Helen
When I was young, my mother used to tell me tales about her early life. Even her birth was unusual. Her mother—my grandmother, Leda—was married to Tyndareus, king of Sparta. one evening as Leda walked in the palace garden by the River eurotas, a huge swan with gleaming white feathers stepped out of the water and approached her. When Leda leaned down to pet the gorgeous bird, she lost her balance and fell in love. I don’t know precisely what happened in the garden that night—my mother was vague about it—but in due time Leda gave birth to an egg the color of blue hyacinths. Her seducer was actually the great god Zeus, ruler of all immortal gods and mortal beings, who had disguised himself as a swan. The egg hatched, and a beautiful baby girl emerged. Whether he suspected the truth of the situation or not, Tyndareus accepted the baby as his own daughter and named her Helen. “I doubt that Leda told my father about the swan, but the midwife surely mentioned the egg,” my mother told me. Helen joined a family of twin brothers, Castor and Pollux, and a sister, Clytemnestra. “It was an uneventful childhood,” she said. “Until I was kidnapped.”
Even as a young girl, Helen was irresistibly beautiful. Men could not keep their eyes off her. Theseus was one of them. The son of Poseidon, god of the sea and of earthquakes, Theseus had made up his mind to marry a daughter of Zeus, and Helen was certainly the most desirable. He had a terrible reputation for abducting women—whatever Theseus wanted, Theseus took.
“I remember it all very well,” said my mother. As she told me this, we were bathing in a large pool in the palace, heated with rocks from a fire, while our maids scrubbed us with sponges and rinsed us with warm water poured from silver pitchers. “I was about your age, barely eleven. My breasts had not yet budded. I knelt at a temple, making an offering to the goddess Artemis, when suddenly this brute galloped up on his horse, seized me, and carried me off.” Helen smiled dreamily, looking almost pleased as she described the scene.
“Weren’t you scared?” I asked. “I would have been.”
“Oh, I was frightened of course, but Theseus kept telling me not to be afraid, that he wouldn’t hurt me. He promised to take me to a place where I would be very safe and feel quite contented. ‘My brothers will be furious,’ I warned him. ‘Castor and Pollux will come for you, and they will kill you!’ This was not a lie. The Dioscuri—that’s what my twin brothers were called—would never have allowed me to be harmed without seeking revenge.”
Our maids stood waiting nearby with drying cloths and perfumed oil to rub on us. As I climbed out of the pool, my mother’s eyes flicked over my naked body, still flat as a young boy’s. She pursed her lips and shook her head. “Will you never get any curves, Hermione?” she asked, sighing. “You have no more shape than a door post.”
I blushed, embarrassed, and reached for a drying cloth to cover myself.
The maids pretended not to hear. My mother rose and stepped from the pool, confident of her own beauty, her shapely body and graceful limbs, smooth and white and perfect as marble.
“Theseus told me tales as we rode through the night,” my mother continued, her eyes half-closed as the maids went about their tasks. I could see the admiration in their glances. “Always about how wonderful he was. He claimed he had founded the city of Athens and had a great palace there. Such a braggart! Men are like that, you know.”
I didn’t know, but I nodded sagely, because like the maids I wanted to hear the rest of the story.
According to Helen, she and her abductor arrived toward dawn at a small village, where Theseus handed her over to his mother, Queen Aethra. “The old queen told a few stories of her own!” Helen said, laughing. “On her wedding night she slept first with her husband, King Aegeus, and then later with Poseidon, so that her son had some of both fathers and was both human and divine. A demigod.”
Like your own parents, I thought. I was thinking of Zeus, the magnificent swan who’d made love to my grandmother. I understood that my mother, too, was a demigod.
Theseus planned to keep young Helen hidden away until she was old enough to marry, and she stayed for several years in Queen Aethra’s care. “It was very pleasant there,” my mother said. “Theseus kept his word and didn’t bother me. He went off on another wild adventure, this time to visit Hades, god of the underworld. Hades offered him a seat, pretending to be hospitable, but when Theseus sat down, his buttocks stuck fast to the bench! Hissing serpents surrounded him, the Furies with snakes in their hair lashed at him, and a fierce three-headed dog, Cerberus, sank his teeth into his arms and legs. eventually he managed to get away, but he left a part of his buttocks there.” My mother stifled a laugh. “When Theseus married someone else, his children all had flat behinds. A proper punishment for a man who made a habit of abducting young girls!”
My mother’s maids draped her in a finely woven peplos that reached to her ankles, fastened it on her shoulders with jeweled brooches, and cinched her narrow waist with a belt of golden links.
“How did you ever get away?” I asked.
“After several years my brothers found me,” Helen said. “Assured that I was still a virgin, they brought me back to Sparta. Queen Aethra came with me, for I’d grown fond of her.”
Aethra, now very old, was still with my mother. She had taken charge of my little brother, Pleisthenes, who adored her.
“And then,” I prompted, “you married Father.” “Yes,” she sighed. “But it was very complicated.”
I knew that. With Helen, it was always complicated.
Everyone knew the story of how Helen, once she had been safely returned to Sparta, came to marry Menelaus. I, too, had heard her tell it many times; I never tired of hearing it. Her sister, Clytemnestra, had married a man named Tantalus. But after Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, killed Tantalus in battle, he forced Clytemnestra to marry him.
“Castor and Pollux were furious,” my mother told me. “But Agamemnon can be very persuasive when he wants something, and he convinced our father to let him have my sister as his wife. She was not at all happy about it, and our brothers had no choice but to defer to Father. Clytemnestra and Agamemnon were married. I met Menelaus at their wedding.” Menelaus was the brother of the king-killer widow-snatcher.
“I don’t wish to sound boastful, Hermione, but at that time everyone—every man, I should say—considered me the most beautiful woman in the world. And they still do!” She laughed in pleasure at this notion. I couldn’t disagree with her.
I took her word that there was no one as beautiful anywhere in the world of Greece or beyond it. Her hips were rounded, her breasts perfect, her skin flawless, her brow high and clear. Helen’s long golden hair shimmered in sunlight as well as in torchlight, like the finest silk carried from the faraway orient. And her eyes—those eyes of hyacinth blue!
As I’ve said, I didn’t resemble my mother in any of the important ways. I was my father’s daughter, from copper red hair to skin darkened and freckled by the sun and eyes as black as olives. Like Menelaus, I was thin, and as my mother had pointed out, entirely lacking in shapeliness. On the plus side, my memory was excellent, like my father’s. Sometimes a little forgetting can be a good thing. But I am unable to forget. Helen had no need to remember anything—it was enough for her simply to exist in order to delight. Only my voice is like my mother’s, clear and melodious. I was grateful at least for that.
It was no wonder that every man who looked at Helen, from the ridiculous flat-bottomed Theseus to the handsomest Greek prince, desired her and was willing to go to any length to have her. And despite all that happened, that did not change. “Suitors came to Sparta from every part of Greece,” my mother liked to tell me, knowing there would be no such lineup waiting impatiently at the palace door when I was old enough to wed. She never gave a moment’s thought to what it was like being the unspectacular daughter of a spectacularly great beauty.
Her suitors appeared in person or they dispatched a brother or cousin or some other relative to represent them. “All came with the most delightful gifts for me and my father,” she said, describing the treasures brought to Tyndareus’s palace. “But my father refused to accept any. From gilded chariots and handsome horses to the most magnificent jewels and embroidered robes, the treasures filled the megaron—the great hall—of our palace. And I wanted all of it!”
“But why didn’t Grandfather accept the gifts?”
Helen shrugged her splendid shoulders. “He was afraid of starting a quarrel among my suitors. Those who had been refused would turn against the man who had been chosen. With such men a quarrel could quickly become bloody. But among them was one man who knew he had not a chance of being chosen. Odysseus was short legged and far from handsome. He didn’t even bother to bring a gift, because he had a fair idea of which man Father actually wanted as a new son-in-law: Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, my sister’s husband. But Odysseus was a clever fellow. He quietly promised to help Father avoid a quarrel if Father agreed to help him marry the girl he wanted, a rather plain creature named Penelope. Father leaped at this solution to his dilemma.”
My mother paused to sip watered wine from a two-handled cup of hammered silver. A cool breeze had sprung up, and our maids hurried to bring us our woolen cloaks.
“Odysseus told Father to make the suitors swear to defend whichever man among them was chosen to marry me.
Tyndareus agreed, and that very day he sacrificed a horse and cut it into pieces, then ordered the suitors to stand on those pieces and swear an oath to come to the defense of the winner, no matter what happened. I watched all this from behind a screen—it was a bloody mess, I can tell you!”
“And of course you chose Menelaus,” I said—always my contribution to her story.
Helen frowned. Even frowning, my mother lost none of her beauty. “Do you think I had any choice in the matter?” she asked. “It was my father’s decision to make, not mine. It could have been Great Ajax or Little Ajax or Menestheus or Philoctetes or Patroclus, or any one of many others—it made not the slightest difference to me. I was to marry, and that was the end of the discussion. So Father called out, ‘Helen, my dear, come crown your husband with a laurel wreath.’ I did as I was told and set the wreath on Menelaus’s head. Everyone cheered, though of course the cheers were not sincere, for every man except the winner was disappointed that he hadn’t seized the prize. Menelaus smiled triumphantly and took my hand. Three days later we were wed. And now here we are,” she added with a shrug.
I was born like any ordinary baby—there was no nighttime visit from Zeus in disguise, no unlikely blue egg. In the years that followed, two baby boys were born and died. Then came little Pleisthenes, who looked more like Helen than I did, blessed with our mother’s hyacinth eyes and golden ringlets. My dear grandparents, Leda and Tyndareus, died, as did Helen’s twin brothers. Menelaus became king of Sparta.
Beginning when I was very young, my father took me for long walks into the countryside, just the two of us, and he told me stories of the twelve gods who live on Mount Olympus. There was Zeus, the mighty king of the gods, and Hera, his wife and sister, the queen; Zeus’s son, Apollo, is the god of light and prophecy. I particularly liked the story of Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis, goddess of the hunt and of childbirth — she was born first and assisted in the delivery of her twin. That was not the only strange birth: according to Father, Athena, the virgin goddess of wisdom and warfare, sprang fully grown from Zeus’s brow.
“Zeus has had many lovers and many children by them. Hera is a jealous wife and often tries to take revenge on her rivals. This causes all kinds of problems. Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty, and desire, is married to Hephaestus, god of fire, but she’s had many affairs. Fidelity in marriage doesn’t mean a thing to her.” My father chuckled. “The gods are magnificent: they hold our lives in their hands and control our destiny, but in some ways they’re not much different from ordinary mortals.”
We grew close on these walks as my father explained to me the ways of gods and men—closer than my mother and I would ever be.
Meet the Author
Carolyn Meyer is the acclaimed author of more than fifty books for young people. Her many award-winning novels include Mary, Bloody Mary, an ABA Pick of the Lists, an NCSS-CBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess, a New York Times bestseller; White Lilacs, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, an NYPL Best Book for the Teen Age, and an IRA Young Adults' Choice; and Marie, Dancing, a BookSense Pick. Ms. Meyer lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit her website at www.readcarolyn.com.
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I am a sucker for a good historical fiction novel. I'm even a bigger sucker for Carolyn Meyer. Carolyn writes her characters true to life - or at least I imagine to to life considering her characters typically have been dead for a couple hundred, if not thousands, of years. Carolyn has written her stories from the perspectives of numerous non-fictional women, but in Beauty's Daughter has turned her attention toward Greek mythology. Told from the perspective of Hermonie, Menelaus and Helen's daughter, Beauty's Daughter, takes place from right before Paris's arrival in Sparta to a few years after the end of the Trojan War. I was very familiar with everything regarding the Trojan War, but Carolyn does a nice job of going over the story for those who aren't familiar with it. At the same time, for someone who is familiar with the story, I'm not bored with the details. Since the story in told her Hermione's point of view, you're getting a fresh take on the war. Major turning points were addressed, but we aren't bogged down with the mundane. It's obvious Carolyn did her research - as much as one can when it comes to mythology - and it appears that she follows Homer's Iliad when it comes to the war and then the bits of information she could find on Hermione for everything after the war. She address in the afterward that "almost nothing has been written about Hermione. She can be found mentioned in various myths, but those brief references provided me with little material to write about her life" (333). I thought it was a nice touch that while the Trojan War was referenced in great detail, everything afterward mostly came from Carolyn's imagination. She turned the little information that she had about Hermione and gave this woman a voice and a place within Greek mythology. I was happy to see that Carolyn keeps the Greek gods around as major players in the Trojan War and the lives of our characters. Aside from our numerous gods, there are a good deal of characters in the novel, but I found it easy to keep track of who was who. I don't know if that was because I was familiar with the mythology or not, but Carolyn does remind us who certain characters are if we haven't come across them for some time. Some of the characters did feel flat, but some of these characters are so secondary that we only see for a short time before they go off on their own. Sometimes they pop back up again (for a short period of time) and sometimes they don't, so it's not a huge issue. Hermione on the other hand begins the novel full of self doubt, but given how her mother speaks to her, it's not hard to see why. Helen is very critical of Hermione's appearance as she looks more like her father than Helen herself. Unfortunately, this never changes. Even after Helen returns to Sparta and sees her daughter many years later, she is still critical. I would have liked to see more development of Hermione's character. She does become observant and you can see her mature throughout the novel, but considering everything she had gone through, I would have liked more. I was expecting more involvement with Helen given the title of this book, but all we see of her is minimal involvement with Hermione. Like I mentioned earlier, when they do interact, Helen is so critical of Hermione that I kind of just wanted to punch her in the face. Being the most beautiful woman in the world doesn't give you the right to be an a-hole, especially to your own daughter whom you abandoned. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Beauty's Daughter. Personally, I never knew that Menelaus and Helen had a daughter so while I found the synopsis to interesting right off the bat, the novel as a whole is equally interesting and attention grabbing. It's an easy read, I finished it within a weekend, but it doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the novel itself.
I have read a few books on Troy. To read a story told through Helens daughter was different, i liked it. Good story telling.