Voices of the Trojan War

Overview

Tell us again of the wooden horse;
give us an ageless rhyme
of heroes and battles, of meddling gods,
and a city lost to time.

This invocation to the Muse begins Kate Hovey's exquisite rendition of the events leading up to and during the Trojan War — the legendary ten-year battle between the House of Priam in Troy and the great heroes of ...

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Overview

Tell us again of the wooden horse;
give us an ageless rhyme
of heroes and battles, of meddling gods,
and a city lost to time.

This invocation to the Muse begins Kate Hovey's exquisite rendition of the events leading up to and during the Trojan War — the legendary ten-year battle between the House of Priam in Troy and the great heroes of Greece and its allies, in consequence of Paris, the prince of Troy, having carried off Helen, wife of the King of Sparta.
Through passionate verse and evocative images, we are transported to the battlefield to witness the war as it unfolds — from the moment Paris is manipulated by the gods to fall in love with Helen to the final maneuver by the Greeks, who enter and vanquish the city of Troy by secreting themselves in a gigantic wooden horse.
In listening to the voices and stories of those ancient Greeks and Trojans who struggled, fought, lost, and won, readers everywhere will be deeply moved and will come to a profound appreciation of the delicate nature of humanity and the futility of war.

A collection of poems that give voice to the ancient Greeks and Trojans who fought the Trojan war, a ten-year battle which ended when Greek warriors gained entrance to the city in a large wooden horse.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Anger and revenge, love and jealousy, bloodshed and remorse—all the things that adults try to protect children from—are here. Blame it on the gods and great authors like Homer and Virgil, who wrote about the legendary Trojan War. But there is a new angle here. The heroes, gods, and others speak out during the 10-year battle. The story begins with an invocation, Cassandra's prophetic chant, and the judgment of Paris. Aphrodite says: "I pity our bitter cow-eyed queen,/but I loathe that battle-axe, Athene." Much later in the war, Achilles' wrath at Hector for killing his friend is expressed: "Patroklos, my friend, is dead;/in anger, I cannot mourn./This fire burns in my head,/ this flame of hatred born." Even the wooden horse has a voice: "lift me hold me/help me please/make it through this night." And Helen has the last word: "tell the world I wasn't there." The voices are humanized through humor, straight talk, and a gamut of emotions. Avoiding the unrhymed iambic pentameter of the old epics, the author uses varied rhyme schemes, free verse, and shaped poems that are accessible to the younger reader. Adults, too, should appreciate the well-crafted, fresh approach to an ancient tale. The illustrations complement the text with their dramatic, simply sculpted style. The publication is aptly timed to coincide with the movie Troy and hopefully will inspire readers to tackle the original Greek and Latin authors. Background notes on the author and Trojan history are not included, but a bibliography is. 2004, Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishers Division, and Ages 9 to 12.
—Carol Raker Collins, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-Hovey has a fine idea: let humans and gods at Troy speak for themselves. Alas, they speak in doggerel. Alfred, Lord Tennyson awarded Odysseus heroic meter and noble diction; Hovey employs an uncertain trimeter, culminating in the banal exhortation, "Keep up the fight." Everything rhymes, at whatever cost ("Euripides/these"; "Zeus/excuse"). Athene is forced to rhyme with Queen. Punctuation suggests that Agamemnon has but one soldier and gives a question mark to a statement. The treacherous liar Sinon incongruously employs Shakespearean iambic pentameter. Well-chosen epigraphs from classical sources contrast sadly with the verses below them. There is a useful appendix describing the characters, and there are successful moments, e.g., Cassandra's image of her prophetic gift as a "crystalline" wall between herself and normality, and the Trojans' Festival Song, which actually sounds like a song. For most of the other poems, however, the rocking-horse rhythms are jarringly at odds with the content. Readers need to be both quite familiar with the story of Troy, and quite unsophisticated as readers of poetry. Gore's delicate monochrome drawings employ an ethereal line, and refer to classical models in the figures' profiles and accoutrements. But these pictures are not enticing enough to create an audience for this book.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442488809
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 11/11/2012
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,420,449
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.70 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Leonid Gore moved to the US from his native Belarus in 1991. He has illustrated many beloved books for children and is also the author and illustrator of Danny’s First Snow. Mr. Gore lives in Oakland, New Jersey. Visit him online at LeonidGore.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Invocation: Talking with the Muse

Poet: Tell us, muse, of Troy's dark days;

of the House of Priam's fall;

of Hector, the old king's bravest son,

killed at the Trojan wall.

Sing of his daughter, the priestess Cassandra,

Apollo's tragic seer;

sing of the fate she prophesied

that the Trojans refused to hear.

Muse: Stories told of gods and men

still echo in your ears,

ancient voices drifting down

vast corridors of years.

Poet: Sing of their brother, the shepherd Paris;

sing of the bride he stole —

Helen, wife of the Spartan king —

who yielded her heart and soul,

abandoning home and family,

all for a handsome face.

Tell us, muse, of the Greek ships launched,

avenging the king's disgrace.

Muse: Homer, Virgil, Aeschylus,

Ovid, Euripides —

listen! No one living's heard

voices as great as these.

Poet: Sing of Achilles, the fiercest warrior

to sail from the isles of Greece;

of Ithaca's shrewd Odysseus,

who fought, though he longed for peace.

Muse: Words repeated many times —

what is left to tell?

Let the heroes speak themselves;

ask the gods as well.

Poet: Tell us again of the wooden horse;

give us an ageless rhyme

of heroes and battles, of meddling gods,

and a city lost to time.

But this is evil, see!

Now once again the pain of grim, true prophecy

Shivers my whirling brain in a storm of things foreseen.

— Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 480 B.C.

Cassandra's Chant

I,

Cassandra, see it all —

the horse's belly swarming with Greeks,

our city's fall

in fire and blood,

a bitter end —

before it happens,

again and again.

This hated gift — my second sight —

brings images struck with Apollo's light

unbidden to my inner eye;

my mind, the prison where I must watch

my people die

before it happens,

again and again,

in fire and blood —

a bitter end.

What good are the oracles to men?

Words, more words, and the hurt comes

upon us...terror and the truth.

— Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 480 B.C.

Trojan Chant I

O daughter of Priam,

princess,

priestess,

farsighted sister of Hector,

release us

from ominous portents,

your visions of doom,

prophetess,

pythoness,

voice of the tomb!

Be silent,

Cassandra;

your prophesies grieve us.

Calamity chanter,

dark oracle —

leave us!

O daughter of Priam,

princess,

priestess,

farsighted sister of Hector,

release us

from ominous portents,

your visions of doom,

prophetess,

pythoness,

voice of the tomb!

Paris...

Eloped with a young bride, seduced her, stole her,

Which opened a long war against the Trojans.

A thousand ships and every living Greek

And their allies set sail.

— Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book XII, 8 A.D.

Aphrodite Explains Everything

Truly, I tell you, the Trojans' fall

had little to do with a wooden horse.

If my fellow Olympians hadn't conspired

with mortals to turn aside love's true course,

then true love would conquer, peace would reign,

and Troy would be standing. Let me explain:

When Paris, the handsomest man in Troy,

met Helen, the fairest woman in Greece,

they fell madly in love — what else could have happened?

Sadly, she couldn't obtain her release

from a marriage arranged by those heartless Fates;

now Helen's the woman all Greece hates!

King Menelaus, her powerful husband,

was ruler of Sparta, was a vengeful man

who called on his neighbors to help him recover

his chattel — his wife. The bloodshed began.

Helen, who'd slipped through his fingertips —

Helen, whose face launched a thousand ships

across the Aegean to high-walled Troy —

was the innocent pawn in their ten-year war.

The conspirators — Hera, Athena, Poseidon —

attacked and harassed me, because I swore

to protect the doomed lovers — what else could I do?

If not the goddess of love, then who?

It is the gods' relentlessness, the gods',

that overturns these riches, tumbles Troy

from its high pinnacle.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II, 19 B.C.

The Apple of Discord I

Eris (Goddess of Discord) Speaks

Lofty Olympians

like to exclude

lesser immortals

who aren't imbued

with the kind of power

they so admire.

Still, I'm a goddess,

and I require

certain courtesies,

a little care and concern,

but the gods are hardheaded;

they never learn.

So I came, uninvited,

to the sea queen's wedding

and threw a gold apple

far out on the spreading,

goddess-strewn lawn.

Inscribed, "for the fairest,"

it caused a commotion —

weren't they embarrassed

to squabble that way?

Hera, Athena,

and vain Aphrodite,

tugging and pulling —

what high and mighty

hypocrites! They claim

I'm the foul one!

They think they can blame

my wedding surprise

for the horrors at Troy,

when they are the guilty ones —

they who destroy,

who sacrifice heroes,

Earth's glorious sons,

like bulls on an altar —

brave, innocent ones.

To their lasting shame,

they let Troy burn.

The gods are hardheaded;

they never learn.

There's something else I want you to give

thought to — whether you'd like the gifts I can offer in

return for your vote. You see, Paris, if you decide on

my favor, I'll make you lord of all Asia.

— Lucian (Hera speaking in The Judgment of Paris, Dialogues of the Gods, Book XX: 10-11), 160 A.D.

The Apple of Discord II

Hera Speaks

Sunlight revealed it, a gleam in the grass,

a shimmering apple. I watched it pass

the immortal throng as it streaked my way,

swift as Apollo's fiery ray,

guided, it seemed, by his golden hand —

exactly as Eris, Night's daughter, planned.

That Aphrodite's a brazen one;

before I could reach it, she'd already swung

her foot out in front of me, halting the course

of Eris's apple, which struck with such force,

it injured her heel, and it served her right!

She wasn't, however, the least contrite,

insisting, instead, the apple was hers.

She argued with me, the Thunderer's

own wife — his queen! How could she dare?

Her insolent manner was hard to bear.

Text copyright © 2004 by Kate Hovey

The captains of the Greeks,

now weak with war and beaten back by fate,

and with so many years gone by,

are able to construct, through the divine

art of Athena, a mountainous horse.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

Trojan Voices

Overheard at the Wall

What are they building?

What is that thing?

A battering ram?

Scaffolding?

Could it breach our wall?

What have they done?

Cleared the whole forest.

Look, they've begun

to lash those fresh-cut planks —

white pine —

in giant circles.

Strange design.

That dog, Odysseus —

it's his?

Of course.

That piece over there —

the head of a

horse?

A gift for the gods?

A peace offering.

What are they building?

What is that thing?

They weave its ribs with sawed-off beams of fir,

pretending that it is an offering

for safe return. At least, that is their story.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

Greek Voices

Overheard Outside the Camp

What are we building?

What is this thing?

A trap, they say, for capturing —

the citadel?

It can't be done.

They'll pack us inside it?

Not me.

You'll run?

The Trojans aren't stupid.

We don't have a prayer.

They'll pack us inside it?

Pitch black.

No air.

That dog, Odysseus —

it's his?

Of course.

Who else could convince us

to build this —

horse?

They'll pack us inside it —

quit grumbling!

What are we building?

What is this thing?

Then in the dark sides of the horse they hide

men chosen from the sturdiest among them;

they stuff their soldiers in its belly, deep

in the vast cavern: Greeks armed to the teeth.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

Final Instructions of Odysseus

Diomedes, raise your torch —

comrades, look inside.

Behold and marvel. Memorize

each plank. This place we hide

will bring about our victory

and seal the Trojans' doom

or cause our deaths. Mark it well;

this horse may be your tomb.

You captains — Thoas, Acamus —

take your men down first.

Pyrrhus, pass the wineskins out;

we'll need to quench our thirst.

Watch your rations; make them last

all day and through this night.

Keep helmets on, swords at hand,

in case we need to fight.

If they suspect our hiding place,

they'll flush us out with fire.

Aias — use your mighty ax

to free us, if this pyre

goes up. With luck, we'll see our homes

again. We'll hold our wives.

Goddess, in your gracious hands

we place our hopes, our lives.

Hail, Athena! We praise your gifts —

skill and discipline.

Bow your heads, men. Give her thanks

before we're shut within.

She just might save our skin.

And all of Troy is free

of long lament. The gates are opened wide.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

King Priam's Messenger II

My king, the Greeks are gone.

Their camp's unoccupied;

their hollow ships, withdrawn,

unnoticed, on the tide.

I tell you, sire, it's done —

Greek ships have all withdrawn!

A shout rang out at dawn;

the gates are opened wide.

My king, the Greeks are gone —

come see — our people don

bright robes and roam outside.

Greek ships have all withdrawn —

I tell you, sire, we've won!

This joy is justified,

my king. The Greeks are gone,

their hollow ships withdrawn!

Gladly we go to see the [Greek] camp,

deserted places, the abandoned sands...

here fierce Achilles once had pitched his tent;

and here their ships were anchored, here they fought.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

King Priam

Ten years ago I stood upon

this barren shore beside

my wife and watched my wayward son

returning with his bride.

The evils Paris brought with him

can never be undone.

Our silver beach ran black with blood.

No potent shaft of sun

can bleach it clean; no blast of wind

can banish it; no rain

or cleansing lash of tidal wave

can wash away the stain.

Twenty years ago my sons

hurled rocks into the sea

and charged the surf, imploring me

to join their revelry.

I watched them play from this same spot,

a memory I cherish.

Back then, I never thought I'd reach

this age; I knew I'd perish

long before those sturdy boys.

Then came the Greek attack.

Now nothing gods or men can do

will bring my children back.

Two months ago I stood right here,

inside the tent of one

I hated; on my knees, I kissed

the hand that killed my son,

my Hector, shining light of Troy.

I begged to be allowed

to bring his battered body home.

They wrapped him in a shroud.

Brutal Achilles lifted him

above the wagon's wheel

and set him on its wooden bed,

then offered me a meal.

He talked in halting, quiet tones,

of life and death. We wept,

remembering the ones we'd lost,

before we finally slept.

We never spoke another word;

I left before the dawn.

Within a week Achilles died.

Today Greek tents are gone

and Troy rejoices. Still, I can't

forget his stricken face,

the way he held my lifeless son,

the horror of this place.

Some wonder at the deadly gift...

marveling at the horse's bulk.

Thymoetes was the first of us to urge

that it be brought within the walls and set

inside the citadel.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

A Trojan's Plea

What are we waiting for?

Haul the horse in —

what do we care

of its origin?

It's ours to claim;

the Greeks have gone,

scuttling home

to their scheming spawn.

Wind it with garlands

our women plait;

parade through the city —

celebrate!

So many years —

at last, we win.

What are we waiting for?

Haul the horse in!

Those with sounder judgment counsel us

to cast the Greek device into the sea,

or to set fire to this suspicious gift.

The lead is taken by Laocoön.

He hurries from the citadel's high point

excitedly; and with a mob around him

from far off he calls out....

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

Laocoön, Priest of Poseidon, Speaks

Trojans, have you lost your minds?

What wild insanity,

to drag this horse inside our walls —

you'd trust our enemy?

What makes you all so certain

the Greeks are gone for good?

I promise you, there's treachery

shut within this wood.

Ask yourselves, is this the way

that fiend Odysseus acts?

Take his gift; you'll pay the price,

but when his crew attacks,

don't say I didn't warn you.

Don't look for Laocoön

to help you when Greek soldiers torch

your houses — I'll be gone.

And as [Laocoön]...spoke he hurled his massive shaft

with heavy force against the side, against

the rounded, jointed belly of the beast.

It quivered when it struck the hollow cavern,

which groaned and echoed.

— Virgil, The Aeneid, Book II

Inside the Wooden Horse

A netted fish

my water gone

must suck what little air's

remaining drenched

in sweat and darkness

formulating prayers

inside my head

no god can hear

no power from on high

will reach inside

this stinking hole

lift me to the sky

god lift me sky god

let me breathe

hold me in the light

lift me hold me

help me please

make it through this night

please make it stop

this din of death

clanging in my ear

inside my head

this din of death

I don't want to hear

please make it stop

don't let me feel

what echoes in my brain

pulsing to each swallowed moan

wet murmurings of pain

god help me sky god —

can't you hear?

Stop this awful flood!

The warmth I feel

beneath my heart, please,

let it not be blood.

Text copyright © 2004 by Kate Hovey

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