“Do we have a copy of The Iliad anywhere?” I asked Dad.
“What about Illinois?”
“No…The Iliad…you know, Greek verse, fall of Troy, Achilles…”
“Oh! Homer wrote that, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m rather hating on Homer right now…or rather, most free translations I can find.”
“I read that years ago,” he mused. “It was long…very bloody, too.”
“Yes, well, I need it for a project.”
My Cordeilla Project, all 100,000+ words of it, started out as a fantasy retelling of King Lear. Shortly thereafter, it spiraled into something even bigger, when I decided to include the “Trojan survivor” aspect of the mythos. Well, to be fair, it started including itself…and I decided at some point to follow Stacy’s advice and go big or go home. So I went big. Way big. Epic big.
To that end, I bought two books: The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War (Caroline Alexander), and The Trojan War: A New History (Barry Strauss). I’ve been making my way through The War that Killed Achilles, and it includes clips of The Iliad from the Richard Lattimore translation, which is so much better than the crap I had to sort through in high school. I don’t recall what translation my English teacher used, but I remember genuinely hating the book and everyone involved in it.
The clips I’ve read in Achilles, though, are quite wonderful, so I’ve put a used copy of the Lattimore translation into my Amazon basket. Since I’ve gone that far, I might as well pick up The Aenid, or The Aeneid, which tells the story of Aeneas, Trojan survivor who goes on to have several misadventures, possibly found Rome, and serve as the father (or grandfather, depending on the myth) of Brutus, who sails off to Britain to found the dynasty that spawns Leir, Cordeilla, and their friends. Oh, goodie. Instant blood-soaked backstory.
I knew this was going to happen. I freaking knew it. I knew it ten years ago when I first tried working with the Cordeilla story, back when all I knew was that it was drawn from British myth and “Cordelia lives!” I knew it would get too damn big and start encompassing all kinds of crazy shit. I’ve gone from basic British mythology to necromancy to the freaking Trojan War and dammit.
With that said, I really like it, even though it’s driving me up a wall.
“So,” Dad said. “Why do you need The Iliad? Planning to sack a city? Describe this project!”
Describe Trojan Age? I can’t even explain it.
“Well,” I said, “remember King Lear?”
“Heard of it, yes.”
“Well, Shakespeare got that story from British mythology…which held that Lear was an actual king, and did divide the kingdom between his daughters, and there was a civil war. And Lear was descended from survivors of Troy who came to Britain and conquered it, or something…so I need The Iliad to figure out their backgrounds.”
That was about as succinct a description as I’ve managed to give it. Still need to shorten it up more. Gotta work on my back cover copy skills, I guess.
“Oh,” Dad said, nonplussed by the possibility of Trojans running amok in Iron Age Britain. “Well, you should be able to crank that out in about two hours.”
If only you knew, I thought, eyeing the massive file on my computer screen.