Book One of The Olympians
Ages 8 and up
By George O’Connor
George O’Connor has published several books, including picture books, graphic novels and middle readers. He’s also another talented Books of Wonder alum. Zeus: King of the Gods is the first in a planned twelve book series, one for each of the Greek gods who lived on Mount Olympus. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess and Hades:Lord of the Dead have already followed, and Poseidon: Earth Shaker will be released in March of this year.
O’Connor used multiple references and went as far back to original source material as possible to create his own text for these books. He had this to say in an interview in October 2011,
“When I was researching Olympians, not just reading the ancient sources, but also traveling around Greece and Italy and other places where people had worshiped the gods, I began to get a much different version of how the gods should be depicted and perceived. . . .By shining some light on these very old stories, hopefully I’ll help to expand our understanding of these old gods.”
A long fan of superhero comics, O’Connor has referred to the Greek gods as the original superheroes, “Muscley heroes, beautiful women, fights to the death, tragic love stories, evil villains, scary monsters… it’s all in there.”
His passion for Greek mythology is palpable; his perfectly paced, finely tailored text and rich, energetic art make that passion infectious. O’Connor is careful to leave the original stories intact while also making them age appropriate but without dumbing them down. His original retelling in this accessible form is a tremendous service to young people; his design of the characters is inspired and captivating.
The book opens, “In the time before time, there was nothing, Kaos. From out of Kaos, came Ge, or Gaea, our Mother Earth.”
Mother Earth was lonely so she created Ouranos, the sky.
Together they had many children; the first were the twelve Titans, the gods of time. They also had three Cyclopes (each with only one eye) and three Hekatonchieres (each with fifty heads and one hundred hands). Ouranos was disgusted by these monstrous children and cast them deep within the earth in Tartaros. Mother Earth was unhappy; she wanted all her children to be free. She encouraged the Titans to exact her revenge and created an adamantine sickle. Kronos, the youngest of the Titans, took the sickle in his grasp and slashed open the sky, rendering his father impotent.
From the blood of Ouranos many arose: gigantes, nymphs, the fates (sometimes called the furies) and humans. Kronos, now the ruler, took his sister, Rhea, as his wife; it was their children that would be the first Olympians. They’d had five children and Kronos, fearing a fate similar to his father’s, ate his children whole upon their births. Then Zeus, their sixth child, was born. Rhea could not bear to lose another child; she wrapped a stone in a blanket to trick her husband and Kronos was none the wiser.
The bulk of the story picks up twelve pages in, at the start to Zeus’s life. (Yes, the entire above story is told in a beautifully concise twelve pages.) Zeus grows up in a cave on the island of Crete, hidden away from his father, and raised by nymphs.
He was one of a new race of gods; a race of gods that was not only ageless and immortal but also able to transform.
At night, when Zeus laid his head on the ground, his grandmother, Earth, would tell him stories of his ancestors. She told him of the fate of his siblings and instructed him to free his brothers and sisters from their father’s belly. Metis, a nymph, helped Zeus form a plan to free his brethren. The plan was successful; Kronos was helpless as each of his now grown children was expelled from his stomach.
A great and lengthy battle ensued, changing the face of the earth, but Zeus and his siblings could not defeat the Titans, who had come to the aid of their brother. Zeus turned to Grandmother Earth for advice; she sent him deep below the earth to breach the gates of Tartaros and claim his birth right. Zeus returned from Tartaros and challenged Kronos once again, but this time he had the help of the Cyclopes and the Hekatonchieres, Tartaros’s recently released prisoners.
Zeus and his siblings were the victors of this battle. There was a new world order and a new race of gods. They made Mount Olympus their home, and Zeus was their king.
O’Connor includes many resources; there’s a family tree on the inside cover and suggestions for further reading, notes and a bibliography at the back. Zeus: King of the Gods is not only an excellent way to introduce your young readers to Greek mythology but also a perfect graphic novel for those already interested.
Visit O’Connor’s website, OlympiansRule.com, for more information, activities and teacher’s guides!