Helen of Troy is a fascinating character in Greek mythology. Equally fascinating is they way she’s treated in rewrites. There’s rarely middle ground with her. In most depictions she’s either an evil, selfish, vindictive temptress or a pretty airhead victim. She turned up a lot in material I watched and read in my younger years. Here are a few of my favorite depictions of her that may have had an impact on how I saw her character.
Goddess of Yesterday
In this amazing Caroline B Cooney novel, Helen a side character and the Trojan War a background event to the protagonist’s, a historically un-notable young woman, coming of age story. It’s like…Johny Tremain and the civil war. I mean, when the background and the side characters of this coming of age story are this epic, you know the protagonist is something else.
The protagonist is a young girl named Annaxandra who is kidnapped and sold into slavery as a young child. She’s chosen as the playmate to the young and sickly Princess Calisto. When Callisto’s kingdom is sacked, Annaxandra assumes her identity to save her life and ends up in a sort of protective custody with Menelaus, Helen of Troy, and their two children. It’s a really interesting story with a very fresh take on the Trojan War. I love the way Cassandra was portrayed as well. In this novel, Helen was positively the evilest evil step mother type figure I’d ever read. If you ever have an opportunity, read this book. It’s amazing.
Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize
This series follows Helen of Troy’s younger years and fleshes her out to more than just a pretty face. Completely worth the read. One of the most three dimensional takes of Helen I’ve ever seen in literature. The fact that the series doesn’t focus on the Trojan War only makes it that much of a fresher take and a better story. Helen had a really interesting life and family well before Troy.
The Trojan Women
This is a classic play but it questioned Helen’s role in the fall of Troy and deliberated on whether or not she was to blame or if she was just a scapegoat. It’s old and the language is a old and the production is old. But it’s basically a really awesome bottle episode of the Trojan War and a great read or view.
The movie is good as well and it follows the play and has some well known actresses from the 70’s. But if you have a chance to see it live instead (rare, I know) go for it. It’s a really fascinating look at the live’s impacted by the Trojan War. Not my favorite take on Cassandra but accurate in her fate according to the Orestes trilogy.
A lot of characters were fully fleshed on in the movie Troy, unfortunately Helen was not one of them. It was still a great movie and I really enjoyed their take on Achilles and the casting for the movie was fantastic. I actually found it kind of refreshing that the movie focused on what are now some of the less notable players in the game. It’s truer to the original source material.