The Great God Pan, by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College, try and she writes children’s books. Over the last few years, clinic she’s been retelling fairy tales and myths in a group of short novels for middle-grade or YA readers, treat including retellings of Beauty and the Beast (Beast), Rapunzel (Zel), and the legend of the Sirens (Sirena). I read Beast quite a few years ago, and can’t remember it all that well, but I picked up a copy of The Great God Pan only a few weeks ago and read it in one sitting.

The novel is very short — only 146 pages — and a smallish hardback, closer to the size of a trade paperback. Despite this, I’d say it’s intended for YA readers, considering the subject matter. Pan is, after all, a god of revelry, and that does include drinking and frolicking with wood nymphs. This novel is an attempt, she says in the afterword, to fill in some gaps in the Pan and Iphigenia myths.

Pan is the nature god, son of Hermes and Dryope, a nymph. He is half goat and half man, as I’m sure many readers know, and therefore sort of between the two worlds. He is sort of a pet of the gods on Olympus, and not quite nature-y enough not to care. He meets Iphigenia, a Greek princess, who is the daughter of Helen of Trojan fame and Theseus, but raised by Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who is Helen’s sister. Iphigenia and Pan get along quite well, and he develops a tendre for her. Time passes; he sees her again a few times, but then Agamemnon is ordered to sacrifice his daughter to the gods for offending them, and Pan must come up with a plan to save her. He must also make peace with the Olympian gods, regarding his status as godling or perhaps pet. Continue reading The Great God Pan, by Donna Jo Napoli