Friday, 4 July 2014

Neverwhere and The Bull from the Sea

I've just been looking at some pictures of the cast of Neverwhere, the Neil Gaiman story set mostly in the parallel world of London Below. There's the climactic scene where Hunter goes after the Great Beast of London, and is gored, leaving Richard Mayhew to finish the job. It had always reminded me of something....

One of the great Cretan bulls, bred for the bull leaping arena, where teams of young men and women danced around them, risking death - you can see the frescos at Knossos - has been shipwrecked on the Greek coast near Athens, and is terrorising the area. Mary Renault brings the scene vividly to life in her book The Bull from the Sea.
She was using the legends of Theseus as her inspiration. In the first book, The King Must Die, he goes to Crete as part of the Athenian tribute, and becomes the leader of a bull leaping team. At the start of the second book, he is back in Athens, as King, and the team has broken up and gone back to their families.
And then this bull appears, and only a bull leaper can deal with it. Two girls from the team go to try, and Theseus arrives just in time to see them fail.
"He gores to the right...." are the last words of Thebe, warning Theseus before he finishes the job of capturing the bull.

The audio book version has the magnificent Michael York reading the story (I shall always think of Theseus with his voice, now) but of course it was abridged, and the bull girls are left out - which is a pity, because it is one of my favourite scenes from the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment