Stealing Andromache

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In most ancient myths or plays, Andromache’s life is ruined and she must suffer as a war prize after losing her husband, her son, and her home. Jennifer South’s Stealing Andromache paints her origin story in a way that has not been told before. The relationship between Hector and Andromache is the main storyline throughout the novel, and the war is not a concern. Bits and pieces of the ancient works are referenced constantly, but in essence, the story is altered so that Andromache is at the center of it all. This modern take on Andromache’s story emphasizes the idea that, even in a world where men fought and women were the prizes, women have power of their own.

Andromache starts off as this young, innocent child that is tormented by her sadistic mother. The youngest of 8 children and the only girl, Andromache considers herself to be a disappointment to her family. She is thin, tall and overall awkward. She does not consider herself to be beautiful, and the general consensus is that she is not. Beauty is power in a world where men trade off their daughters for alliances. Andromache gets the attention of Hector, who has a different view of women than she’s used to.

Hector tells her “men can control a woman’s body but it’s women that have the power to control souls” (South). Andromache remembers his words and takes it into consideration. Hector defies the norm and shows true respect for women. This is a clue that this story was written in a modern time period. Hector is positioned as the dream guy who understands women…stereotypical romance. Andromache makes a lasting impression on him.

As a child, she has freedom to go wander the forest as she pleases and the rest of her family tends to forget she exists. In time, more is expected of her, and she develops into a woman who can run a household easily. It becomes something she takes pride in and others look to her with respect and for guidance. Her father, King Eëtion, takes great pride in his daughter, and is the parental figure that supports her.

Andromache has a strong relationship with her brother Podes, who out of all her brothers is known for having been killed by Menelaus during the war (Panada). He teaches her how to ride a chariot, which comes in handy later on in the story. He does not shy away from his sister or discourage her from partaking in a masculine activity. They both understood that their other “brothers wouldn’t approve” and that “Podes would get the worst of it for trying to teach [her]” (South).

Great emphasis is placed on the parasitic relationship between Andromache and her mother. Her mother was never given a name in ancient myth, and was said to have died after Achilles and his men raided Thebe. Not because she was killed brutally, but because of illness (Panada). In this novel, she is the divine evil presence and “everyone knew that her mother was a sorceress” (South). She takes her daughter into her secret room to torture her, sharing her blood, and punishes her. Andromache knows her mother hates her for being born a girl. At the same time, she grows up to discover that her mother’s power is shared between them, and that she has a power of her own. To kill ones own family is considered to be a sin, which is true in ancient texts, but Andromache takes the risk. The Greeks are not portrayed as Andromache’s true enemy here, her mother is.

As clever and intelligent Andromache is portrayed to be, she attracts more than just Hector. Helenus, Hectors younger brother and Cassandra’s twin, tries to steal Andromache away from him. Helenus finds Andromache with her friends, and makes an extra effort to show her the temple of Athena, but because of her mother’s relation to Ariadne, the weaver Athena turned into a spider, she recoils from it. South casts this off as sibling rivalry, but in Euripides play of Andromache, she does end up marrying Helenus in the future. Their interaction in the novel hints at their future relationship after the fall of Troy.

Cassandra’s role in this book is similar to the one in ancient myth. No one believes her prophecy, but this prophecy is inaccurate. South alters the prophecy to keep the focus on Andromache. Instead of Paris being the cause of Troy’s future destruction, Hectors marriage to Andromache, and not to Helen of Sparta, is the rift that causes the ten-year-war. Paris, Hector’s younger less impressive brother is never mentioned in the book despite his large role in the ancient texts. The fact that Helen was already married to Menelaus was also forgotten for the sake of the plot. This novel completely ignores the Oath of Tyndarious and The Judgment of Paris, both key events that lead up to the Trojan War.

There were a number of surprise appearances from famous names from the Iliad that made there way into this novel as a person for Andromache to interact with. A surprise appearance towards the end of the novel was Aeneas, Hectors cousin who walks Andromache through the streets of Troy. His minor role just shows him as a decent guy who loves his wife—another example of faithfulness.

Briesis was a friend of Andromache’s that she met once at her own home, and as she traveled to Troy for the first time. The future war-prize of Achilles, this character possesses the beauty that attracts men anywhere she goes. During the time of Troy, beauty was important when it came to finding an important husband.

Chryseis is a ray of sunshine in this novel. Her character is somewhat naïve and silly, but she proves to be a true friend to Andromache. She is a priestess from Apollo’s temple, which is accurate, but again, as with Briseis, there is no record of them ever interacting in the ancient myth.

These two are the friends that Andromache gains throughout her adolescence, and both of them take on stereotypical 21st century character traits of sidekicks. Briseis was desperate in ancient myth, she lost her husband to Achilles, but she is still devoted to him because he is all she has (Briseis). Chryseis, on the other hand, given to Agamemnon, had a bit more truth to her story, as her character was developed further. This novel explained the impact of female companionship, which is rarely discussed in any myth.

Her mother, after not being invited to her daughters wedding, decides to have Greeks steal Andromache and promised to have her marry Peleus’s second son Achilles. His older son, Eurytion, captures her first, but in actuality there is no record of any interaction between these characters. Andromache’s only relation with a relative of Peleus is with Achilles son, Nepothemus, after Troy has burned (Andromache).

Overall, this book is full of references to the ancient texts and the characters of Greek myth, but it little to no historical accuracy. It ended before the events of the Trojan War, which is all there really is known about Andromache through myth. The rest was South’s interpretation of this characters origin story. This young adult romance novel is centered on their relationship, one that is doomed. However, South keeps it light and avoids the messiness that comes with the war.

Andromache’s character traits include her cleverness, her wit, he duty and her loyalty. The plain girl who thinks no one will notice her ends up being the love of the greatest Trojan warrior, how romantic. It is cliché. Elements of ancient myth are twisted so that Andromache’s role is greater and more important. It is sad to think how much tragedy awaits her shortly. Her tragedy is what she is known for most in Euripides plays: Andromache and the Trojan Women. South takes the love story between Hector and Andromache, creates conflict to keep them apart, and brings them together to nicely wrap up the book.

As for the actual writing itself, the language was simple and easy to understand, but it was ridden with spelling mistakes and the occasional typo. It was long, drawn out, and most of the book was Andromache thinking of Hector from afar since it took years for them to see each other again after their first meeting. There was also a good amount of repetition throughout, such as how Andromache constantly refers to Hectors “dark eyes.”

Andromache above all is seen as cable. In the ancient myths women have a little to know real power. South highlights that Andromache gets to choose her fate, something that was unusual in the days where kings sold off their daughters for wealth or status. She was taught how to ride a chariot, and then used her skills to escape from the Greeks. Hector listens to Andromache’s ideas about war strategy and confides in her about the current state of affairs. She is not weak. She is a strong individual who has the power to take care of herself, and to take care of others. This book was published in 2012, and clearly, modern day thinking has made its way into this plot line.

Stealing Andromache was an interesting take on her origin story, but it really has no basis of fact to it. This was her invention to have a different take on a famous Trojan woman with an unknown past. The relationship between the Hector and Andromache is established from Iliad immediately, and there is no real backstory. It is set in stone from the beginning. There was no real action in the book, and it made it go slowly. This modernized account stresses that the protagonist could think independently and that women don’t have to let others choose for them.

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