Once upon a time there was an old blind man with a harp. His name was Homer, and he spoke Greek, and he was really good at composing long poems about the adventures of Greek heroes. He never wrote anything down because that's just not how things were done back then, but other people did, and what Homer sang and they wrote we call The Iliad and The Odyssey.
Much more recently, you (or someone like you) stood in a bookstore and wondered why there were twelve thousand versions of these two relatively short books. Were there sequels? Did people other than Homer come up with the same stories? Or are there just different covers for one or two versions?
It's easy to resolve the problem by simply buying the least expensive copy. And it isn't just the works of Homer that present us with similar decisions: there are multiple editions of Virgil, Dante, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Cervantes' Don Quixote, etc. Does it matter which one you pick? Is cheapest always best?
Well, to quote a great philosopher, the price don't enter into it. The main reason there are so many versions of these books is because there are so many translations, and there are so many translations because foreign or ancient languages can be interpreted in so many ways. Choosing the best one can be exceedingly difficult, as each translation has its own strengths and weaknesses, and one size almost never fits all. With books written and published in English, there might be a wide selection of editions due to editorial changes or a variety of illustrators. Some books have had a number of retellings for children, and our goal is to familiarize you with which ones might best suit your needs.
That's why we've developed the Classic Comparisons pages. The issue here isn't to prove which version is the best—it's to help you figure out which version may become your favorite. Each page includes an original introduction to the text itself, links for further reading and activities online, an exclusive overview, kids' versions, and occasional extras. In the case of translation or editorial differences, we offer a side-by-side comparison chart of several versions, and if it's all about the illustrations, our pages will offer samples of the artwork.
We started this section with an original dozen titles, but have several more in the works. Please be patient with us as several of those pages are still under construction! We hope you'll find these helpful, and that you'll learn as much from them as we did in making them.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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