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Literature / The Mirror Of Helen

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A fantasy novel by Richard Purtill, based on the myth of Helen of Troy. It is narrated by four different characters each telling his or her part of the story:

The prologue is narrated by Theseus King of Athens who relates his kidnapping of Helen to use as a political hostage. The girl goes willingly because Theseus is a famous hero and she doesn't want her father's guards - some of whom are her friends - to get hurt trying to stop him. Theseus notices the beauty all right but he is even more impressed by the girl's character.


The first book is narrated by the Lady Alceme, an Athenian who was one of the fourteen young people who went with Theseus to Crete to become a bull leaper, and covers Helen's rescue by her brothers and her courtship by all the Kings of Greece. Alceme who married a merchant and lives in Karia comes to visit her old home town and finds Theseus's old friends, who are also hers, desperately worried about his relationship with a now nubile Helen. Alceme agrees to investigate and finds Helen unexpectedly sympathetic, and totally in love with Theseus. It is Alceme who gives Helen the titular mirror.

The second book is narrated by Alceme's daughter M'pha who is in Helen's service in Troy. Her part of the story covers the end of the war including the death of Achilles and the famous horse.

The final book is narrated by Menelaus and covers his relationship with Helen and their visit to Egypt and the choice he must make between the woman Helen and her beauty.



  • Amazon Chaser: Achilles falls hard for the Amazon queen Penthesileia.
  • Character Development: Helen loses her Olympian like detachment and tendency to play with people becoming more human and empathic. Helen and Menelaus both stop playing doormat and assert themselves against Aphrodite and Agamemnon respectively.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: As anybody who's read The Odyssey knows Menelaus and Helen end up back together and back in Sparta. We see here that it wasn't an easy trip.
  • Hot Amazon: Penthesileia is described as having the deadly beauty of an arrow in flight.
  • Hot Consort: Helen. The fact she's heiress to Sparta doesn't hurt either.
  • I Gave My Word: M'pha promised her mother she'd stand by Helen until she was safely back with her husband Menelaus.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Menelaus discovers it's Helen's spirit and essential independence that he really loves not her beauty.
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  • Love Goddess: Aphrodite has plans for Helen.
  • Men Are Strong, Women Are Pretty: Pretty much the gender norms. A man who isn't a badass is regarded with as little respect as a woman who isn't a beauty.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Alceme describes herself as 'flaunting her beauty' in nothing but a brief kilt as a girl.
  • No Woman's Land: The Danaan kingdoms are portrayed this way. Men from said kingdoms are described by women from more feminist cultures as having contempt for women. This isn't entirely fair.
  • Physical God: The Olympian Gods keep showing up and meddling.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: All Helen's problems are due to her famous beauty - yet the idea of facing the world without her beauty to hide behind frightens her as a girl.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Helen may be the Ur-example.


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