Christophe Rico and Stephen Hill, HANSEL and GRETEL in ANCIENT GREEK

Christophe Rico and Stephen Hill
Polis Institute Press Jerusalem 2022 H/B 52 pages 9789657698068 $24.12

This is a charming version in Ancient Greek of the very well-known classic fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.  According to the authors this particular adaptation has been designed as a teaching aid for beginners’ level students. Even so the authors let us know at the end of the introduction that “advanced students will also enjoy and benefit from reading a beloved and familiar story”.

This is the crucial point. The tale is no doubt suitable for children but I am not so sure if this excellent version is.  Even if the story is simple, the Greek text is not at all. I can agree the narrative context is in a certain way accessible to students who previously have dealt with the language course published by Polis: Speaking Ancient Greek as a Living Language by Christopher Rico. The dialogues on the other hand are really difficult, and I am not sure that the students can get through them without any help from a teacher as the authors themselves suggest.  I could mention those included in pages 10, 12 and 14.  There are quite complicated syntactic patterns (p.10) and some irregular verbs in the same paragraph (p.12).

I very much appreciate the narrative – always in the present tense - and especially the vocabulary which is absolutely fascinating. I never would have thought of pharmakis for a witch, nor nêssarion for a little duck and so on.

In fact some patterns are repeated quite often so that able students could understand them properly. In my opinion a teacher would be necessary in order to help the second level beginners to enjoy this fascinating version of Hansel and Gretel. This book brought to mind Fairy Tales in Latin that I have used in the past in the classroom of Latin and Theatre.

I like these kinds of books provided they contain a systematic vocabulary.  It is not enough in my opinion to make a list of words the reader will find page by page, but to classify them and most of all, to insist on the so-called basic lexical list.  The words the student will never meet again should not be included into that useful and necessary list. The same happens with grammar: a certain order should be introduced into the chaos of a lot of irregular verbs. As I do not know the previous volume Polis I am not able to say if this Hansel and Gretel can be properly linked to it.  In any case, a teacher and not simply an appendix with a couple of lists would be required.  With such a help the students would enjoy and appreciate this lovely adaptation in an absolutely perfect Ancient Greek.


                                        José Luis Navarro

                                       EUROCLASSICA Spain