Camp Nanowrimo Update #1

End of Day Saturday July 3 Update

Current word count: 3,304/4,839

Day 1 was stellar. I rushed right through the draft for my untitled Alcestis retelling. Then, days 2 and 3, I only got a handful of words down because I was busy. Should be back up to date by the end of Sunday.

For this update, I want to talk about the myth of Alcestis. I read Euripides' Alcestis back in university and like all of his work, it stayed with me. Alcestis is my third favourite Euripides play, after the Bacchae and Medea.

There are different versions of this story, but here is a short summary:

When one of Zeus' thunderbolts killed Asclepius, his father, Apollo, murdered the Cyclops who fashioned it. As punishment, Apollo is sentenced to serve as a slave to a mortal, Admetus, for one year. Admetus is so kind to Apollo that he wins the god's favour. 

Alcestis was known for her beauty. Suitors came from all over seeking her hand. Her father decreed that only a man who can yoke a boar and lion to a chariot can win her hand. With Apollo's help, Admetus was able to do so and they were soon married.

On their wedding night, Admetus forgot to sacrifice to Artemis and she filled their bedchamber with snakes. Apollo advised him to sacrifice to Artemis, but it wasn't enough. Admetus was fated to die. Apollo visited the fates and got them drunk. He convinced them to retract Admetus' fated day of death. They agreed but only if he could find someone to die in his place.

Admetus asked all of his friends and his parents, but no one was willing. Finally, Alcestis volunteered. Admetus agreed, but quickly came to regret this decision. In exchange, she asked that he never remarry and subject her children to a stepmother.

After her death, Heracles came by. Admetus was known for his great hospitality and despite being in mourning, he welcomed the hero into his home. Heracles noticed that everyone was miserable and demanded to know what was going on.

Heracles then went to Alcestis' tomb and rescued her by wrestling Thanatos into submission. He brought back the veiled Alcestis and returned her to Admetus.

The part of the myth that stuck with me is when Admetus has a chance to escape death, he must find someone else to die in his place. The play and other renditions focus on what a great sacrifice Alcestis made for her family. What I always think about is what kind of man Admetus was. He asked all of his friends and even his parents to die for him. In the play, he has no understanding when people say no, especially not his father. To him it's not a favour to die in his place, but something they should feel honoured to do. Something he is entitled to. 

My short story takes place after he asks his parents and he comes home to Alcestis. Time is running out and if no one steps forward, Admetus will have to die. Alcestis must decide what to do. 

In a lot of ways, it's more difficult to rewrite an already existing story than a new one. Myths and fairy tales have been adapted for millennia. It's not enough to just retell something - anyone can do that. The writer has to bring something fresh to the tale, but also be careful not to violate the spirit of it. This is an arbitrary, tricky and subjective process. My story is just a draft so far, but in rewrites, I'll be focusing on the emotion and character of the scene. 

I'm excited to finally get this story out on paper.

Coming up this next week, I'll be drafting my version of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth and getting to work on my fantasy story. 

Now, back to it!


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