Friday Fiction: “Henry and Booboo”

This week’s Friday Fiction is “Henry and Booboo” by Elanor Dymott. It’s in the anthology xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths, edited by Kate Bernheimer.

At the end of each piece in the anthology, writers say a few words about their retelling (or remaking). About “Henry and Booboo,” Elanor Dymott says that it is “a retelling of the origins-of-dynasty myth of Candaules and Gyges, as set out by Herodotus in his Histories. King Candaules, so in love with his own wife that he thinks her the most beautiful woman in the world, persuades his favorite bodyguard, Gyges, to hide in their bedroom and watch her undress. She sees Gyges but says nothing. The next day she offers him a choice between killing her husband for having dishonored her, or being killed himself Gyges kills the king, marries the queen, and becomes the ruler of the kingdom.”

Her version of the myth does some powerful things to the original story. The three central characters are recast as siblings and a friend, which immediately creates a serious amount of disturbance. It’s a good story, one that makes some great narrative moves I really admire and enjoy. There’s a lot at work in it that I haven’t unpacked yet (and I have questions about the why of things, mostly a couple places that I felt were pretty explicit and I’m wondering why).

Anyway, it’s a great story, I highly recommend the anthology, so check it out!

It would be eight years before he told her he’d killed them. Or at least, before he told her he held himself responsible for their deaths, which at the time were put down to natural causes: dehydration, the heat of the sun, overexertion.

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