In mythology, Poseidon is the Greek god of the sea and rivers, the creator of storms and floods, and the bringer of earthquakes and destruction. He’s considered one of the most disruptive of all the ancient gods, yet he’s not always seen as a negative force. He is the protector of mariners, the patron saint and the protector of horses, and he was known as Neptune to the Romans.
Whether you call him Neptune or Poseidon, right now, he’s angry.
Last week, Hurricane Ian brought widespread and devastating destruction to parts of Florida and the Carolinas. Further north, some Prince Edward Island residents are still cleaning up after Hurricane Fiona and only now getting their power back. At my house, we’re preparing to move out while our floors are replaced because of a very small (and we thought easily dealt with) kitchen flood last March. No wonder floods are on my mind.
One of the oldest flood stories known to man, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was recorded on 12 stone tablets and dates back to 650 BC. And we can’t forget the ancient biblical story of Noah’s Ark. Scholars still debate which story came first. Regardless of where the truth lies, floods have been featured in literature for centuries.
The threat of a coming flood was used as a plot device by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Miller’s Tale. George Eliot used a flood to bring her novel The Mill on the Floss to a dramatic conclusion. More recently, Clare Morrall’s gripping When the Floods Came is a futuristic novel set in a Britain prone to violent flooding and ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus. Much more uplifting is the children’s six-book series The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston, which focuses on an only child sent from boarding school to spend the Christmas holidays with his great-grandmother. She lives in a mysterious and ancient ark-like home Green Knowe, a place regularly surrounded by the flood waters of the fens and only accessible by boat. It sounds magical and almost makes the idea of being surrounded by flood waters appealing.
But almost isn’t good enough for me right now. So, as we pack up and head to temporary lodgings while our floors are being replaced, I’m scanning my ‘to be read’ book pile for stories where water does not feature prominently. Something set in a dry desert, perhaps?