Angeline Ashlee Marquez and Kenan Paguirigan

"I don't think I could stand to be where you don't see me" - Francis Forever, Mitski 

Stories of old and wise told from many centuries ago have been reworked—reborn to say a purpose, to create wonders that can explore the imagination of others, and to practice certain mediums to share the imagery that came forth to what once was an incredible masterpiece. This leads us to explore the different plots and twists towards a story we all are too familiar with—reading another version, another point of view. 

Photo Courtesy of The Bibliofile

In this article, we understand that while The Song of Achilles is fiction, it is undeniably a book that many enjoy reading most, with its stories of adventure and the unkeen romance between two heroes that many cannot help but wonder about the fundamental nature of their relationship. Let us set off on this historical journey, written in the modern context, and see how it makes bookworms feel so intrigued and delighted to read this version. Who knows? Maybe you, too, would be so intrigued to read the book.

Along the Poet’s Words: What the book is all about 

Despite the title, the greatest warrior of Greece, Achilles, does not narrate this story. Instead, it is written in the eyes and voice of Patroclus, son of Menoetius, who recounts his life before and after meeting Achilles—narrating even the bloodshed of war from his point-of-view, all the while monologuing his side of the story even after his untimely death. This heartbreaking fantasy strums deep into the harmonies of both Patroclus and Achilles as to how they faced hardships together and sang their love for one another. 

The book was written by Madeline Miller, who has won numerous awards for her spectacular writing within the era of the Trojan War through their adaptation of Homer’s Illiad, all while doubling her role as a Latin and Ancient Greek teacher for almost nine years. She also wrote Galatea: A Short Story (2013) and Circe (2019). 

Made of Memories: Why so many people love the book

The book rose to the public eye because of its unique retelling and interesting choice of words. The story features Patroclus,  a wee boy who still had a palace of his own. He was known to be the son of Menoetius, a king, and was one of the honored men to serve and protect Helen of Troy as part of an agreement with all who were her suitors, the young Patroclus was then cast away from his old home. He then moved to the house of Peleus, where he met his son, Achilles. He and Achilles were then stuck like glue with one another; they were inseparable.

This lets us imagine how two heroes can feel human emotions, be as vulnerable as one another, and fight for the other. It also allows us to hear the variety of emotions that they have felt for one another and how the other feels incomplete without their other half.

An analysis of Achilles and Patroclus (As individuals and as a whole) 

Exiled by his father, unaccepted by many, yet unbothered with Aristos Achaion by his side. Patroclus is one complex character to describe. Transitioning from a robed nobility to a naked civilian, he underwent the most challenging changes. Patroclus’ love for the demigod Achilles was never just a fleeting emotion. It paved the way for him to realize that nothing else mattered except them—just them. Being with his partner gave his life meaning; it comforted him and showed him what love indeed was. 

He fell for the man who played his mother’s lyre, who would graze soft fingers on his body, and who showed him that nothing else mattered except being with each other. But a strong love drove him to do the most questionable things—even gods couldn’t believe a mere mortal could do so.

The best of the Greeks are said to be irreplaceable. Burdened with the grandest destiny, he is believed to have ended the war as Achilles did. Yet even as a powerful entity, with all his talents, our demigod seemed to lose it all when he lost his fallen angel. 

A son of both nobility and a divine being, Achilles thought he had nothing else to gain until he met the exiled prince of Phthia at his very palace. Even with unmatched might, Achilles still played a mellow tune in his heart—a strong melody for the man he’d offered all his heart. However, despite all the love in his heart, darkness blinded him and consumed every corner of his being, forcing him to make the most colossal regret of his life. No matter how strong, Achilles was weak when it came to Patroclus. His undying love became unable to withstand his world’s lifeless eyes. He was half god but also left with half a heart.

With quite different backgrounds, you’d think these two would never fit each other. Nevertheless, even after countless scars and bruises from battling, Achilles will always return to Patroclus. As the strings on the lyre danced from the soft touch of Achilles, their song played like a harmony meant to soothe any tear. Their love, however, was challenged. As young Patroclus walked miles and miles for a boy he wasn’t even sure was there, something struck Achilles to wait and stare until he saw a figure he knew was him. An invisible string of fate connects these two souls and binds them to be there for one another. So, as they lay in bed together, fought what seemed to be an endless war together, the dreams of two young boys had finally come true—one was never to be forgotten, while the other was to be remembered next to the other.

Gut-wrenching and memorable scenes of the book

Recorded are the number of ways this book has punctured gaping holes into every reader’s heart after having set eyes on this mythical retelling. From one scenario of the book that vividly depicts how much the lovers feel and long to be in each other’s arms to the most gut-wrenching ending that both of them played, the writings portray a love worth more than any gold lace plate. However, nothing could make readers agonize and mull over more than the final battle at the Gates of Troy. 

This was where Patroclus defied all his expectations of himself and stood victorious for a few moments until ultimately seeing a glimpse of life in his mind—of his lover, Achilles. Even with his many talents, pursuing that fight that wasn’t his and never even getting to see Achilles again was the inevitable fate he couldn’t escape. For love so strong that it became worth a handful of lives, reputation still hung on the edge. Eventually, it led to Achilles’ biggest regret: Never To hear Patroclus whisper again and never to feel his skin touch his ever again. This is the cost of his fame now—the infamous name of Achilles, Aristos Achaion, the best of the Greeks. Was it worth it? 

Only he knows.

Books similar to The Song of Achilles:

If you've enjoyed reading The Song of Achilles, you should read these books that give off a similar vibe. These books, in particular, revolve around other factors of history that have been faced in our timelines while making those issues known even to the fictional world.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (2012) 
Written from the perspective of two Mexican teenage boys, the novel is set in the late 80s, when Aristotle and Dante test the waters of their friendship, downright to their relationship. One is a loner and the other is a know-it-all. they seem to have nothing in common, but as the two discover secrets of the world, they conquer their problems together in the messed up place they live in. The said novel had its film adaptation last September 9, 2022, directed by Aitch Alberto.

Last Night at The Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (2021)
Nominated for the category Best Young Adult Fiction for 2021, the book touches on the romance of Lily Hu and Kathleen Miller, who fight the invisibility of lesbians and homophobia around them. The book is set around 1954 in America, where the author includes the context of the challenges and stereotypes of the Gays that Chinese Americans faced in that particular era.

To die with fame or to live without a name? As the most significant memorial stood atop a hill for Achilles' godly feats, so did the ashes of his beloved Patroclus—a reminder of their sacrifice and undying love that continues even in the afterlife. With their ashes intertwined, may their story serve as a testimony of the love of two men who defied even the will of a god. So, as the setting sun meets the line separating the earth from the heavens, the song of Achilles plays till they both meet again.