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The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller

A new Patroclus

This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head. My tongue ran away from me, giddy with freedom. This, and this, and this, I said to him. I did not have to fear that I spoke too much. I did not have to worry tha...

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Love was enough

I saw then how I changed. I did not mind any more, that I lost when we raced and I lost when we swam out to the rocks and I lost when we tossed spears or skipped stones. For who can be ashamed to lose to such beauty?

It was enough to watch him win, to see the soles of his feet flashing as t...

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The nearness of Achilles

My pulse jumps, for no reason I can name. He has looked at me a thousand thousand times, but there is something different in his gaze, an intensity I do not know. My mouth is dry, and I can hear the sound of my throat as I swallow.

He watches me. It seems that he is waiting...

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Thetis vs. Chiron

‘She wants you to be a god’, I told him.

‘I know.’ His face twisted with embarrassment, and in spite of itself my heart lightened. It was such a boyish response. And so human. Parents, everywhere.

His words mingled with the sound of the river over its rocks, soothing ...

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I said his name

As the fire dwindled, my eyes closed in half-dreaming. I was warm, and the ground beneath me was soft with mossad fallen leaves.

‘I have no objection to Patroclus as your companion.’

My body felt hollow in its relief, as if a storm had gone through.

‘Do not let what you ...

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Troy brings fame and wealth

‘There is nothing I can teach you. You know all that Heracles knew, and more. You are the greatest warrior of your generation, and all the generation before.’

A flush stained Achilles’ cheeks. I could not tell if it was embarrassment or pleasure or both.

‘Agamemnon an...

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Finding Achilles

I do not need to say that my panic swelled, that it became a live thing, slippery and deaf to reason. My steps grew hurried; the kitchen, the basement, the storerooms with their amphorae of oil and wine. And still I did not find him.

My eagerness displeased him. He did not like to see despe...

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Achilles commands

At our approach they lifted their shields, shining like carapace, in salute to their new general. He was their commander now. He would be expected to know them all, their names and armour and stories. He no longer belongs to me alone.

I could see the tug of a smile at the c...

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He is a weapon

He leaned forward in his chair. ‘May I give you some advice? If you are truly his friend you will help him leave his soft heart behind. He’s going to Troy to kill men, not rescue them.’ His dark eyes held me like swift-running current. ‘He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it....

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Helen and the beginning of the war

‘So you think she did it on purpose? To cause the war?’ This shoked me.

‘Maybe. She used to be known as the most beautiful woman in our kingdoms. Now they say she’s the most beautiful in the world.’ He put on his best singer’s falsetto. ‘A thousand ships have sailed for her...

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Patroclus, not a warior

I did not kill anyone, or even attempt to. At the end of the morning, hours and hours of nauseating chaos, my eyes were sun-blind and my hand ached with gripping my spear - though I had used it more often to lean than to threaten. My helmet was a boulder crushing slowly into my skull.

I cou...

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So gentle, yet so deadly

I knew he killed men every day; he came home wet with their blood, stains he scrubbed from his skin before dinner. But there were moments, like now, when that knowledge overwhelmed me.

He seemed to sit across the world from me, though he was so close I could feel the warmth rising from his ...

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The value of life

‘You ask a question that philosophers argue over,’ Chiron has said. ‘He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?’

We had been silent. We were fourteen, and these things were too hard for us. At tw...

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Patroclus dies

Through the haze of terror I see a man levelling a spear at my face. Somehow I am quick enough, and it passes over me, ruffling my hair like a lover’s breath. A spear stabs towards my knees, meant to trip me. I leap it, shocked I am not dead already. I have never been so fast in my life.

A ...

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No peace for the living

Achilles’ gaze lifts to meet hers. She is afraid, but does not draw back. ‘I hope that Hector kills you.’

The breath rasps in his throat. ‘Do you think I do not hope the same?’ he asks.

Achilles’ eyes fill; he looks away so the old man will not see.

Priam’s voice is gentle. ‘It ...

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Achilles dies

She stabs and Achilles’ body dodges the deadly point, impossibly lithe, endlessly agile. Always, its muscles betray it, seeking life instead of the peace that spears brings.

Achilles hears the faint hum of its passage a second before it strikes. He turns his head a little, as if to watch it...

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The lovers meet in afterlife

In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood, like a hundred golden suns pouring out the sun.

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