Today is the second market in a readalong of The Odyssey, hosted by Trish (Love, Laugher, and a Touch of Insanity). I didn’t get my butt in gear to write a post for the first six chapters, but here I am for week two. If you want updates from week one, you can check out the Mr. Linky on the check-in post, or just read posts from Jill (Fizzy Thoughts), Erin (Erin Reads), and Trisha (eclectic/eccentric). Jill’s is really funny, and Erin and Trisha’s are super informative.
Basically, The Odyssey is the story of how Odysseus gets home from the Trojan War. It was written by the Greek poet Homer in the 8th century BC. I’m reading a translation by Robert Fagles, and so far I think it’s great. The writing is a lot more accessible than I expected, and the story is quite entertaining.
Now, one of my favorite websites is Ultra Condensed Movies, a site that does amazing summaries of movies. Often, they’re better than actually seeing the movies, and don’t cost anything to read. In that spirit, I’m going to try to do The Ultra Condensed Odyssey, although I can only hope to be 1/10th as funny as they are.
Books 1 through 6, In Brief:
10 years after the Trojan War, Odysseus is still not home. His home is being slowly taken over by suitors trying to sleep with his wife, Penelope, and something must be done. His son, Telemachus, under the inspiration and guidance of Athena, decides to try and find out what happened to dear old Dad. He heads out and visits with some of his father’s old comrades to get the real story.
In the mean time, the gods meet to chat about Odysseus and his fate. After a rockin’ speech by Athena, Zeus sends Hermes, messenger of the gods, to the island of Calypso, to tell the nymph to set him free. A scene:
HERMES: You have to let Odysseus go, Zeus says so.
CALYPSO: The male gods get to have mortal lovers all the time, why do I have to quit? Double standard!
HERMES: Umm… because Zeus says so. Do it!
CALYPSO: Well, Odysseus does spend all day crying, and while that’d be awesome in a husband … fine.
ODYSSEUS: Dude, Calypso, you’re hot and everything, but I do miss my wife. She’s nice, and stuff.
CALYPSO: Well, since Hermes/Zeus told me too, you can go.
ODYSSEUS: Mmmkay, but let’s have sex first. [And so they do].
Odysseus sets out, but Poseidon is pissed off at him — more on that later — and sends a mighty storm. But, thanks to the help of Athena, Odysseus survives to continue on his long, pillaging and sex-filled journey home.
Book 6: The Princess and the Stranger
Athena appears in a dream to a local princess, Nausicca, and convinces her to go wash clothes at the river.
NAUSICCA: Dad, can I go wash clothes? I’m a princess, but have no better things to do with my time!
FATHER: Ok, do it.
At the river…
NAUSICCA: Handmaids! Let’s play ball naked while our clothes dry! Ohmigod! Who is this naked man?
ODYSSEUS: I’m humble, and articulate, please help me even though you don’t know who I am.
NAUSICCA: Your speech has won me over, here’s some stuff to clean yourself.
Athena makes Odysseus especially handsome while cleaning, oh-la-la!
NAUSICCA: I don’t want to make a scene arriving with you, oh handsome man. Here’s how to get to the city and chat it up with my mom, the queen.
ODYSSEUS: Awesome, see you there. Prayer to Athena!
Book 7: Phaeacia’s Halls and Gardens
ATHENA, disguised as a little girl: Want some help getting to the palace. These Phaeacians can be a little wary of outsiders.
ODYSSEUS: Sure, sweetie!
Odysseus arrives at the palace amidst a celebration. He throws himself at the feet of the queen asking for help.
ODYSSEUS: Articulate speech! Please help me get home.
KING: Could this fellow be a god? Wow.
QUEEN: Sure, we can help out, we’ll give you a ship.
Later that night…
QUEEN: You know, your clothes look awfully familiar. They look like the clothes I sewed for my daughter, Nausicca.
ODYSSEUS: Here, I’ll recount to you everything that happened in chapters 5 and 6 so you can get caught up.
KING: Wow, you are amazing! Will you marry my daughter??
Book 8: A Day for Songs and Contests
The king calls a meeting of his counselors to chat about Odysseus. Then, a party!
DEMODOCUS, a blind bard: Here is a song about the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles at Troy. [Remember, no one knows who Odysseus is yet, he’s just a super hot and awesome traveler.]
ODYSSEUS: Weep! Cry! I am so sad!
KING: Let’s just go play some games. [And so they go to play games, at which Odysseus is pretty amazing.]
Later that night…
DEMODOCUS: Here is a song about the Trojan Horse and the sack of Troy, a special request from our amazing visitor.
ODYSSEUS: Weep! Cry! I am so sad!
KING: What the heck is wrong with you man? Who are you, where are you from, and where are you going?
Book 9: In the One-Eyed Giant’s Cave
ODYSSEUS: Ok, here’s the real story… in a series of flashbacks!
After leaving Troy…
ODYSSEUS: We were swept to Ismarus, which we sacked and pillaged. Then we got carried away by greed, so we stayed for awhile until we got attacked by neighboring cities and I lost some men. Oops, my bad.
A storm again comes and swept the ships along for nine days until they got to the land of the Loutus-eaters.
THE CREW: Nom nom nom, this is delicious fruit. Let’s stay here forever!
ODYSSEUS: No men, we must go home. [Odysseus drags every single one of his men back to the ship and they set sail again].
They sail through the night and end up in the land of the Cyclopes.
ODYSSEUS: This is a race of uncivilized, one-eyed giants. Let’s steal their stuff!
THE CREW: Yay!
After walking across the mainland…
ODYSSEUS: Here’s a cave full of sheep and milk and cheese. Let’s hang out here and eat some.
THE CREW: That’s not a good idea, let’s run away with the food.
ODYSSEUS: Chickens, we’re staying! This cannot possibly be a bad idea.
The Cyclops Polyphemus returns to his cave…
POLYPHEMUS: Hey, guests! Nice to see you.
ODYSSEUS and THE CREW: Umm, hi?
POLYPHEMUS: You took my food, now I’m going to eat two of you!!! [And he does.]
ODYSSEUS and THE REST OF THE CREW: Uh oh.
Odysseus wants to kill Polyphemus right then, but knows the Cyclops is the only one strong enough to open the big rock door of he cave, so he devises a plan.
ODYSSEUS: Articulate speech! Let’s made a big poker, then blind him! We’ll get him drunk on wine, poke out his eye, and sneak out.
THE CREW: Ok.
Later that night…
ODYSSEUS: Have some wine, it’s delicious.
POLYPHEMUS: Ok, I will. [After a few drinks…] So, what’s your name, little dude.
ODYSSEUS: My name is Nobody. [Aside to CREW: Giggle giggle, I am so clever.]
POLYPHEMUS: Funny name, but I’m drunk, so whatever! I’m going to bed.
ODYSSEUS: Poke his eye out! [THE CREW follows orders].
POLYPHEMUS: ARGH!!!!! MY EYE!!!!! CRY!!!!!
OTHER CYCLOPS: Are you ok man, who hurt you?
POLYPHEMUS: Nobody’s killing me.
OTHER CYCLOPS: Umm, ok, whatever.
Odysseus and crew sneak out of the cave in the morning by riding on the bellies of sheep. Oh, snap.
Book 10: The Bewitching Queen of Aeaea
More flashbacks! Odysseus and Crew get a gift of wind from Aeolus, ruler of the winds. They are almost home when the Crew starts to think Odysseus has some hidden treasures in a giant bag that Aeolus gave him. The open the bags, a bunch of wind escapes, and a storm starts that sends them back to where they started.
They sail to another island, but surprise, surprise, they’re not welcomed and have to flee. They then arrive in Aeara, home of the witch-goddess Circe.
THE CREW: Hey, Circe, can we hang out?
CIRCE: Sure, here’s some dinner.
CIRCE: A spell! Now you are all pigs!
What oh what is Odysseus to do?
HERMES: Odysseus, eat this herb and you’ll be protected. Then lunge at her with “your sword” and she’ll have to let your men go.
ODYSSEUS: Cool beans, thanks man.
Odysseus goes to Circe, eats dinner. When she tries to turn him into a pig…
CIRCE: Hey, this isn’t working!
ODYSSEUS: My sword is upon you! Let my men go!
CIRCE: Well, Odysseus, since you’re so charming and articulate, I suppose I can do that. But why not just stay here with me.
ODYSSEUS: That does sound awesome, but I miss my homeland and my parents and my family… but not my wife, since I don’t bother to mention her explicitly.
CIRCE: I understand…
ODYSSEUS: But let’s have sex before I go. [And so they do, FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR!].
One year later…
ODYSSEUS: We better go. How do we get home?
CIRCE: Go to Hades, then talk with the dead until you chat with the spirit of Tiresias, he’ll tell you how to get home.
THE CREW: Nooooo!!!
Book 11: The Kingdom of the Dead
This chapter was not that interesting. Odysseus goes to Hades, chats with a TON of spirits, and then finds out how to get home. It’s basically a “Who’s Who” of the dead — cool to ancient Greeks, boring for me. But…
TIRESIAS: Here’s your fate, Odysseus — you’ll get home, save your wife from the suitors, but then have to make a trip to appease Poseidon. He’s pissed you blinded his son, Polyphemus.
At this point, Odysseus wants to stop telling the story to the King and Queen because he’s tired, but they urge him to tell more of the people he meets. More Greek gossip, FTW.
Book 12: The Cattle of the Sun
Returning to the Flashback: After visiting Hades, Odysseus returns to Aeara to bury some dead and spend another night with Circe. She tells him how to get home — go past the Sirens, then navigate some scary straits. Yikes.
ODYSSEUS: Men! I will listen to the Sirens call — just don’t ever untie me.
THE CREW: Ok.
ODYSSEUS: Let me go, I want to go to the Sirens!
THE CREW: No, we’ll just tie you tighter.
They get past the Sirens, then get past some six-headed monster and an enormous whirlpool. Scary stuff, and lots of the crew die. Then they arrive at the Island of the Sun.
ODYSSEUS: Let’s avoid this, ok?
THE CREW: No, we want a break! We’re beleaguered.
ODYSSEUS: Ok, just don’t eat any of the cattle. That’d be bad.
A month passes…
THE CREW: We’re out of food from the ship. Let’s kill some cattle while Odysseus is sleeping.
THE SUN: Hey, Zeus, they ate my cattle! Do something about that.
ZEUS: Ok, I’ll make a big storm hit them when they leave, which will destroy all the ships and crew except Odysseus. [And so he does…]
Odysseus floats in the ocean for a long time, until he reaches Calypso’s island. </flashback>
ODYSSEUS: There you go, King and Queen, there’s my story.
KING and QUEEN: Wow, you are amazing.
And the story continues…
Wow, that was more work than I anticipated. If you can’t tell from all the summary, I’ve got a few strong impressions so far:
- Odysseus is sort of a jerk. I mean, I know everyone finds him charming and articulate and impressive as a warrior, but I just find him sort of mean — I think it’s all the pillaging and sleeping around stuff.
- Speaking of the sex, there’s a big double standard for Penelope and the suitors versus Odysseus. I know they were Greeks and it was a long time ago, yada yada yada, but still. I can see why this book was ready for a Margaret Atwood interpretation.
- I love the twisting storytelling and the use of flashbacks to tell it. I think that makes the structure a lot more interesting than if we were just reading the story straight through. It also provides some interesting reliable/unreliable narrator questions, but I haven’t thought about that enough to have strong opinions just yet.
That’s all I’ve got. Check in next week for more of The Ultra Condensed Odyssey (maybe)!