Textbook Leftovers

Posts Tagged ‘storytelling

Oops! It was a long weekend at our house, and I didn’t realize it was already Monday. Better late than never, here we go with Books VII and VIII of The Odyssey. Homer is setting the stage for the “big reveal” of what Odysseus has been up to for all that time, so while things do happen, these two books are pretty unremarkable.

Nausikaa returns home from the river (Homer tells us about her nurse, a slave – I love that he does this), and Odysseus follows at a careful distance. Athena causes a fog around him so nobody bothers him, and disguises herself as a small girl to give him directions to the palace. They soon arrive at the home of King Alkínoös, and the “girl” gives Odysseus a hint that Queen Arêtê is the one he needs to win over. (Homer also tells us that the King is the much-older uncle of the Queen, as well as husband. So, you know, EW.)

Odysseus enters the palace, and Homer describes it. It’s apparently awesome. When he’s seen it all, Odysseus enters the house, where they are offering a libation to Zeus, and goes straight to Arêtê, begging her for mercy and help. When he’s done speaking, he goes to the fire and sits in the ashes. (The hearth is the center of the home and a sort of consecrated ground, especially for a supplicant.)

Everyone is silent for a moment, taking in the sight of this stranger and his desperate bid for mercy. An old man, Ekhenêos, finally speaks out, saying that allowing a guest to sit in the ashes unhelped “will not pass for courtesy,” and that the king and queen must grant him aid. Immediately, Alkínoös gives Odysseus the chair of his favorite son. Food and drink is brought, followed by another libation to Zeus (patron of honorable petitioners).

Francesco Hayez’s oil painting “Odysseus am Hofe des Alkinoos” -“Odysseus at the court of Alkínoös” Image source

Alkínoös announces his plans to get Odysseus sent on his way, and the rest of the guests leave the hall. Observant Arêtê, meanwhile, has noticed that Odysseus is wearing clothes that she made, and asks how such a thing came to pass. Odysseus explains that he has been prisoner of Kalypso for 8 years, and after sailing for 17 days, was shipwrecked on their island, near the river, where Nausikaa had found him that morning. With plans brewing for the next day, they all go to bed.

Book VIII opens the next morning, as Odysseus and Alkínoös arise and go to the town’s assembly ground. Athena, disguising herself as a crier, goes about the town, summoning everyone to the assembly. Alkínoös speaks, asking that a ship be made ready to sail at evening, and a festival all day. Everyone agrees, and gets busy.

Feasting. They do an awful lot of eating, these people. Haha. The minstrel, Demódokos, sings a song of Odysseus and Akhilleus (you may know him as Achilles), which makes Odysseus cry. He hides it well, but Alkínoös notices it, and calls for some sports. The young men are apparently quite impressive. Then one of them hurts Odysseus’ feelings, and Odysseus makes a speech about it and then kicks his butt at discus. He makes another speech about it (lol) and Alkínoös suggests dancing next. Demódokos sings a story (which is now very well-known) about Hephaistos catching his wife Aphrodite and his brother Arês en flagrante.

Alkínoös and all the other lords (and the guy who insulted Odysseus earlier) decide to load Odysseus up with gifts. Odysseus takes a bath, thanks Nausikaa for her help, and praises the minstrel for his skill. In response, the minstrel sings a song of the Trojan Horse. Odysseus cries again and tries valiantly to hide it, but Alkínoös sees it again and calls for the song to end. He finally (Odysseus still hasn’t told them his name) asks his guest to tell them who he is, and why he weeps for the Akhaians at Troy.

Odysseus will answer Alkínoös’ questions next week, in Book IX!


I checked out the table of contents again. We’re gonna be in Greece for a while, guys. Today’s selection begins on page 258 and we leave Greece to head to China on page 804. I intend to stick with it; just a heads up. After Greece, we travel to China, then India, and finally Rome before finishing this volume. There are some truly epic and historic works in our path, and The Odyssey is not a lightweight. Let’s carry on, shall we?

We pick up, you remember, with Telémakhos arriving at the home of Meneláos at the beginning of Book Four. Meneláos is celebrating the wedding of two of his children (to two other people, not to each other, ew). As Telémakhos and Peisístratos (a son of Nestor) arrive, they are seen by Eteoneus, a friend of Meneláos. Eteoneus asks “should we greet them or tell them to move on” because of the celebration. Meneláos tells him that’s stupid, and to go out and greet the newcomers.

Homer gives us yet another of his beautiful descriptive scenes as Telémakhos settles in. Meneláos welcomes him and Peisístratos to the party (another example of how important hospitality is in Homer’s culture). Telémakhos is in absolute awe at Meneláos’ court, but Meneláos just says that while all his treasure is great (and imma let you finish) but he’d gladly trade it all if he could have his dead friends back. He mentions that he misses Odysseus most of all, and Telémakhos tears up at the mention of his father. Meneláos knows now that this must be Odysseus’ son, but he says nothing.

Gozo, Malta, is said to be the home of Calypso (or Kalypso)
This is the island of Gozo, Malta, said to be the Isle of Kalypso, where Odysseus is currently being held prisoner. Image from Tertium Quid. Read the rest of this entry »