Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Odyssey, Books 11 and 12

The Odyssey 11: The Kingdom of the Dead

Ohhhh. The endless parade of the dead.

Pause for station identification as Alcinous promises to take care of Odysseus, and that yes, he trusts Odysseus is not out to cheat them.

More of the parade of the dead. Odysseus is entirely too fond of Agamemnon. I have no sympathy for Aggie. See my posts on the Iliad. He's entirely an opportunist and maybe once showed the courage of the others. And didn't his wife kill him, or have him killed, because he sacrificed their daughter? The myths vary.

Finally, Odysseus panics and rushes with his men back to their ship and they're outta there.

12: The Cattle of the Sun

Because they learned in the land of the dead that one of their own needed funeral rites, they got his body back from Circe and did right by him.

Circe gives him a map of words: you may listen to the Sirens, but not your men (I keep thinking of the sirens of O Brother Where Art Thou); the lesser of two evils is Scylla, avoid Charybdis; and by all means, do not eat the cattle of the Sun God. Tiresias told him that too. So Odysseus tells his men to avoid the island of the sun god, and not to eat an ox or ram.

How many times were they told? And what do they do anyway? Eurylochus was the tempter (read as fool?). Notice Eurylochus was the one man who held back when the other men were turned into pigs (read as coward?), and returned to tell Odysseus. Odysseus is well rid of him.

Zeus destroys the ships, and Odysseus is sent back toward Charybdis where he hangs on a fig tree until his makeshift raft resurfaces from the whirlpool; he skedaddles, and winds up with Calypso.

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