Monday, November 8, 2010

The Odyssey Readalong Part I

My first post for my first readalong!  I have always been intimidated by The Odyssey, but I am glad that I decided to join.  It is so much more accessible than I expected.  I am reading the Fagles translation, and I find the story fascinating and the writing beautiful.

Odysseus has not yet returned home to Ithaca from the war in Troy.  Suitors are vying for the affection of his wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus is concerned at the financial cost of them all staying in their palace.  Athena comes disguised and convinces Telemachus to confront the suitors and to take action to find whether his father is dead.  Telemachus takes to the seas with a crew and Athena aboard and visits Nestor, then Menelaus seeking news of his father.  The Gods convene at Mount Olympus to discuss the fate of Odysseus and at the persuasion of Athena, Hermes is sent to free him from the island of Calypso, the nymph holding him captive.  He makes a raft to sail from the island and is met with a raging storm sent by Poseidon still angry with Odysseus for blinding his Cyclops son.  With the aid of Athena, Odysseus makes it to shore and meets the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa.

I was surprised at how involved the Gods were in the lives of the mortals.  Athena has been involved in helping Telemachus, Penelope, and Odysseus in the first six books.  It's hard to say whether in the end her interference will ultimately help Odysseus and his family.  I think there is something strange about her sending Telemachus to find out about his father when she already knew where he was and that he was alive.  I'm afraid Athena has an agenda of her own.

As I was reading this week, my 8-year-old son asked me about the book.  I thought it was strange because he usually doesn't take interest in what I'm reading.  I started to tell him the story and he was fascinated.  He was in bed already and he told me to go read some more and tell him what happened in the morning.  It's fun sharing this experience with him.  It is quite the adventurous story and I can see why he is interested.  He has continued to ask me questions about it and even had me start to read it to him one night.  It was a unique experience reading it out loud.  It made me realize how important it is to pay attention to not just the story, but the beauty of the writing.  I'm excitedly looking forward to the next six books.


  1. What a great story, Kristi! Obviously Athene has stirred your son to crave tales of great-hearted Odysseus... ;)

  2. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it! It is one of my all-time favorites. Reading it out loud is the best way to appreciate it, since it was originally told by bards to large crowds way back when. You can really feel the flow of the language that way. :)

    I can't wait for you to get farther!

  3. Yay! I'm so glad that everyone seems to be finding this one more accessible than they thought!

    My mom (who is actually reading with us!) went back to school when we were little and she took an Early Literature course and I LOVED her telling us the stories of Odysseus as she read The Odyssey all those years ago. It's fun to relive the memories now that we're both reading it together.

    And yes, that Athena has something up her sleeve, doesn't she? Can't wait to find out what happens next!

  4. I thought Athena's little manipulation of Telemachus really strange as well. Why send him off for news of his father when she knows exactly what is going on? My only intelligent thought was that it was so he could "grow up".

  5. Sylvia--It's so exciting that I get to share it with my son.

    Allie--Thanks for the encouragement and the recommendation of the Fagles translation. I'm loving it, and I really only hoped to at least like it a little. :)

    Trish--That's great that your mother shared it with you when you were young. As a mom, it's fantastic to share a love of reading and stories with your children. I'm sure you can't wait! How fun that your mom is participating in the readalong. I tried to get my mom to join but she opted out.

    Trisha--You're probably right about Athena's motivation. She probably wants Telemachus to have the experience to help him become a man. He was quite young when his father left, and during his journey he has learned quite a bit about the wonderful characteristics of his father.

  6. I was surprised that this was so accessible as well! I read it for the first time a couple of years ago, and I already knew the story thanks to a retelling I grew up with. I was stunned to find the original just as much fun!

  7. That's so sweet that your son's enjoying it too! I was obsessed with Greek mythology in elementary school and The Odyssey was one of my fave books in high school, so it's fun to follow along as you read it. :D

  8. That's awesome that you can share this with your son!
    There is also a wonderful version of The Odyssey for kids written by Mary Pope Osbourne, the author of the Tree House Mystery books. I read them (It was in separate books, but I noticed she has them all compiled into one now) to my kids several year ago, and they loved it!

  9. I'm with you on the question about Athena's motivation. Telemachus does kind of seem immature, so maybe it's so he'll "grow up" as Trisha says. Athena seems to have infinite patience, though...Telemachus seems a bit whiny to me!

    How cool that your son is interested in The Odyssey! I can see where it would be fascinating for a child--bite-sized adventures, all featuring crazy bad guys and a clever solution!

  10. Wow, how great that your son is so interested in it! I guess he'll be reading the Percy Jackson books at some point!

  11. Nymeth--I don't know why I always was intimidated by it but I shouldn't have been. I'm glad you enjoyed it as well.

    Eva--I love being able to share it with my son! I'm glad you're enjoying following our readalong. Now I wish I had read it in High School as well.

    Shelley--Thanks for the tip on the Mary Pope Osborne book. I'll have to see if I can find it. He really wants to read my copy but it's pretty grisly in parts and he's too young for that.

    Erin--I'm curious to see Athena's ultimate plan. I agree--Telemachus is a bit of a whiner!

    Joanna--Thanks for the tip. I just checked out the Percy Jackson books. He just might be interested in them now.