Monday, November 15, 2010

The Odyssey Readalong Part II

It's that time again to check in with The Odyssey Readalong.  This week was books seven through twelve.   Action and stupidity abound!  In book seven, Odysseus finally makes it to the palace of Alcinous.  The following day, the Phaeacians organize contests so they can demonstrate to Odysseus their excellence in sports.  Odysseus was exhausted and declined to participate and Broadsea began to taunt him.  He accused him saying that not being "skilled in games" was the reason that he wouldn't join in.  Of course Odysseus is fired up by this comment and comes back at him with this retort.
Indecent talk my friend.  You, you're a reckless fool--I see that.  So, the gods don't hand out all their gifts at once, not build and brains and flowing speech to all.  One man may fail to impress us with his looks but a god can crown his words with beauty, charm, and men look on with delight when he speaks out.  never faltering, filled with winning self-control, he shines forth at assembly grounds and people gaze at him like a god when he walks through the streets.  Another man may look like a deathless one on high but there's not a bit of grace to crown his words.  Just like you, my fine, handsome friend.  Not even a god could improve those lovely looks of yours but the mind inside is worthless.
I love it!  Men!  They are so ridiculous sometimes.  Odysseus now can't pass up a chance to show off a bit.  He chucks the discus much farther than any one else in Phaeacia.

After the sport, they gather again to listen to the bard.  Odysseus finally reveals himself and they beg him to share the tales of his adventures after leaving Troy.  The first is his encounter with the lotus-eaters.  Those who ate the lotus lost all thoughts of home.  Odysseus had to drag them back to the ship against their will.  Next they met Cyclops who was not inclined to visitors and decided to make a meal of Odysseus' crew.  After a few were eaten, a plan was formulated to stab the Cyclops' eye.  I love Oysseus' cleverness in telling Polyphemus his name was Nobody.  When his fellow Cyclops told hear him scream and asked him who was with him and he kept answering, "Nobody's killing me."

He next reaches the home of Aeolus who gave a sack of winds so that he could make safe passage home.  The jealousy of his men, assuming the sack was treasure, led them to unleash the winds that sent them back to Aeolus.  Aeolus would not assist them again for fear that Odysseus was cursed.  They then met Circe, "the nymph with the lovely braids" who turned some of his men to swine.  Odysseus outsmarted Circe with the aid of Hermes and she return his men to him.

Next they traveled to the House of Death to question the great seer Tiresias.  He met many of the dead.  The interaction between Odysseus and his mother was touching as she said that she died because of her longing for him to return home.  The exchange between he and Agamemon's ghost was interesting as we learn more about the circumstances of his death when he returned home to Clytemnestra.

They pass by the sirens safely, with wax in their ears and Odysseus strapped to the mast.  They pass Scylla, a monster with six heads guaranteed to eat six men on their journey by her crag.  They next reach on an island with the sun god's cattle.  They are warned to not kill the cattle, but do they listen?  No, of course they don't.  His men are so hard-headed sometimes!  Zeus then destroys their ship and only Odysseus survives, as prophesied by Tiresias.  Big surprise!

I loved these six books.  The pace was quick and the only time it slowed was in book eleven while Odysseus was visiting with the dead.  So many names are mentioned and I'm not familiar enough with other Greek literature to make much sense of how their stories connect.  It did spark an interest within me to learn more.

I mentioned in my last post my eight-year-old son's interest in The Odyssey.  I had forgotten how violent it was.  Yikes!  Fine for a teenager or adult, but not so much for a boy of eight.  I checked out the first three books of the Percy Jackson series from the library, but he doesn't want to read them because it's not The Odyssey.  Shelley (Book Clutter) mentioned in the comments last week that Mary Pope Osborne has written a children's version of The Odyssey.  I offered to order them for him, but he wants to read the real thing.  So stubborn!


  1. I'm not a parent but the kids I know would eat this stuff up! The more mayhem the better. And these are girls I'm talking about! :D

  2. Great summary! Not letting your son read the real Odyssey could be quite powerful--thinking of the classics as forbidden could make them much more appealing to kids, LOL!

  3. Can I just say again how much I love that you've gotten your son involved? Even if it is a bit violent (drooling body parts? Really?). These sections definitely went quicker for me as well--especially as some of the stories were a bit familiar from here or there. I had some troubles with the Underworld part as well, but mostly just circled the names and moved on. I think if we had read The Iliad beforehand some of the heroes might have been more familiar.

    So glad you're still enjoying!

  4. Sylvia--My kids are suckers for anything with action. No wonder he's fascinated with it!

    Shelley--Very true! I think he wants to read the real thing more now because I told him I'd rather wait until he was older.

    Trish--I'm really enjoying sharing this with my son. I'm glad that I'm not the only one that had a little trouble in the Underworld part. I asked for the Iliad for Christmas though so maybe I'll have to revisit that section after I read it. It will probably make much more sense.

  5. The Underworld bit bored me too! I think if I'd known who everyone was it might've been a little more interesting, but still, the ghosts' stories really didn't have a bearing on Odysseus'.

    It's so cool your son is getting involved! But yeah, there are some pretty gruesome bits in this set of books. The second Percy Jackson book, The Sea of Monsters, actually does involve a visit to they Cyclops' island. Maybe your son could start there?

  6. Yep, I found the underworld bit tough going too.

    LOL - your son sounds very cool. :-)

  7. So funny! I loved the part with the competition and how silly it was. I thought the part going to see the land of the dead was slow, but the rest was a lot of fun.

  8. Erin--Thanks for the tip on Percy Jackson and the Sea Monsters. I haven't read that one yet so it's good to know that Cyclops is in it. Maybe that will get him to read it.

    Joanna--Thanks! I think my son is pretty cool too! :)

    Kim--I agree these six books were fun, but House of Dead kind of tough to get through.