The Odyssey – Check-in the Second

November 15, 2010 Reading Nook 11

Welcome to The Odyssey Readalong Check-in the Second (Books 7-12).
I’m so thrilled after last week to see that so many of you are enjoying the Odyssey journey so far!  I’m having a blast and this second was even better than the first.

Synopsis of Books VII-XII (spoilers below)
We were left last time when Odysseus comes to the land of the Phaeacians.  Here, Ody meets Alcinous, the king of the Phaeacians and he welcomes Ody and even offers his daughter’s hand in marriage (7).  After a night’s rest, the Phaeacians assemble and hold a Pentathlon in Ody’s honor–every time Ody hears of Troy he weeps and a strapping fellow, Seareach, challenges Odysseus to competition in the games.  Prideful Odysseus shows his strength and the folks later celebrate over food and music (8).

Odysseus openly grieves at dinner–especially after the Harper’s tales of Troy–and King Alcinous asks to know who Ody is.  Finally begins what we’ve all been waiting for–Odysseus’s account of his journey from Troy to the land of the Phaeacians.  Along his journey, Odysseus and his men run into the following unsavory characters:

Lotus Eaters–those who eat from the lotus have no desire to ever leave (9)

Cyclops - a terrifying and savage cannibal who traps Odysseus’s men and even eats a few! “Caught two in his hands like squirming puppies/ to beat their brains out, spattering the floor./ Then he dismembered them and made his meal,/ gaping and crunching like a mountain lion–/ everything: innards, flesh, and marrow bones (9, 313-18).

Cyclops

Aeolus – Warden of the winds.  Gives Odysseus a gift of wind, but Ody’s jealous men open the bag and blow the ship back to Aeolia.  Aeolus, understandably is annoyed and refuses to help.  Ha! (10)

Circe – The beautiful witch who turns Odysseus’s men into swine.  After tricking Circe, Odysseus and his men stay a year.  Circe provides valuable help to Ody upon his departure.  (10)

Circe

Shades of the Underworld – Too many dead people to mention!  Ody’s mom, soldiers from Trojan war, other heroes, and  most important to the story – Teiresias who tells Odysseus his fate and how to get home. (11)

Tiresias in Underworld

Sirens – sea nymphs who draw sailors in with their beautiful songs (12)

Sirens

Scylla and Charybdis – An ancient “Rock and a Hard Place.”  Think about the worst possible situation, and this is it.

Scylla and Charybdis

Finally, Odysseus and his men go against ALL forewarning and eat the “beeves” on Helios’s island.  Well, Odysseus claims he was asleep—suuuuure.  All his men perish and Odysseus lands on Calypso’s island bringing us full circle. (12)

My thoughts:
Well Odysseus sure makes himself out to be faultless, doesn’t he?  Even after he has suffered so much on his journey he is still quite boastful to the Phaeacians.  I couldn’t help but smile when Shelley (Book Clutter) last week mentioned all the crying.  Now I see it everywhere!  A bunch of whining men–when they’re not acting prideful that is!  Regardless, I absolutely loved these chapters.  If I hadn’t worn out my “honey, listen to this” with Les Miserables earlier this year, I’d be telling every detail to poor Scott.  I did tell him the “Nobody” bit but hardly got a smile.  Ha!  My mom told us the story of Odysseus when she was taking a literature class when we were little, so it was neat to revisit these stories again.

The women!  Sylvia (Classical Bookworm) made a joke that perhaps Homer was a woman, but after reading this week’s section I’m not sure I can agree.  These women–or creatures–or witches–or whatever they may be are terrible!  Or maybe female Homer just really hated men and wanted to torture them?  Ha!  I did get a good laugh, though, when Odysseus bedded Circe!  That poor crying Penelope–she should treat herself to a little action as well instead of moping over her weaving!  But even in the Underworld we see one woman after another who has done some misdeed.  That Clytemnestra who brutally murders Agamemnon–sheesh! 

All in all I was glad to see Athena mostly out of this section.  Though, it was still repeatedly apparent how heavy a hand the gods have in nearly every point of the story.  I can’t help but be reminded of the scene in The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett when the gods all gather to play a board game with the mortals as their pawns.  Despite the manipulations, it does have me itching to read more Greek mythology to hear the stories of the gods who are briefly alluded to in this tale.

How goes it for you guys?  Can’t wait to read all your thoughts. 

Readalong Interaction!
If you have written a post (not required) about Books 7-12, please link to it in the Mr. Linky below.

And please make sure your comments are working–I don’t want to call anyone out, but someone’s comment form was not allowing me to make comments last week.  :( 

Make sure to visit  The Odyssey Check-in the First if you missed it last week!

Happy journeys! See you next Monday for Books XIII-XVIII (13-18).

*all images in this post from various searches on Wikipedia.org

11 Responses to “The Odyssey – Check-in the Second”

  1. softdrink

    Despite the gruesomeness that happened in the cave, this is my favorite part of the story so far…lots of action and adventure and monsters. And bonus, we didn’t have to hear much from Penelope!

  2. Trisha

    I enjoyed this section too as it was story after story of grand adventures with crazy supernatural beings. :) Mr. Linky is down though, so I’ll put in my link later!

  3. Allie

    This is definitely the part of the story where the most action happens. I love the Underworld scene, and the whole idea of Ody being a true hero for confronting the dead.

    I always feel bad for Penelope. She continues to stay faithful (and did for the whole 20 years Ody was gone), and he’s with Calypso and Circe. Just like men, isn’t it? ;)

  4. Heather J.

    After this you REALLY need to read the Percy Jackson book, or at least the first two – they draw SO HEAVILY on The Odyssey! I read them to Kiddo within a few months of listening to The Odyssey and found them hilarious. :)

  5. Shelley

    I love the artwork! Thanks for including them in your post. Like Heather, I keep seeing glimpses in my mind of the Percy Jackson series, although I’ve only read two. I’m definitely in a Greek mood, and want to read other Greek literature.

  6. Kristi

    I enjoyed these six books the most so far! I love the artwork that you posted. I am also suspicious of Odysseus’ tale. How truthful is he being? He does make himself out to be quite the hero. I’m looking forward to the next six.

  7. Sylvia

    I may be alone in preferring the more psychological and moral drama in Ithaka than all the dreadful happenings at sea. It’s all very terrifying but it does seem rather random, more like scary campfire stories than a work of literature. But I guess it wouldn’t be much of an epic if there weren’t a few extraordinary trials along the way!

  8. Erin

    Great character list! I like all the pictures.

    The one thing that kind of annoys me about Odysseus’ narration is that, aside from the bit where he admits he made his men wait for the Cyclops to return, he paints a pretty glowing picture of himself. He makes it easy to overlook his hoards of treasure, his sleeping around, etc, etc. That “Nobody” part is one of my favorites, though! Definitely clever.

  9. Trish

    *Softdrink – Ya, the drooling body parts and the vomitous Charybdis were pretty bad, huh? Unfortunately I have a feeeling we’ll have more Penelope coming up. So glad you’re enjoying it! Finally a readalong where the book is actually enjoyable? ;)

    *Trisha – Loved the stories of all these characters–heard them growing up so it was like revisiting an old favorite.

    *Allie – Interesting idea about Ody being a hero for confronting the dead! He did meet a bunch of unsavory characters, there, huh? One of my favorites is Sisyphus. Can’t remember who he ticked off, but to spend enternity rolling that rock up the hill…then down, and up. And it is interesting that Penelope says faithful–even though she isn’t certain that Ody is still alive. Ody doesn’t doubt Penelope’s livlihood and still gets around. :P

    *Heather – Great suggestion!! I’ve the Percy Jackson books in my audiobook queue at the library, so I’ll have to check them out. And how fun that you read the books to Kiddo. :)

    *Shelley – Not sure I agree with the depiction of the Sirens, but it is fun to envision what these “creatures” might have looked like! Thanks for the second recommendation for the Percy books–they sound like fun!

    *Kristi – That’s definitely something to think about with Odysseus telling his own tale! I especially cracked up when the gods made him fall asleep while his men were slaughtering the cows–how convenient! ;)

    *Sylvia – I think that the trials included are part of what makes an epic and epic, but I see what you mean. I’ve read books 13 and 14 by now and it seems like some of the adventure will be over and moving back to the moral drama. Though, I don’t think 6-12 were without moral drama!

    *Erin – LOVE the “Nobody” part! So clever. But as Kristi points out above, it’s sometimes hard to trust Odysseus’s narrative. How convenient that all of his men have now died and it’s only him left to tell the tale. He does seem pretty boastful, doesn’t he?

  10. parrish lantern

    Absolutely loved your write up on “The Odyssey” I thought the pictures were wonderful & your response to the book was thoughtful & amusing
    Thanks
    Parrish.
    Ps. In the England BBC 4, have a new series called “Greek Myths: The Tales of Travelling Heroes” and covers Homer & the Iliad, Odyssey etc. It started last night at 9pm GMt, but if your interested you may be able to find it online via -BBC Iplayer, its normally on there for for 7 days after its broadcasted, hope it’s of interested.

  11. joanna

    wow, what cool photos of the scary monsters!

    lol, I noticed the crying too! The men aren’t portrayed as all that brave, they all start weeping when there’s danger ahead! :-)

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