The second oldest surviving work of fiction, The Odyssey is an enduring classic.
A sequel to The Iliad, which concerned the Trojan War, The Odyssey catches up with most of the major players from the first book to detail their fates, while ostensibly being about Odysseus’ efforts to return home, and his son, Telemachus’, efforts to find him.
When I was a child, I loved reading the Greek myths, and I had several child friendly books concerning them. My favorite character was Hercules (to use his Roman name), but Odysseus was a close second. I loved the story of his journey home to the wife he loved so much, who was considering remarrying thinking him dead after being away twenty years, and the exciting adventures he had along the way. Odysseus was so clever – he managed to trick the cyclops and escape his lair, he was able to listen to the alluring music of the sirens without falling foul of them, and he outwitted numerous deities he encountered along the way.
Lies. All lies.
Odysseus is an oversexed narcissist. He’s the kind of man who, when running from a bear, will throw you in front of it to save himself, and then boast to everyone about how clever he is. He’s great at looking out for himself, but every member of his crew perishes. Like James Bond, or Captain James T Kirk, he sleeps his way through every mythical goddess dwelling island around Greece, and then has the temerity to question the fidelity of his wife. The book ends in a glorious bloodbath, in which he not only kills all the potential suitors, but also any maids who had sex with them. Double standards abound.
Despite the shattering of my childhood impressions, it’s a great romp, and it’s easy to see why it has lasted to the present day. The characters are so human, despite some of them being gods and monsters, and it is shows that people haven’t changed. The adventures are also suitably exciting, even if Odysseus made it all up.
I award The Odyssey…
There are many versions and translations of The Odyssey. Here is one on goodreads.