A lot happens in this short section of the epic. Odysseus returns to Circe’s island after consulting with the dead, and she gives Odysseus more instructions on how to deal with the next set of challenges that he must face. First, he and his crew sail past the sirens and he alone is tied to the mast with unplugged ears so he can hear their song. Then the ship navigates between the dreaded Scylla and Charybdis. Then they arrive at Helios’ island where his crew slaughters the sacred cattle of the Sun for food, the result of which is Zeus destroying his ship and killing all his crew, and he winds up on Calypso’s island.
So, in my post on Book XI, I pointed out the irony that Alkinoos stated how honest Odysseus was. It made me think that maybe this whole story is one big lie. Odysseus is, after all, a manifestation of the Trickster archetype.
I washed my hands there, and made supplication
to the gods who won Olympos, all the gods—
but they, for answer, only closed my eyes
under slow drops of sleep.
Now on the shore Eurylokhos
made his insidious plea:
‘Comrades,’ he said,
‘You’ve gone through everything; listen to what I say.
All deaths are hateful to us, mortal wretches,
but famine is the most pitiful, the worst
end that a man can come to.
Will you fight it?
Come, we’ll cut out the noblest of these cattle
for sacrifice to the gods who own the sky;
and once at home, in the old country of Ithaka,
if ever that day comes—
we’ll build a costly temple and adorn it
with every beauty for the Lord of Noon.
But if he flares up over his heifers lost,
wishing our ship destroyed, and if the gods
make cause with him, why, then I say: Better
open your lungs to a big sea once for all
than waste to skin and bones on a lonely island!’
(Fitzgerald Translation: p. 221)
So, if Odysseus was asleep, then how could he know about the conversation Eurylokhos had with the crew? Obviously, he is making this all up. Essentially, he is telling a great big lie to manipulate Alkinoos and the Phaeacians. The entire “odyssey” is really nothing but a story told by the Trickster to get others to do what he wants them to do. Odysseus is one crafty dude, I give him that much.
Thanks for stopping by, and hope you enjoyed the post. Cheers!
4 responses to ““Odyssey” by Homer: Book XII – Sea Perils and Defeat”
You mean Odysseus made it all up? But Homer made Odysseus up. That makes him even craftier.
See Roger Sworder’s Science and relegion in archaic Greece. Fascinating interpretations of Scylla and Carybdis as astrological symbols. He says they represent the planets Odysseus must traverse to return home-
Thanks for the comment! The book sounds interesting. I’ll add that to my wish list. Cheers!
Yes he is crafty.