Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Odyssey: The Tale of a Hero

I didn't plan to read it, no. I've never read any Greek literature before, so this is my first. In fact, I've tried to read the first book of Homer's Illiad, but I stopped – I wasn't ready for it. This time, something forced me to read it, no matter what, and I was ready for it.

The opening of the book reminds me of the opening of Milton's Paradise Lost. In the first several lines, Homer puts the summary of the book in such a simple way. And then, he asks the Muses – goddesses of art – to guide him.

Odyssey starts with the Olympus, where Athena asks her father Zeus to let Odysseus go home to his son and wife. Zeus gives his consent, and Athena flies to Ithaca, the homeland of this unfortunate king, and visits his only son, Telemachus. There Athena advises him to grow up, be a man, and take on a journey to gain experience.

In the hall of Odysseus, many suitors hold parties, day by day, robbing the king's possessions. They want Penelope, Odysseus' wife, to marry one of them, being convinced that Odysseus is dead. Penelope refuses, playing trick by trick to deceive them. But the suitors are persistent; they refuse to leave the house until getting Penelope.

Meanwhile, Odysseus has been away from home for the last 20 years. The baby that he left at home has become a young man. Now he's trapped in an island with Calypso, a fair goddess who is desperately in love with him. He has no friend, no companion, and no ship. How could he go home? And even if he could, would he find his servants still loyal, his son brave and worthy, and above all else, would he find his wife still loving?

Odyssey is a great story. It brings us through the Mediterranean Sea, by ships and tempests. It drives us as high as Olympus and as low as Hades. We meet gods and goddesses, monsters, nymphs, and mortals. We can feel the grandeur of this epic through the pages.

Odysseus himself is more than just a fierce man of war. He's a cunning man and skilful in diplomacy. He's a man of hand and a man of brain. During many years, he endures hardship and somehow finds his way out of troubles. It makes him more interesting than his comrades, let's say, Ajax or Achilles.

Overall, I'd like to recommend this book to you all. I know I should have read Illiad first, but there's a need for me to do so. Illiad is in my list, I will read it sometime during these 5 years. Odyssey gives me a good reason to do so. 

By the way, I read the translation by Robert Fagles. It's so easy to read, and so understandable. But I want to read other translation soon, just for the sake of comparing. 


  1. Thanks for the review; it sounds good!! The Greek classics are still on my reading list..

  2. Please read it. By the way, I still have Illiad and Aeneid, both related to Trojan War. :(

  3. I wish I had had a better time with The Odessey. Might have to give it another go next year.

    By the way, Aeneid is wonderful! :)

  4. Yes, Aeneid is. I've come to book 5 or 6 but still need to find quieter time to read it. Have been enjoying book 4 so much, though.

  5. I have always been intrigued by Homer, but still a little too scared. You may have given me courage though.... -Sarah