Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Final Thoughts on THE ODYSSEY

I finally finished The Odyssey the other night, and I just have a couple of things to add to what I wrote the other day, when I was almost done.

:: The battle in Odysseus's house, and how it began, made me think: Just how old is the storytelling convention of the "True King", or whatever, being the only one able to perform a certain task? In some places, it's pulling a sword from a stone; in others, it's fitting one's foot into a slipper of glass; here, it's stringing the bow and shooting the arrow through the twelve axes. I wonder what the earliest occurence of that motif might be.

:: I found it easier to accept, on the basis of the morality of an earlier day (much earlier, of course), the killing of all the suitors. I found less acceptible the subsequent killing of all the women.

:: I'm not entirely certain as to why Odysseus found it necessary to make up yet another fictional account of who he is for Laertes's benefit.

Now, by looking at my 2004 reading list, it's clear that a big goal of mine is to delve into the "source material" for so much Western storytelling: the ancient works and national epics whose themes and motifs still wind their way through our culture. However, I also believe in "changing the tone" quite often, so after pushing myself through The Iliad and The Odyssey back-to-back over the last few months, I'm ready for a "cleansing of the palate" before I move on to either the Icelandic sagas or the Nibelungenlied. So now I'm reading Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome, which I have seen cited elsewhere -- and more than once -- as "the funniest book ever written". Well, we'll see -- but the book's initial scene, in which our narrator becomes convinced he suffers from every malady known to the medicine of his day save one, quite funny indeed.

And here is a neat looking HTML edition of Three Men in a Boat, which I found via Professor Bainbridge. The edition I'm reading, which is borrowed from Buffalo's wonderful library system, has no date but does include the ilustrations featured on this site and is clearly quite old, so I wonder if this is one of the 1889 editions.

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