Thursday, March 30, 2017

Some Thoughts On The Story Of Odysseus

I have actually read it long ago, but having recently watched again an old Hallmark movie from the 1990s, I wanted to comment on it. Though the movie simplifies it somewhat and omits certain details, it's still gets the gist of it correctly, as far as I can remember (I feel too lazy to be bothered to read a Wiki article on the topic:))

The Odyssey is cool on so many levels. It's the greatest story of married love ever told. The wife who keeps faith with her husband for 20 years. The husband who strays and falls for seductresses but in the end returns back to her to grow old together. Feminists must hate it, after all, Penelope does nothing much besides staying home and weaving (in the movie she works at an olive press though), running the household and raising her son while Odysseus goes out into the world, fights, travels, has adventures and meets beautiful women.

As all really great stories, it has a literal and a figurative meaning. Penelope is a woman which every man dreams of. One he can trust implicitly. One which will stay true to him even when he strays. One which will keep her chastity and her heart intact, waiting for him for years while he is out there slaying dragons. One which will raise his children well even in the absence of their father and keep the home fires burning. Frailty thy name is woman is not applicable to her.

It also shows where the real danger lies for a man: Odysseus survives the perils of war and other dangers only to be kept prisoner by scheming women, one of whom is famous for actually turning men into pigs! No, it's positively politically incorrect, for not only it upholds a double standard (men's honour is courage, women's honour is chastity) but also shows that there are two types of females: one which you take home to Mother and...all the others.

Now when you think how the Trojan War actually started and compare Helen to Penelope, you'll see how much misery a woman can bring into the world when she breaks her marriage vows. Again, something which we'd rather not dwell upon in our enlightened times. I guess nowadays some folks would wonder why did Helen's husband (whose name escapes me at the moment, was it Menelaus?) begin a war for her? Beautiful though she was, there were undoubtedly other women available to him, too. Some would probably accuse him of "oneitis".

I will admit, for a long time I couldn't really comprehend it myself, and neither why Odysseus slaughtered all the men seeking Penelope's hand but finally it dawned on me.

Helen was Menelaus's wife. She belonged to him. She was his queen and not some slave girl. Paris not only violated the sacred laws of hospitality but stretched his hand to something which as far as Menelaus was concerned, was his and his only; and yes, it did constitute a casus belli.

In the same manner, the men seeking to marry Penelope were invaders, who tried to steal something which didn't rightfully belong to them. In the movie, Odysseus accuses them of trying to steal his world, something he and his ancestors before him built, fought and toiled for. There is only one punishment fit for such a crime. There is somewhere in it a lesson for modern men, too. If you are not prepared to fight for what is yours, you will surely lose it as this world is a ruthless place...


  1. Sanne

    A great story, I read The Odyssey last year. Some parts are hard to understand even in translation.

    In Sparta, Menelaus and Helen are happily married as if they had not been separated by her running off with another man and a 10 year long war!

    Odysseus spends 9 years of his 10 year odyssey on one island were he was imprisoned by a witch. I was amazed by how many people had to die or have their lives ruined to enable him to get home.

    Even so it is a great story.

    Mark Moncrieff
    Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future

  2. That's why I recommend the movie, it sort of makes it easier to understand for us moderns. I read a retelling as a child and later had to read the real thing for my studies but luckily for me, the library had a version which included a summary of each chapter:)

    As for Helen, as far as I remember, her husband wanted to kill her because she had caused death of so many, but in the end couldn't bring himself up to it because she was so beautiful so he forgave her and took her back. Her lover and his people weren't so fortunate, though.

    But isn't it how it really happens in life? The guiltiest person in the whole story who had caused so much bloodshed and misery to everyone just lived happily ever after with her husband. Men have always been fools where women are concerned...

  3. I've never actually read The Odyssey, nor seen any faithful cinematic rendering of it; the closest I've come is seeing the changed-setting-and-circumstances twist on it, O Brother Where Art Thou?, which though an enjoyable, fun movie, is nowhere near faithful to the source material from what I know (and corroborated by your synopsis here; the original is far more complex, and moral, than the Coen bros movie).

    I must get around to reading it, one day. I have a copy, gathering dust in a storage unit... I will read it when I can access it again.

  4. I don't know about reading (I couldn't, except for the detailed summary, and retellings, though I probably should one day) but I definitely recommend the Hallmark version.