Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mortals United (Sundays With The Classics)

I got through part III, or book III, of The Odyssey, and honestly, I can't believe this thing ever got published.  So far, very very little has happened.  If I sum up Books I-III, it is this:

1. Telemachus gets mad at the people mooching off his mom.

2.  Athena helps Telemachus sail to some other guy's house, where that guy entirely glosses over the story of the guy that served parts of his relatives for soup in favor of confessing that he doesn't know what happened to Ulysses.

About that cannibalism:  In telling how they came home from the Trojan War, Telemachus' host, whose name I can't remember and I'm too tired to go look it up, mentions another guy and one of the beauties of reading on a Kindle is that whenever I don't recognize a name, which is often when dealing with Greek "history," I can click on the name and get the story on that person, which is what I did when I got to Atreus, who is mentioned in the recap of the return from the Trojan war but Homer doesn't mention that Atreus cooked up his nephews and served them as stew to his brother as some sort of revenge.

THREE books and that story escapes Homer.

But more to the point, as I read today, I couldn't help but wonder about the Gods, again. Telemachus and Pallas/Athena (disguised as Mentor) are dining with their host and when they are done -- when Athena tells the host to "cut out the tongues," which is done at the end of the feast, as the sacrifices have their tongues cut out and burnt in an offering to the Gods --


If I were a God, I would insist that sacrifices be worth something, not a bunch of burnt tongues.

-- and then Telemachus is going to go back to his ship, but the host says something to the effect of "Hey, don't go sleep on that ship, I've got plenty of fine fleece here and I'd be a terrible host if I didn't insist that you use some and sleep on my couch," at which point Pallas/Athena, still in disguise says she can't take the host up on the offer because she has to go back to the ship and take care of her crew because they need a wise old man to guide them... and then turns into Athena and flies away.

So.  Um.  What?

I mean, if you are going to pretend you're an old man, and that's why you can't take up the host on his offer to let you crash on his couch, you can't even see the pretense through the point where you're out of his sight?

Host:  Stay here tonight.  I've got an Xbox, there's some frozen pizzas.  It'll be cool.

Athena:  *thinks: Mustn't reveal I'm a God.*  Can't.  I'm an old old man.  I need to get back to my ship because they need me to do old man stuff, like hoist the jib.

Host:  Well...
Athena:  Old, old man.  Just going back to the ship.  Nothing to see here, move along.  Old man, a comin' through. 

Host:  Okay, then.

The other thing that struck me is this:  The next day, the old man, who now knows that Athena is helping Telemachus, has another feast and decides to slaughter an ox as a sacrifice to Athena, which is at least better than burnt tongue, but he goes all Romney on the ox, ordering that his gold be brought to him and that the ox's horns be gilt in real gold before it's killed, to superimpress Athena who, like most women, wants you to put a ring on it if you like it

Which made me think that back then, as now, the gods obviously favored the rich.  If you had to sacrifice something to the gods to get them to not cast you down to Hades and turn you into a cricket or whatever, and if the better your sacrifice, the more the gods listened, and if you could cover your sacrifice in gold and get the gods to listen to you, well, then, being rich meant that you could keep the gods on your side all the more, all of which makes me wonder if there was a move, in the Greek Senate, to cap God Sacrifices.

Senator One:  We need to cap sacrifices, or start a system of public financing of sacrifices, because otherwise people are simply buying the gods off and our theocracy will be owned by the rich.

Senator Two:  How about if we simply let people create DeityPACs and they can't coordinate with the rich on how they sacrifice?

Senator One:  Works for me.  When they write this down, I hope I get a cool Greek name like Theonyclus.

(Editor's Note:  When he wrote about that, Plato called Senator One "Dorkither.")

Beyond that, this is one slow-moving story.  When I left off, Telemachus had been given a chariot to go over land, helped by two sons of his host, and had visited a city that Homer just sort of glossed over with a quick "Oh, yeah, he stopped there and that guy was pretty important" and I am really starting to wonder when we get to the part where Ulysses has all these adventures.  It's like if J.R.R. Tolkien had started The Lord Of The Rings with 200 pages of talk about whatever happened to Bilbo.  Which is kind of what he did.  


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

Sounds like it's a three-book prologue so far. Really I think these stories only work in summary these days. Back in ancient Greece I suppose they didn't have to compete with much.

Andrew Leon said...

Because I don't really have anything to add to what you actually said:
In defense of Tolkien, LotR did, actually, start out as a sequel to The Hobbit, hence starting with Bilbo.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I rather enjoyed it when I read it in college. Oh well...not for everyone I suppose.