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The Odyssey

Book 10

The Trojan War c. 1200 BC, 10-year Greek attack and siege of the city of Troy in northwestern Asia Minor
The composition of the Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, was probably sometime around 750 BC

There are legends of Homer as blind, wandering poet/minstrel. No reliable info is available about Homer and he is considered mostly legend. The Iliad and Odyssey were probably part of an oral tradition composed by many over a long period of time.

Why read Homer?

These two epic poems are the most important works of non-dramatic literature surviving from ancient Greece.
They are part of and intertwined with the Western literary canon so that knowledge of them = cultural literacy: knowing about these can help you to understand Shakespeare and Dante and Joyce and Rowling.

A short plot summary:

The Iliad is about the Trojan War and The Odyssey is about how a hero of the war, Odysseus, takes ten years to get back home after the war has ended and about the adventures he has along the way.

Epic Poem:
A long narrative poem about the deeds of gods or heroes who embody the values of the culture of which they are they are a part. The oldest epics were transmitted orally. Does this apply to the HP series and Harry?

Epic Hero
The central hero of an epic, the epic hero has larger-than-life powers. Achilles fulfills this role in The Iliad; Odysseus in The Odyssey. Epic heroes are not perfect. Achilles is stubbornly proud over a long period of time; Odysseus has lapses in judgment. Nevertheless, epic heroes always seem to have an abundance of courage, a fighting spirit that endears them both to the reader (listener) and the gods. Does this apply to the HP novels?

Some major motifs also found in HP novels

Fate/prophecy Retribution Confrontations with death (the Underworld) and conversations with the dead Series of tests, including battles with monsters, are part of a lengthy journey ending with home, family, and stability Heros p.o.v.

Specific References
We are going to do a close reading of Book 10 of The Odyssey, which you were assigned to read for today.
Odysseus and his crew have already had several adventures at this point in the narrative, and have landed on the island Aeolia, home of King Aeolus.

Aeolus, the god of the winds, gives Odysseus a tied up bag of wind. But, when they are almost home, Odysseuss crew opens up the bag while hes sleeping, the winds rush out, and blow up a storm that blows the ship back out to sea so that they are once again off course and unable to return home.

Odysseuss crew members decide to open the bag of wind saying, Its not fair. Everyone adores this man and honors him, no matter where he goes. They think the bag has gold and silver and want their share-they think hes not sharing the wealth and fame. Any connections to HP novels and Harry?

Back to Aeolia
When Odysseus and his men come back to the island of Aeolia (with tails between their legs), Aeolus gives him a hard time, saying:
Odysseus, how is it youve come back here?/ What cruel god has been attacking you?/ We took great care to send you on your way/ So youd get home, back to your native land/ Or any other place, just as you wished.

And, once Odysseus explains why he was blown back, Aeolus says,

Of all living men, you are the worst/So you must leave this island with all speed/ It would violate all sense of what is right/ If I assisted or escorted on his way/ A man the blessed gods must hate. So leave/ Youre here because deathless gods despise you.

Odysseus is marked by the gods. What does it mean to be marked/chosen by the gods? Positive? Negative? Is Harry in a similar situation? Marked? Chosen? Dangerous to be near?

After they are forced to leave Aeolia in shame, Odysseus and crew travel to the land of the Laestrygonians, who are depicted as barbarians:
I could see no evidence of human work or ploughing, only smoke arising from the land.

Why might people in a foreign land be depicted as barbarians or savages?

This land is populated by brutal giants. When three of Odysseuss men come upon the inhabitants of this land they find a gigantic woman, like a mountain peak, who called to her husband, strong Antiphates, who arranged a dreadful death for themhe seized one of my shipmates and prepared to make a meal of him.

Odysseus and crew are chased away by Giants

Antiphates eats one crew member and the two others run back to the ship. The giant then calls for help from his friends: They were not like men at all, but giants. From the cliffs they hurled rocks down on us, the largest stones a man can lift.

Giants as characters
In what ways do these early depictions of giants influence Rowlings depiction of giants in the HP novels?

All but one of Odysseuss ships are destroyed by the Giants.
He and his remaining crew sail to the island of Aeaea, where fair-haired Circe lived, goddess with a human voice.

We discussed Circe earlier in the term.
What do you remember about her?

The gods send Homer a stag

On my way back there,in a lonely place close to our curved ship,some god pitied me and sent across my patha huge stag with massive antlers, on its wayfrom pastures in the woods towards the riverfor a drink, the sun's heat forced it down. He is able to feed his crew with it and encourages them to investigate the island.

Circes welcome:
She led the others in and sat them downon stools and chairs, then made them a drinkof cheese and barley meal and yellow honeystirred into Pramnian wine. But with the foodshe mixed a vicious drug, so they would loseall memories of home. When they'd drunk down the drink she gave them, she took her wand,struck each man, then penned them in her pigsties.They had bristles, heads, and voices just like pigstheir bodies looked like swine but their minds were as before, unchanged.

Connections to HP:
Potions Transfiguration Wands Memory alteration

Odysseus rescues his crew

Odysseus says, 'Eurylochus, you can stay right here, in this very spot,eating and drinking by our black hollow ship. But I will go. I don't have any choice.'

Divine Help
But while I was moving through the sacred groveson my way to Circe's home, a goddess skilled in many magic potions, I metHermes of the Golden Wand.

Divine Help:
Hermes says, But come,I'll keep you free from harm and save you.Here, take a remedial potion with you.Go in Circe's house. It's a protectionand will clear your head of any dangersthis day brings. Now I'll describe for youeach and every one of Circe's fatal ploys . . . Does Harry receive divine help?

Son of Zeus
Odysseus isnt literally the son of Zeus, but Circe calls him this after he saves his men. Why? Whos Zeus? How is Harry the son of Zeus?

After a year in Circes bed . . .

His men convince him that they should be on their way back home (Odysseus does have a wife and son waiting for him at home, but doesnt seem too phased by this . . .).
Circe says she will let him go, but he must first take a detour to Hades to consult the shade of the prophet Teiresias.

The Underworld
What Underworlds must Harry enter? What shades (spirits of the dead) must he consult? How is his fate shaped by prophecy? How is he guided by an obligation to the dead?

Next Class:
More from ancient Greece/Rome Feb 20: Read the sections from Ovid about Narcissus and Echo, The Minotaur and Ariadne, and Orpheus and Eurydice, which are in your course packet. Read in Colbert the chapters titled, Why would Fluffy come from a Greek Chappie? (99-100), Why is the third task set in a maze? (153-4), and Why are mirrors magical (159-162).