Odyssey Funmaries #10: Circe (Book X.CXLVI-DCXXXI)

By MARK HOOBLER

Have you ever had a relationship end with someone telling you to “go to hell”? Count yourself lucky they were only being metaphorical. But our hero Odysseus has a funny way with the ladies.  So when Odysseus’ latest ‘island girl’ turns his shipmates into groveling swine at the beginning of the relationship, you probably could guess it will not end with “I hope we can still be friends.”  That’s right kids! Odysseus’ ‘black-hulled’ ship, aka The Love Boat, is making another island-hopping run!* Next stop: Aeaea**, stomping ground of the beautiful goddess/witch Circe***:

Wow! Stop staring boys!! If you could move your eyes for a moment just slightly to the right you will see our hero reflected in the mirror behind Circe!

Ok. Sorry for starting in media res. Let’s backtrack.

After losing the rest of his fleet, Odysseus charts a course for the Aeaean island. With the help of a god, Odysseus and the boys land on the island. Odysseus scales a raggedy height or commanding crag, as he is wont to do, to take visual stock of the situation and spies Circe’s lair. And here we are treated to some of that wily Odyssean logic that has kept him alive long after Achilles:

Mulling it over, I thought I’d scout the ground –

that fire aglow in the smoke, I saw it, true,

but soon enough this seemed the better plan:

I’d go back to shore and the swift ship first

feed the men, then send them out for scouting.  (the first emphasis is mine; the second O’s)

The great tactician at his best! Well, at least he is going to feed them first. 

So Odysseus sends his crew under Eurylocus (ancient Greek for ‘Unlucky’) to Circe’s palace. Almost as soon as they get there, Circe turns them all into pigs save Eurylocus, who had sensed a trap. Eury hightails it back to the beach and gives Odysseus the story. So Odysseus sets off on his own to save the day. On his way he encounters Hermes in the woods who gives him the much bally-hooed ‘Holy Moly’ that will protect him from Circe’s spells. The Gods love this guy! So Circe tries to work her dark magic on Odysseus, but her spell is as effective as trickle-down economics in the ‘80s: No luck. Odysseus draws his sword and Circe falls at his knees, begs mercy, says Hermes told her he would come, then implores him:

Come, sheathe your sword, let’s go to bed together,

mount my bed and mix in the magic work of love –

we’ll breed deep trust between us.

But Odysseus knows better! Hermes has warned him, Circe will ‘unman’ him (Circe-umcision!) unless he gets her to swear a binding oath. No more lies. Circe complies. Now – ‘at last’ – Odysseus gets his wandering rocks off. Soon thereafter he is bathed and oiled-up by Circe’s nymphy handmaidens who ‘perform the goddess’ household tasks’ (What is ancient Greek for ‘Playboy Mansion’?) At any rate, post rub-down Odysseus is sat down on a throne for a feast. I guess it is at this point that he remembers that his crewmates are still swine.  Here Odysseus draws the line. No winey-diney until the boys are men again. Circe works her magic in reverse. The crew are pigs no more. And all is well.

So well, in fact, that Odysseus decides to hang with witchy Circe for a FULL YEAR. Eventually the crew brings him to his senses. It is time to move on.

So Odysseus begs Circe that he might take leave of her. But as the old song sayeth, breaking up is hard to do. Circe keeps good on her promise to help Odysseus get back to Ithaca, but she has one little errand for our hero; he needs to make a little stop in the port-of-call known as Hell to see the seer Tiresias.

Bet he wishes she had just kept his favorite t-shirt…

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in 9 days!

Holy Moly, indeed.

* = Poor Achilles! You spent your Homeric epic killing people and being taunted with epic epithets! Who knew you could have spent your 24 books knocking leather sandals with every goddess or virginal nymph in the Mediterranean?? Well, most likely wily Odysseus with his golden tongue convinced old blind Homer to make him the hero of the more ‘romantic’ epic….I guess the pen is mightier than the sword! (Amateur Freudians can remove one of the spaces in that last sentence for some hermeneutic fun!!)

** = For Andrew Cashmere, and readers of Fitzgerald’s translation, ‘Aioli’ and ‘Kirke.’ Homeric scholars and amateur adventurers have been trying to find the real places our hero visited for about 2000 years or more. I think one of the things that has thrown them off is everyone spells them differently. Isn’t aioli a type of garlic mayo?

*** = Circe or Kirke, has a long history in western culture, including both Homer and Joyce. What you may not know, is that one hot summer night in 1970, after eating too many lotus plants and reading book X of The Odyssey, Don Henley and Glen Frey came under her spell.

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6 Responses

  1. Excellent! A new voice has been added to the Wandering Rocks … and just in time. Ben and I have been at each other’s throats (attacking our mothers and gender), while still managing to sound like the same person.

    Now we have your bawdy puns (Circe-umcision!?). Joyce would give you a hug.

    And that Love Boat intro goes on 4-eva. Did we ever have that much free time to sit through 2 minutes of stock footage and stilted posing for a chance to see Gavin MacLeod problemsolve?

  2. I screwed up anyway: Aioli is Fitzgerald’s translation of the windbag’s home island. Oh well.

  3. Mr. Hoobler is welcome to write the remainder of my funmaries. I don’t think I can top ‘Circe-umcision.’

  4. […] About Wandering Rocks ← Odyssey Funmaries #10: Circe (Book X.CXLVI-DCXXXI) […]

  5. […] very brief recap of the specifics: Circe informs Odysseus that when he and his shipmates sail past the island of the Sirens, their […]

  6. […] Funmary takes us backward in chapter 12, to Circe’s speech to Odysseus after he has ascended from Hades but before he encounters the Sirens, Scylla […]

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