Odyssey Funmaries #11: Hades (Book XI)

By JERRY GRIT

I will efficiently deal with this book in the 3 parts. Part 3’s most relevant to Ulysses.

PART 1: The Trip Down

Odysseus continues the long version of his story to the Phaeacians … he attempts to cut it short, but one of them claims that, “The night’s still young, I’d say the night’s endless”[11.422]. We’ve all had to deal with that guy.

Odysseus and the remains of his crew follow Circe’s detailed and bizarre instructions to get to Hades, where they need to find Tiresias, the blind prophet who will tell him how to get home.

They need to board a “black craft” which will pilot itself to their destination (the Knight Rider of the Mediterranean?). Odysseus needs to find where the River of Fire and the River of Tears meet, make some animal sacrifices, dig a trench, and fill it with the animal blood.

He then has to guard this bloody trench and wait for Tiresias to show. Blood is like coffee to the spirits. It gets them perky and chatty.

PART 2: Tiresias’ Prophecy

Tiresias the prophet shows up, drinks the blood, and basically tell how the rest of the Odyssey will go.

He says that Odysseus and crew will get home if they practice self-restraint. They better not touch the Oxen of the Sun on Thrinacia Island. If they do, his men and ship will be destroyed.

Given the crew’s history with self-control, they’re doomed.

If Odysseus is able to escape, Tiresias, tells him of the troubles he will face at home with the slobs. Once Odysseus kills all the slobs, Tiresias says he’ll have to take an oar on a trip “to a race of people who know nothing of the sea.” Then he has to make a sacrifice. He then says Odysseus will grow old and die peacefully.

PART 3: The Parade of Dead

Hades is not exactly Hell, despite Mark Hoobler’s descriptions to the contrary. At least in the Odyssey, Homer doesn’t conceive of an afterlife with a heaven and hell.

But it’s definitely hellish. Hades is like a open-invitation liquor-less cocktail party, where the great and the not-so great mingle and mope. Life in antiquity must have been miserable already, without antibiotics or Twitter. And then, they only had to look forward to an eternal dry mixer with a bunch of Debbie-downers. How did these people get out of bed?

So Odysseus runs into a bunch of friends and family, and has an unrelentingly depressing series of conversations.

He sees his mom, who tells him she died from missing him. “Gee, thanks, Mom. I’ve only been lost for 10 years and killed my entire fleet, but now I’m also responsible for your death.” She also tells him his dad is still alive, but is wrapped up in rags, sleeping with his goats. Odysseus tries to hug her, but she’s bodiless, of course.

He then meets up with a bunch of famous women, basically mortals who hooked up with gods (the goomahs of the gods?).

There’s also a reunion of the Archaean Rat Pack. Agamemnon-Sinatra, who understandably has a touch of the old misogyny after getting betrayed by his wife, bitches about the undependability of women and warns that Odysseus should be very skeptical of Penelope.

So even your own wife–never indulge her too far.
Never reveal the whole truth, whatever you may know;
just tell her a part of it, be sure to hide the rest. [11.500-502]

Great advice. Who is this, Tom Leykus?

Picture 6

If you don’t know Tom Leykus, he’s a really, really awesome guy. 

There are also appearances by Achilles, who now is not so hot on honor anymore, preferring to be a living slave than staying any longer in Hades. Leykus must be getting to him.

There are also cameos from Ajax, Elpenor, Sisyphus, Hercules (who had yet to achieve his 13th labor).

They complain about their fate and beg for dirt on their living children.

Since he’s still living, Odysseus can leave this horrible party. He sneaks out.

Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in 8 days!

Board our dark craft to Wandering Rocks!

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One Response

  1. I knew it was just a matter of time before Tom Leykus and Knight Rider showed up in a Funmary.

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