Odyssey Funmaries #17: Ithaca (Books XVII-XX)

By MARK HOOBLER

 

For all of our 4 books to funmarized below, our hero, the wily Odysseus, Sacker of Cities & Goddesses, goes about incognito as a beggar. Why does he do this? Why not just run into his home, or castle, and shout that he is back? Why does he not run up to Penelope and plant a big wet one on her lips? It’s been 20 freakin’ years after all. Why delay even more? It was the German Homeric scholar, F.A. Wolf, who first identified this as Die Odysseusverkleidetalsobdachlosebettlerverzögernthema. [The Odysseus disguised as a homeless beggar delaying theme]*. This funmarizer read the whole of Wolf’s 1,300 page opus, Identity and Otherness in Homer in an attempt to get to the bottom of this narrative mystery, only to find this on the last page: “Here I can go no further. I have identified this theme in Homer: I leave it to those who shall come after me to explicate it.” Well. I am afraid I am going to have to be content to funmarize these books, and leave the analysis to others.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Book 17 opens with a funmary of its own! Telemachus leaves Odysseus with Eumaeus in the country and heads to the palace. (The suitors are hanging around the palace as usual, watching dvds, ordering pizzas, making crank calls, drinking milk right from the bottle in the fridge, etc.) When he gets there Penelope (“Mom”) has Telly funmarize his trip. He does a decent job, but he is no Ben Vore. (Luckily he makes no reference to Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey.)

Soon thereafter Eumaeus with the disguised Odysseus leave the country and head into town. They are not on the road long when Odysseus earns the ire of one of the suitors’ swineherds, Melanthius. (In addition to having really bad houseguest manners, the suitors and their swineherds do NOT like beggars; the next time Odysseus comes back to his homeland after a 20-year odyssey, I would advise him to disguise himself as a king, hell, maybe a god.) So Odysseus has to suffer these outrageous slings & arrows from this guy, and all the while we are thinking, ‘If this dope only knew who he was insulting! It’s King Odysseus, Most Wily of Men and Sacker of Cities!!’

We will get many more chances to think this same thought in the course of the next 4 books.

When Eumaeus and Odysseus reach the palace there is a heartfelt moment when Odysseus’ old dog Argos recognizes his master. Our hero must fight back a tear. Then the dog dies, foreshadowing the fate of every dog in Western Literature from here on in. Then it is time for the crazy Greek gods to meddle in human affairs yet again. Athena commands Odysseus to go around to all the suitors and ask for food to separate the wheat from the chaff. A real annoying suitor, Antinous, not only heaps abuse on Odysseus, but also heaves his wooden stool at Odysseus, whom it hits square in the back. You just know things are not going to end well for this Antinous guy. When Penelope hears of the abuse this beggar has suffered, she invites him to come speak to her. Odysseus-beggar has Eumaeus tell her he will come at night-fall when it is safer.

But first Antinous stirs up trouble between Odysseus and a real beggar, Arnaeus. He proposes a boxing match between them for a fat, sizzling goat sausage. Odysseus ‘belts up’ and the suitors notice he is stacked, cut like like a UFC fighter. No one seems to think this is strange. Odysseus dispatches the real beggar with one punch and gets the sausage.

Picture 50Just give him the sausage.

Then Athena descends from the heavens to give Penelope a royal-makeover, a mani-pedi good enough for a queen. She inspires her with a plan, and Penelope goes to talk to the suitors. When they see her royal hotness, the suitors are entranced. Penelope tells them they need to start bringing her gifts. And so they do. After this, the suitors really party. You can almost hear the C&C Music Factory and smell the wine. Things get out-of-hand, there is more stool-tossing, and Telemachus shuts the party down, kicking everyone out (sort-of) except for Odysseus.

Telly and Odysseus use this opportunity to hide all the weapons in the palace. But lest we forget Odysseus-beggar has a date with Penelope. You would think, knowing this guy’s libido, he would toss off the costume and, er, announce himself, to his wife. You would be wrong. He goes through a whole charade, weaving a story for the weaver, of how he met Odysseus many years ago on his way to Troy. Penelope buys it. She then tells her maids to make a splendid bed for the beggar and bathe his feet. When she is washing his feet, Penelope’s maid recognizes Odysseus by a scar on his foot. She exclaims out loud that it is him, but once again Athena saves the day by making sure Penelope does not hear. Then Odysseus tells the maid if she tells anyone he will kill her. Oof. Bet she isn’t too glad he came home.

Now Penelope tells us something strange:

When night falls and the world lies lost in sleep
I take to my bed, my heart throbbing, about to break,
Anxieties, swarming, piercing – I may go mad…

Penelope has Restless Leg Syndrome!

Penelope tells Odysseus she is going to have a contest to win her hand in marriage; the suitor who can string O’s bow (not his oboe; many people do not know Odysseus was a world class oboe player) and shoot an arrow through 12 axe heads will win her hand, if not heart.

Not so much happens in the next book. Odysseus has some restless sleep. Penelope has some restless sleep. They both pray to the gods. Odysseus asks Zeus for a sign. Zeus sends him one (thunder & lightning; not very original for Zeus, but Odysseus buys it.). Odysseus-beggar goes to see his old stableman who comments that he looks a lot like Odysseus. We get another raucous feast with the suitors in which Odysseus-beggar gets a cow’s foot tossed at him, along with more verbal abuse.

Jeez! These suitors are real JERKS! Someone needs to teach them a lesson!

I wonder what will happen next…

Wandering Rocks starts Ulysses tomorrow!

Follow along in real time as Jerry tweets his way through page 1!

Starts at noon!

——

* = Wolf spent the rest of his life trying to establish this trope in other works of art but to little avail. In his twilight years Wolf claimed to have found it in several episodes of the OC on the WB, but he was mocked by his colleagues with a strain of vitriol that was excessive – even by German standards – and forced to recant. He was found dead at his desk in 1998 clutching a photograph of Misca Barton wearing a magic marker beard he had doodled in.

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One Response

  1. Ben and I will start the reading in central Pennsylvania. Where will YOU be when the reading begins?!!?

    PA is a lot like Ireland anyway.

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