Odyssey Funmaries #18: Penelope (Book XXIII) **FINAL!**


As the first lady to contribute to Wandering Rocks, it is of course appropriate that I be the one funmarizing about our hero’s first lady, Penelope.

So as we know by now, back at the ranch, Penelope is on year 20 of same sh*t, different day. She has waited, weaved, unweaved, weaved again, unweaved again, wailed, whined, weaved some more and waited some more. I mean, it has been a really long freaking time.

Let’s put this in some perspective here: Remember Castaway? You know, Tom Hanks gets stuck on a tropical island, loses 140 pounds, learns how make fire and becomes BFF with a volleyball. All the while Helen Hunt keeps the search going for him, is told she’s crazy to think he’s still alive, holds a funeral, then finally gets over it and ‘lets him go.’ By the time Tom finally makes his odyssey back to Memphis, she’s married, has a new house, and even has a kid with the guy (a.k.a. “the suitor”). (But hey, at least she kept the car!) All this, in only FIVE YEARS, people. Five.

Picture 52You can’t wait 5 years for this guy?

I guess when you look at it from this vantage, it’s not so difficult to understand that Penelope was in bed and depressed, deep in an Athena-induced-Vicodin-like sleep, when Odysseus came home. Penelope literally slept through the genocide of every Ithacan prince who has bothered her for the last two decades. Now they’re all heaped in a burning pile out back, and Odysseus is softscrubbing the whole bloody palace. And when her faithful, lifetime nurse comes upstairs to tell Penelope that her husband finally got home, Penelope gets ticked off that she was awoken from the best sleep she’s had in ages.

When she learns that the suitors have been slaughtered, she’s pretty excited, but she still refuses to believe that her husband has returned. It must be the gods, she explains to her loony nurse. But they still go downstairs to check out the scene.

Odysseus, long-enduring though he is, is probably pushing 50, which is no small thing given the life-expectancy back then (50 was the old 90). Plus, he still looks like a bum, smells like the doghouse, and just washed off gallons of blood with more gallons of household disinfectant and whatever he used to “purify” the castle. So, again, you can’t begrudge Penelope for being a little apprehensive.

Telly throws a hissy-fit that mom and dad aren’t getting along, so dad delegates him to take the wait-staff and throw a fake wedding party, to cover up the groans coming from the pile of mostly dead guys. I mean, we can’t have the neighbors talking. Better to have them first feel bad about not being invited to the wedding, and then have to hear it through the grapevine that the “party” was actually a mass murder.

So off they go, leaving the old lovers to chat. They go back and forth—half flirting and half fighting about who is more stubborn, and eventually Odysseus, master of tactics, simply threatens to go sleep in the guest room.

Of course, Penelope’s got a few tricks up her own sleeve. And they all involve the bed. (Cue sleazy porn music… now.) Penelope, calls the maid in, and asks her to move the bed out of the bridal chamber for their strange guest to sleep on.

Odysseus calls her bluff and proceeds to tell all about his mighty craftsmanship in building their unmovable tree-bed. An original, DIYer, Odysseus built the bedroom himself–around a big olive tree. But since left no room for a BED (hello!?), he chopped off the top of the tree, and carved a bed right into the trunk. Alright, it’s pretty cool, but it’s no treehouse:

Picture 53

Complete with tree-toilet!

He responds:

Woman—your words, they cut me to the core!

Who could move my bed? Impossible task,

Even for some skilled craftsman—unless a god

Came down in person, quick to lend a hand,

Lifted it out with ease and moved it elsewhere.

Not a man on earth, not even at peak strength,

Would find it easy to prise it up and shift it, no,

A great sign, a hallmark lies in its construction.

I know, I built it myself—no one else…

Ah yes, the great bed. This is an important symbol in our main attraction, Ulysses readers, so wake up, wipe the drool off your desk, and write this in your moleskine: Bed.

So Penelope finally believes that it is Odysseus after he spills the beans on the big tree-bed secret. And it MUST be him, since the gods can’t read blueprints, no one else could possibly know about this crazy bed that Odysseus, ever the talker, so mightily crafted. But I digress. They are happy, and eventually make their way to the big soft bed to “delight in each other.” But not before Odysseus tells Penelope that he’s going to have to leave again on a dangerous trip and kill a bunch of farm animals in order to apologize to Poseidon. If he does that, though, then they get a long, full life together.

Athena keeps it dark out (making this the Longest. Night. Ever.), and they make their way to bed, and now “rejoice in each other,” and then get caught up on the last twenty years, eventually falling asleep.

And great Odysseus told his wife of the pains

He had dealt out to other men and all the hardships

He’d endured himself—his story first to last—

And she listened on, enchanted…

Sleep never sealed her eyes till all was told.

Wandering Rocks starts Ulysses To-freaking-day!!!

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

Starts at noon-ish!

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



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.

Odyssey Funmaries #16: Eumaeus (Books XIII-XVI)


First of all, my apologies to the millions of followers who were anxiously waiting with bated breath on Saturday for OF #16.  As I mentioned to Jerry,  I ran into a bit of a perfect storm this weekend.  Octogenerians, my 5-week old nephew, a hot air balloon race, 2 hours of traffic, a 1929 Model A, a parade, my parents’ dial-up modem, and a bourbon tasting all contributed to my tardiness.  Luckily, I only had to cover 67 books in this post!  So, with that being said, I’ll attempt to quickly (in bullet point no less!) touch on the major points of books 13-16, and then spend a few words on Eumaeus, one of the more intriguing characters that we’ve come across so far in The Odyssey.


  • Odysseus (finally!) finishes telling Alkinoos et al. of all that he has gone through in his attempts to return to his homeland of Ithaca.
  • Having been hooked up with some sweet new tripods and cauldrons, not too mention a nice long nap, O. is whisked back to Ithaca by the Phaiakians, and dumped on his native shore.
  • Upon returning from their delivery run, the Phaiakians’ ship is turned to stone by Poseidon.  Seriously, we get it Poseidon.  You’re pissed.  Just let it go…
  • Odysseus awakens on the beach, unfamiliar with the island from which he has been away from for so long.
  • Athena (the ultimate spoiler) appears, disguised as a shepherd.
  • O. tries to conceal his true identity, which prompts A. to reveal hers.
  • O. asks A. what she thought about this season of Lost.  A. promplty tells him how the show will end.
  • A. catches O. up to speed regarding Telemachus’ journey and the suitors’ tomfoolery.
  • A. disguises O. as a beggar, and sends him to see Eumaeus, his old friend and swineherd.

Odysseus in disguise.

Book XIV

  • Odysseus arrives at Eumaeus’ hut, and is almost torn to shreds by Eumaeus’ dogs.
  • E. invites O. in, feeds him, and offers him shelter.
  • E. extols all the virtues of his master, as O. listens in disguise.
  • O. predicts that O. will soon return to Ithaca.
  • E. is skeptical, as he has heard many men make the very same claims.  Most of the time, these men are beggars looking for charity in exchange for a promising word on O.
  • In order to further conceal his true identity, O. tells E. a fabricated story about his experiences with O. during the Trojan War.  O. *shockingly* uses this story as another opportunity to let any and everyone listening know how awesome O. is.

Book XV

  • Athena hightails it to Sparta, and hints to Telemachus that it’s probably time to head back to Ithaca.  She warns him of the suitors’ ambush, and instructs him to visit Eumaeus.
  • T. leaves Sparta with a wine cup, a winebowl, a robe, and a sweet t-shirt.  But not before everyone witnesses an eagle soaring through the air with a goose in its clutches, which obviously means Odysseus is back.
  • T. picks up a hitchhiker named Theoklymenos, who apparently happens to be a prophet and an augur.  Convenient, no?
  • Meanwhile, back at Eumaeus’ hut, Odysseus tests E. hospitality by offering to leave, and no longer be a burden.  E. scoffs at this idea, and proceeds to tell O. the his life story.
  • E. is a prince.  Who’d thunk it?
  • T. reaches Ithaca, where he leaves Theoklymenos with Piraeus, a spearman.  Before they leave T., a hawk flies by with a dove in it’s grip.  If only they had an augur available to tell them what this sign meant……

Book XVI

  • Telemachus arrives at Eumaeus’ hut to find E. talking with his father, still in disguise.
  • E. leaves to tell Penelope that T. has returned.
  • Athena meets O. outside, where she removes his beggar’s disguise.
  • O. re-enters the hut, revealing his true identity to his son, T.
  • Hugs and weeping abound.
  • Reunited, O. & T. devise a plan to defeat the suitors.  O. will come to the palace disguised as a beggar while T. hides all of the weapons from the suitors.  Then they will take up the hidden weapons and kill the suitors.
  • Hilarity ensues.


It is in Book XIV that we are introduced to Eumaeus.  He’s a character that, frankly, after my first reading, I sort of expected to fade back into the background of the story.  But Eumaeus has some staying power that we haven’t really seen so far in the Odyssey (at least for someone mortal or not named Odysseus or Telemachus).  If we were casting “The Odyssey,” Eumaeus would be played by the revered, veteran actor whose performance sticks with you even as a minor part.  Think Charlton Heston as the player king in Hamlet.

On multiple occasions, Homer addresses Eumaeus in the second person.  He is the only character addressed in such a way.  It’s a bit curious, and may subconsciously play a part in why I like Eumaeus so much.  Homer’s choice to address him as “you, Eumaeus” subtly makes his character more real.  Couple that with my (and Ben’s) newfound disillusion with Odysseus, and it’s easier to relate to Eumaeus.

It’s hard not to develop an affinity for Eumaeus as he proves to be somewhat of an anchor throughout Odysseus’ long-awaited homecoming.  Not only that, but his woodland hut is ground zero for all the planning and scheming on how to facilitate this homecoming.  He’s a god-fearing, cynical, loyal, humble, swineherd who waits year after year for his master’s return.  As you may have guessed, Eumaeus had to be a Cubs’ fan.


Eumaeus, maybe this is the year…..

Follow-Up Questions

  1. Will there be an Eumaeus in Ulysses?
  2. Will he or she be as likable?
  3. What’s up with all the disguises and concealment?
  4. Is there an augur union?
  5. Does anybody else miss Andre Dawson?

Tomorrow is Bloomsday!!!

Hot air balloon races be damned!!!

Jump on the bandwagon!!!


Odyssey Funmaries #15: Oxen of the Sun (Book XII.CCLXXXII-CDXCI)


What a shitty trip. Odysseus must be a distant relative of Clark Griswold. Let’s look at the parallels.

Clark Griswold: Aunt Edna dies in her sleep. Clark and the family must drive their dead aunt to a relative’s house, earning bonus points for driving cross-country in the rain with a dead person on the roof.

Odysseus: His buddy Elpenor gets drunk, falls off the roof, and dies.  Odysseus must sail to Aeaea to bury him, although he does not put Elpenor on the roof of the Family Truckster.

Clark Griswold: Frequently notices a hot chick driving next to him.  Clark is also frequently foiled in his attempts to seal the deal (eats dog piss covered sandwiches, almost collides with a truck, gets caught with said hot chick in swimming pool by wife).

Odysseus: Notices hot chicks singing to him as he sails by.  Rather than dancing with a urine soaked sandwich, Odysseus asked to be tethered to the boat to keep from pulling over to try to nail the Sirens.

Clark Griswold: Drives in to East St. Louis, has hubcaps stolen. Roll ‘em up!

Odysseus: Sails between Scylla and Kharybdis, six men are eaten. Roll ‘em up!

Man, this vacation sucks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like things will get better for Odysseus just yet. You can imagine this as a deleted scene from Vacation. After all that Helen (Eurylokhos) wants to pull over for a while. Clark (Odysseus) isn’t sure, but finally agrees. “Okay, that sucked. Let’s pull over for a while to rest, BUT WE ARE NOT GOING TO MCDONALD’S (or eating the Oxen of the Sun)! I BROUGHT SANDWICHES (provisions in the hold of the ship)!”

Clark/Odysseus does not want the family eating the Oxen of the Sun for one important reason: they belong to Helios. And Helios loves his Oxen. I imagine the Oxen of the Sun taste like veal. I don’t know what veal tastes like because it is clearly wrong to eat veal. Just like it wrong to eat the Oxen of the Sun.

Everyone seems okay with the ground rules Clark/Odysseus lays out, but a storm comes along and they have to pull the car into a garage and park for a while (pull the ship into a grotto). Clark/Odysseus again reminds everyone not to go to McDonald’s/eat the Oxen of the Sun because he has more than enough sandwiches/provisions. Eventually the sandwiches run out and while Clark is taking a nap, Helen and the kids run to McDonald’s/slaughter and eat the oxen of the sun.

Clark/Odysseus is not happy. “Why did you go to McDonald’s/eat the Oxen of the Sun? I told you I had sandwiches!”

Nobody really has an answer for that, so our crew sets off again. After driving/sailing for a little while longer, Zeus sends an ass-kicking storm to follow the Family Truckster/Odysseus’ ship. This storm completely destroys the car/ship and kills the entire family/crew. Only Clark/Odysseus survives and he is carried by the storm back to…KHARYBDIS/EAST ST. LOUIS!!! We all remember from earlier in the trip that Kharybdis is a whirlpool that will ruin your day, much like a drive through East St. Louis. Somehow, Clark/Odysseus makes it through without getting sucked into the whirlpool or getting mugged. The only possible explanation for this: Zeus was watching over him. Clark/Odysseus eventually lands on the island belonging to Kalypso, a dangerous and beautiful nymph who “received and loved” him. Maybe Clark finally does seal the deal. Good for him.

This would be a pretty good deleted scene, but it didn’t make it into the final cut of Vacation. Maybe Clark got sick of telling the story, just like Odysseus did.

Countdown to Bloomsday…

 Page 1 of Ulysses awaits us this Tuesday!

Get on the Holiday Road to Wandering Rocks!

Odyssey Funmaries #14: Wandering Rocks (Book XII.LXI-LXXX)


Today’s 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 & Charybdis and the Oxen of the Sun (coming tomorrow!). The text amounts to a mere 19 lines, and yet Jerry Grit has chosen these lines to be the metaphor for our collective assault on the treacherous cliffs of Mt. Ulysses. And he has assigned me to write about them, even though he has already done so. It’s time we finally pulled the curtain back on this joker.


Jerry Grit, the College Years. (That’s my butt he’s touching.)

Let’s look at exactly how Circe describes the Wandering Rocks (or “Clashing Rocks” in the Fagles translation, although some scholars contend that the Wandering Rocks and Clashing Rocks [or Symplegades] are similar but in different locations):

But once your crew has rowed you past the Sirens
a choice of routes is yours. I cannot advise you
which to take, or lead you through it all —
you must decide for yourself —
but I can tell you the ways of either course.
On one side beetling cliffs shoot up, and against them
pound the huge roaring breakers of blue-eyed Amphirite —
the Clashing Rocks they’re called by all the blissful gods.
Not even birds can escape them, no, not even the doves
that veer and fly ambrosia home to Father Zeus:
even of those the sheer Rocks always pick off one
and Father wings one more to keep the number up.
No ship of men has ever approached and slipped past —
always some disaster — big timbers and sailors’ corpses
whirled away by the waves and lethal blasts of fire.
One ship alone, one deep-sea craft sailed clear,
the Argo, sung by the world, when heading home
from Aeetes’ shores. And she would have crashed
against those giant rocks and sunk at once if Hera,
for love of Jason, has not sped her through. (XII.LXI-LXX)

Translation: It’s your choice, Odysseus, but you’re dead meat if you sail for the rocks. Better go the other way even though that’ll probably kill you too.

The Jason and Hera reference is illuminating. You remember Jason and the Argonauts. Let’s pad this funmary watch the trailer. (Pay close attention to the “treacherous, falling rocks” at 0:53!)

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (and shame on you if not), Jason releases a dove to fly through the Clashing Rocks. It passes through but not without losing a few tail feathers. Surmising that they’ll be fine since they don’t have tail feathers, the Argonauts paddle really hard and pass through as well, except for losing part of the stern (the mascot). (The scene where Mr. Argonaut gives them a tongue-lashing for smashing up the family boat was left on the cutting room floor.) Once they have passed, the Rocks never Clash again. (The Clash, however, will never cease to Rock.)

So why does Circe tell Odysseus that “not even birds can escape [the Rocks], no, not even the doves”? Because she knows he won’t make it? Because, like many immortals, she can’t stop meddling with her mortal boy toy (although she’ll make a big production out of how the mortals have free will to decide as they please)? 

Whatever her motivation, Circe ensures that the Wandering Rocks, while mentioned, never make an appearance in The Odyssey. This begs the question: Why on earth did Joyce include them in Ulysses? I guess we’ll find out, unless Jerry wants to just tell us all now.

What should we make of the fact that Odysseus chose to avoid the Wandering Rocks and yet we humble tillers are sailing straight for them? Are we suicidal? Possibly. To some, most definitely. But given the pedestal I had put Odysseus on during my collegiate years, and given the drop in stature (both on a moral level but even more so on a basic competency level) Odysseus has suffered in this re-reading, dare I say that I’m excited to take the path Odysseus did not? Is this hubris? Will this be my hamartia?

This also begs the question: Who have you invited to Wandering Rocks

Countdown to Bloomsday…

 Page 1 of Ulysses awaits us next Tuesday!

Wandering Rocks won’t crush you if you just paddle really hard!

Odyssey Funmaries #13: Scylla & Charybdis (Book XII.CCLIX-CCCXXXVIII)


Just to recap our adventures with the Sirens………

Absolutely available on iTunes. Absolutely 5 star ratings.

Wax-free and arguably hornier (at least based on the fine piece of artwork above), Odysseus & crew find themselves approaching Scylla & Charybdis, a duo rivaled by maybe one or two others in terms of utter awesomeness.

You may be asking yourselves what any great leader of men would do when stuck between a rock and a hard place (sorry, I had to)?  Easy.  Pep talk.


have we never been in danger before this?

More fearsome, is it now, than when the Kyklops

penned us in his cave?  What power he had!

Did I not keep my nerve, and use my wits

to find a way out for us?

Now I say

by hook or crook this peril too shall be

something that we remember.

Heads up, lads!

We must obey the orders as I give them.

Get the oarshafts in your hands, and lay back

hard on your benches; hit these breaking seas.

Zeus help us pull away before we founder.

You at tiller, listen, and take in

all that I say-the rudders are your duty;

keep her out of the combers and the smoke;

steer for that headland; watch the drift, or we

fetch up in the smother, and you drown us. [12.269-287]

Inspiring.  Moving.  Impassioned.  Stirring.  In a nutshell,  we’re gonna survive because I’m so awesome.  But if we do die, blame the guy working the tiller.  Somewhere, Knute Rockne is rolling in his grave.  Ready to now go beat Navy charge forward, the crew sails on toward Scylla.  A bit clearer in regards to Odysseus’ thoughts on accountability, our humble tiller operator is probably thankful Circe steered them toward a six-headed monster already described as a nightmare that cannot die [12.139] as opposed to a whirlpool.

An aside:  Do you think Odysseus really sells this adventure to his men?  I mean he knows they’re gonna skirt by Scylla as opposed to Charybdis, and he knows six men will be killed.  He was pretty forthright with his crew regarding the Sirens, but chose not to clue them in to the other fun.  I can understand holding his tongue because there is nothing they can do, but does he at least play out the adventure?  Or do you think he comes across as someone who knows about their surprise birthday party, but tries to act surprised anyways?  I’m thinking he’s probably just going through the motions.

Anywho, as Odysseus and his crew spend the next bit rubbernecking at “that yawning mouth”[12.316] known as Charybdis, Scylla snatches up six of Odysseus’ best men for a snack.  Odysseus is a bit shaken by this, exclaiming that watching yet some more men (we’ve gotta be closing in on 4 digits lost under Odysseus) dangling from Scylla’s mouth(s) “far the worst I ever suffered, questing the passes of the strange sea”[12.334-335].  Which is saying something when you consider all the stuff Odysseus has gone through.  Yet the very next line after dropping these superlatives (worst ever!), Odysseus wraps up his tale in a pretty succinct and nonchalant fashion.

We rowed on.  “Superior moral fibers,” my ουσ.


Countdown to Bloomsday…

6 days away from page 1 of Ulysses

Perhaps Odysseus should have skipped Scylla & Charybdis

and headed straight for the Wandering Rocks.

Odyssey Funmaries #12: The Sirens (Book XII.I-CCXVII)

“Keep that beeswax lodged in tight, boys!”*


The Sirens episode in The Odyssey is among its best-known, and even someone who has never read the epic poem likely still has a mental picture of Odysseus lashed to the mast, or has once referenced some beguiling temptation as “a siren song” which must be resisted. This episode is often cited as the crux for the argument that Odysseus possesses a superior moral fiber.** To reference Jonah Lehrer’s recent (fascinating) New Yorker article, Odysseus is a “high denier.” He passes the marshmallow test.

A very brief recap of the specifics: Circe informs Odysseus that when he and his shipmates sail past the island of the Sirens, their “high, thrilling song … will transfix him” unless his crew lashes him to the mast, rope on rope. (And stop the crew’s ears with beeswax, Circe adds.) Odysseus advises the crew of the plan with the caveat, “If I plead, commanding you to set me free, / then lash me faster, rope on pressing rope.”

Hmmmm. Where have we seen this before?

Beeswax-stoppered, the crew sails on and — sure enough — Odysseus pleads. (Presumably some variation on, “No, really, guys! When I told you not to let me go I said it on Opposite Day, so what I really meant was for you to UNTIE ME FROM THIS EFFIN’ MAST RIGHT NOW.”) The crew sticks with the tough love (possibly because it can’t even hear Odysseus through the beeswax).

We can appreciate the depth of Odysseus’s self-restraint (and self-preservation) by referencing artistic renderings of the Sirens in all their resplendent beauty. After all, they don’t just sell coffee! Consider:


Wait … is that the right slide? That’s a Siren? And this is really on display in the Louvre? Oh. Well, let’s see what else we can find.

Sirena de Canosa s. IV adC (M.A.N. Madrid) 01

Seriously? Is someone pulling my leg here? She looks like a toad. And those webbed feet! I mean, it’s ghastly.

What about —


GAHHHH! Please, make it stop!

Hasn’t anyone captured the rapturous beauty of the sirens? Anyone?


Ah, yes! That’s the ticket! John Duigan’s 1994 film, The Sirens! Featuring Elle Macpherson. (Now there’s a siren.)

Of course, the Coen brothers took a stab at The Odyssey with O Brother, Where Art Thou? Here’s the Sirens scene as envisioned by the Coens, the key difference being that no one is lashed, especially the poor, helpless Tim Blake Nelson, whose face at the end of the clip pretty much says it all.


Countdown to Bloomsday…

We read page 1 of Ulysses in a week!

 Wandering Rocks is one Siren song you shouldn’t resist!


* = “Ulysses and the Sirens,” John William Waterhouse.

** = Is it really superior moral fiber Odysseus demonstrates here, or simply his competency in ordering himself to be tied up?