The Odyssey by Homer
Read by Anna/Central Teen Room
The word “odyssey” means a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc. The origin of this word stems from the epic poem Homer wrote depicting the long journey home of King Odysseus, known as The Odyssey. A whole twenty years prior to the start of the epic poem, Odysseus took soldiers to Troy in order to fight in the Trojan War. The trip should have been easy. He should have returned straight home to his wife and son on his native lands of Ithaca, but thanks to Zeus and the other Gods, the return journey was fraught with dangers and troubles. It took him ten years to get home, and lots of cunning to escape the fantastical creatures and Gods and Goddesses who wished to detain him. He went down into the darkness of the Underworld to talk with those who had died during the Trojan War. While he was known to be one of the best fighters in war, he fought a cyclops, not with swords, but with cunning words and actions. He told his men to lash him to the mast of the ship in order that he might hear the sirens call to him to turn the ship into dangerous waters bent on his destruction, but so that he would be able to do as they wished. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife was besieged with suitors who were eating her out of house and home, taking no cares in how many pigs and cows they slaughtered for their daily feasts and ignoring their own flocks. They each yearned for her to take another husband while it was assumed King Odysseus had been killed at war or on his return journey home. Queen Penelope held her ground and would neither wed another man nor send them away, leaving her son, Telemachus, to deal with them as best he could until his father could return home.
When I decided to reread this for my summer reading list this year, (I originally read it in 10th grade English, I think.) I decided to listen to the audio version for several reasons. Reason one being the long and unfamiliar names. When I read them in my head, I often change the pronunciation because I’m never sure what it should be. Having a narrator read to me, means the pronunciations will always remain the same. And reason two, the narrator was Sir Ian McKellen. Yep, that really awesome British actor who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and other great, well known characters. What better guy could you get to read the story of Odysseus? I ask you, and I doubt you’ll come up with one. If you do, you’ll have to let me know who it is. I found his voice was perfect for telling an epic tale. While he didn’t read it as more modern narrators will, giving different voices and accents to different characters, it wasn’t hard to determine who was speaking at all. I highly recommend this just for Ian McKellen’s voice alone. If this is something you have to read for school, the audio book just might help get you through it.
On one hand we have this amazing audio book, but on the other we must consider the epic poem written by Homer, that is so much more than just a plain old poem. It literally is an epic fantasy. It includes many Gods and Goddesses, a cyclops (a giant with one large, round eye in the middle of his forehead), sirens (sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing), a centaur (one of a race of monsters having the head, trunk, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse), and many other characters Odysseus must fight against to win his freedom and be able to finish his journey home. While most of the story is told by different characters telling the story to others, it is certainly not boring by any sense of the word. Unless, of course, you aren’t into poetry, fantasy, adventures, and a little violence. (There are some pretty bloody battles that get depicted in this epic, especially toward the end.) If, however, these are things that do interest you, I urge you to check out this book, either in audio or in print. Minus any notes, appendixes, and introductions, the poem is roughly 400 pages and the audio book is around 13 hours. While that may seem like a long book, because it’s in poem format and because there are a lot of action scenes, the story seems to move at a quick pace for the most part. There’s a reason The Odyssey is continually reprinted and translated after it was initially written in either the late eighth or seventh century B.C. I really enjoyed rereading this, and getting myself reacquainted with the story years after my first reading, and I think you’ll like it too.