Odyssey RAL – Book I-IV

Odyssey read-along I just now finished books I-IV of the Odyssey. I must say I’m really enjoying it so far! The Odyssey as well as the read-along. In this post I’m a little ahead of Cleo and Plethora who have made posts on books I and II.

As said before, I’m mainly reading Butler’s translation, but I’m now and then comparing fragments to other translations (Lattimore’s and Fitzgerald’s). It’s really fascinating to compare these different translations. The story told, the contents, are pretty much the same. The style and the wording however are completely different (and all delightful in their own way).

Anyway. Books I-IV. I am convinced my fellow RAL participants are doing a far better job at saying something useful. Plethora and Cleo both mentioned the twenty years!! that have passed since Odysseus left. Twenty! We are now talking about a new generation, something we are not made to forget (‘son of…’ ‘son of…’ ‘daugter of…’). So far, in books I-IV, the fathers are the wise informants, the sons are undertaking the journeys. Menelaus has returned home safely and his kingdom is prospering. Odysseus is gone and, as Cleo mentioned, chaos has ensued in Ithaca…

Then the other point: Why does no one know whether Odysseus is alive or not? This is where I am slightly ahead. In book I we are already told about Odysseus situation, stuck on Calypso’s island. By book IV there is still uncertainty among everyone whether Odysseus is alive or not, but the latest update comes from Menelaus’ story of Proteus. But Telemachus is still left uncertain, and Penelope knows no more than she did before Telemachus left…

I am completely inspired by Plethora to share some art, at least one piece, with you.

Helen Recognizing Telemachus, Son of Odysseus by Jean-Jacques Lagrenee, 1795
Helen Recognizing Telemachus, Son of Odysseus by Jean-Jacques Lagrenee, 1795

That’s another reason I’m already glad to finally be properly reading the Odyssey. There is so much, so much wonderful art out there based on the Illiad and the Odyssey. The epics inspire. And by the time I’m finished with the Odyssey (and the Illiad later) I will be able to appreciate art in a different way too 😉


  1. I have finally posted my update for Books III-IV here.

    You will find such wonderful artwork depicting things from the ancient period, I hope Cleo and myself can continue to inspire you. Great piece to share, I think Helen recognizing Telemachos was an important point in the story, how powerful of an impression Odysseus must have made on Helen for her to recognize a son she has never seen as his.

    The twenty year gap helps to explain why the young suitors seem to have no respect for Odysseus house, they don’t know him. He is a figment of imagination almost, their fathers marched off to war with Odysseus and carried with them the knowledge and respect for the king.
    Plethora recently posted… Odyssey RAL – Update Books III – IVMy Profile

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