Odyssey RAL – Books XVIII–XXII

Odyssey read-alongI skipped the previous two Odyssey posts, awful of me, I’m a terrible read-along participant… BUT I have been reading and thoroughly loving the Odyssey so far. We’re now at book XXII, nearing the end, and a lot has happened. But let me just talk about this particular book. It’s what we have been waiting for: Odysseus reveals himself and kills – slaughters – the suitors. I’m just going to share some of my favourite passages from this book (and there are many many more that are worthy of being shared) because I’m lost for words.

Leiodes then caught the knees of Odysseus and said, “Odysseus I beseech you have mercy upon me and spare me. I never wronged any of the women in your house either in word or deed, and I tried to stop the others. I saw them, but they would not listen, and now they are paying for their folly. I was their sacrificing priest; if you kill me, I shall die without having done anything to deserve it, and shall have got no thanks for all the good that I did.”

Odysseus looked sternly at him and answered, “If you were their sacrificing priest, you must have prayed many a time that it might be long before I got home again, and that you might marry my wife and have children by her. Therefore you shall die.”

With these words he picked up the sword that Agelaus had dropped when he was being killed, and which was lying upon the ground. Then he struck Leiodes on the back of his neck, so that his head fell rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking. (Translation: Butler)

The Suitors, by Gustave Moreau. 1852 or 1853
The Suitors, by Gustave Moreau. 1852 or 1853

(I had the pleasure of seeing the above work of art in person at the Musée Gustave-Moreau in Paris and wow, goosebumps. Images online don’t do justice to Moreau’s work…)

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the way the scene with the suitors was described in book XXII was… I don’t know how to describe it, but oddly moving? There were a lot of layers to this book, and many different emotions. Odysseus’ rage. Suitors begging for their lives. Revenge. But also the final paragraph:

Then she went inside to call the women and tell them what had happened; whereon they came from their apartment with torches in their hands, and pressed round Ulysses to embrace him, kissing his head and shoulders and taking hold of his hands. It made him feel as if he should like to weep, for he remembered every one of them. (Translation: Butler)

And the following scene, which came before. I should explain a little why I want to share this with you. A while ago I read Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, so I was preparing for this moment. The Penelopiad was definitely not my favourite book and I had some issues with it, but it did make this passage stand out to me:

Then when they had made the whole place quite clean and orderly, they took the women out and hemmed them in the narrow space between the wall of the domed room and that of the yard, so that they could not get away: and Telemachus said to the other two, “I shall not let these women die a clean death, for they were insolent to me and my mother, and used to sleep with the suitors.”

So saying he made a ship’s cable fast to one of the bearing-posts that supported the roof of the domed room, and secured it all around the building, at a good height, lest any of the women’s feet should touch the ground; and as thrushes or doves beat against a net that has been set for them in a thicket just as they were getting to their nest, and a terrible fate awaits them, even so did the women have to put their heads in nooses one after the other and die most miserably. (Translation: Butler)

One Comment

  1. No worries, you are doing better than your host. I am behind with my postings, I’m not sure what has happened to this month, but it has been flying by.

    I finally posted for Chapter 11/12 yesterday. Posted a catch-up for the Candide RAL I’m participating in as well today. I am hoping sometime this weekend I can get a few more post up between some commitments.

    Glad to hear you are enjoying the book! It isn’t nearly as intimidating as it is perceived to be. Seeing the actual artwork in person, how awesome. I am thankful that the internet has allowed these hidden gems to be seen by those of us not fortunate enough to travel the world and visit all the museums. Even if it isn’t quite as awe inspiring as in person, it is something.

    Thank you for sharing these passages, I always enjoy seeing what sticks out to others as we read along in a book.
    Plethora recently posted… Candide RAL – Update 2My Profile

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