Featured Image: “John William Waterhouse – Ulysses and the Sirens (1891)
How much do you know about the Odyssey and the Iliad?
If you’re like me, the answer is – Nothing! If you’d asked me yesterday to identify the author, I would have told you (after checking with Google), that it’s “Homer”.
Which is strangely reassuring.
After all, the thought of a single person writing two timeless classics is inherently annoying to any writer who has taken pen to paper in an attempt to become known. It relieves some of the pressure to think the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey is actually a thousand-year parade of around-the-campfire spellbinders who memorized and refined tales that people wanted to hear.
But as a single individual, “Homer” may not have existed at all.
This casual dispatching of such a famous storyteller is completely in keeping with the contents of the Iliad, which is, after all, wholesale bloodshed. The story is a catalog of who impaled whom on the battlefield, and how the Gods were appeased by sacrifices that were flayed so their meaty thighbones could be cooked. Who knew someone would someday come along and flay the very idea of Homer himself?
Or as the author(s) might have said it:
“Adam sprang on Homer and took him alive as he was entangled in the crush; but he killed him then and there by a sword-blow on the neck. The sword reeked with his blood, while dark death and the strong hand of fate gripped him and closed his eyes.”
That’s it. No time to dally. So long, Homer, hello Oral Tradition!
I thought an epic poem should be written to mark the passage of this individual who probably never was, but of course I can’t write or recite an epic. I’ve tried and the result was excruciating for everyone involved.
The best I can do is come up with a bit of doggerel.
The guys who told the Iliad
were not much fun to know.
They’d memorized each stabbing
and each cutting, lethal blow.
They spat them out for listeners
who came to hear the gore.
An awful catalog of woe,
with spikes and blood and more.
Their plots had lots of detail
but their credits, a misnomer.
They were storytellers sure enough,
but not one guy named Homer.
How are you as a storyteller?