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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Classics Summarized: The Odyssey

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So the Odyssey, or as I like to identify it, Troy Story II, is something of a sequel to the Iliad,

chronicling the various happily ever afters, (or otherwise), of our favorite Greek heroes.

But really what it's mostly about is how much the universe hates Odysseus,

and wants him to suffer for as long as humanly possible.

Seriously, in the 10 years it takes him to get from Troy to Ithaca, this guy gets put

through more crap than a 20-pound bag of industrial-strength Huggies, sized for incontinent bulls.

So the Odyssey begins with our hero, who's been stranded on an island for seven years

with no company other than a gorgeous, lonely, immortal goddess by the name of Calypso.

Terrible, right?

Well actually it does kind of suck for him, because what he wants more than anything is to get back home

to Ithaca - specifically back to his lovely wife Penelope, and his now adult son Telemachus,

who Odysseus hasn't seen since he was a baby - and in fact the story initially focuses on these two.

See, since almost everyone thinks Odysseus is dead, Penelope is now widely considered to be

Ithaca's most eligible Bachelorette, and as a result she's got more than a hundred potential suitors queuing up

in her castle, demanding that she pick one of them to marry her and become the new king.

Her son Telemachus is none too pleased about the suitors throwing a never-ending frat party in his house.

Now by the time our story begins, most of the gods have decided that poor Odysseus has suffered enough at this

point, so Athena disguises herself as a dude, drops down into Ithaca, and then tells Telemachus,

"Hey, your dad's alive! Maybe you should go try and find out where he is."

So Telemachus, who's a pretty smart kid, immediately figures out that this dude is actually a god,

and thus takes her at her word.

But before he leaves, Telemachus tries, and fails, to kick the suitors out of his house.

And they're like, "Ooo...is wittle baby Telemachus gonna fight us?"

And Telemachus is like "Shut up! I'm gonna find my dad, and he's gonna beat you up."

So Telemachus secretly assembles a small, loyal crew, acquires a ship, and sets off in search of news.

The first place he goes is Pylos, home to King Nestor. So Telemachus is like,

"Hey, do you have any idea where my father is?" and Nestor's like,

"Well, let me think back to when I last saw him. Oh right! It was nine years ago during the Trojan War.

Agamemnon and Menelaus were arguing, which had split the army down the middle,

so Odysseus, Diomedes, Menelaus, and I took our armies and left. Although, Odysseus did turn back

to head off Agamemnon, and that's the last time I saw him. I don't know what happened after that though.

Maybe you should go talk to Menelaus, see what he has to say about the matter."

So Telemachus goes off to Sparta and meets with Menelaus and Helen, now happily remarried,

and Telemachus is like "Yeah, can you tell me where my dad is?" and Menelaus is like,

"First let me tell you MY story. Ok, so I was marooned on this tiny island off the coast of Egypt, right?

When this goddess shows up, and she's like

"Hey, you should talk to my dad Proteus. He'll tell you how to get out of here."

So I went off and tackled the guy, but he starts shape shifting, right? But he can't shake me that easily!

So he got tired of that pretty quick and he was like "Screw it, what do you want?" and I was like,

"Do your thing, oh god of telling me stuff." And he's like

"Fine, you're stranded here because you forgot to sacrifice to Zeus before you left.

Also, Ajax the Lesser drowned, Agamemnon's dead, and Odysseus is stranded on Calypso's Island."

And Telemachus is like "That's literally all I needed to hear."

But back in Ithaca, the suitors have learned that Telemachus left to find news of Odysseus,

and they find this very offensive for some reason, so they start plotting to kill him as soon as he gets back.

Man, Penelope sure knows how to pick 'em.

Now, on Zeus's orders, Calypso finally lets Odysseus go, so he heads off homeward on a raft.

But Poseidon, who's holding a grudge against him for reasons that'll be explained later,

notices that he's trying to escape and whips up a huge storm in an effort to drown him.

But Odysseus is far too badass to let a little thing like drowning get him down,

and he's doing pretty well for himself when yet another goddess shows up,

gives him a magic anti-drowning scarf, and then vanishes. And Odysseus is like,

"Huh, why would I need this when I have a perfectly serviceable raft?" *CRUNCH* "Okay then."

So Odysseus swims all the way to nearby Phaeacia, drags himself into the forest, and passes out.

So Athena, always looking out for Odysseus, zips over to the city and tells the princess Nausicaa

"Hey, you should go down to the forest." and she's like "Great idea!"

So she heads over to the forest and finds Odysseus, just like Athena planned.

So Nausicaa brings him back to her parents, the king and queen, and Odysseus tells them the story

of how he came to be stranded on Calypso's island.

*Transition noise*

So it's just after the Greeks have sacked Troy, and Odysseus advises the others to quit while they're ahead

and sail back to Greece. But of course they don't listen to him,

and by next morning they're overrun by a retaliatory force.

Odysseus and some of the others take the ships to escape, but Zeus is angry at the Greeks

for their poor sportsmanship, and sends a huge storm to blow them off course.

Odysseus and his crew are swept far out to sea, and that's when the weird stuff starts happening.

So first, they wash up at the land of the lotus-eaters, which is populated by these really mellow dudes

who eat lotuses. Anyone who eats a lotus mellows out and wants to stay there forever,

so of course most of his shipmates eat them,

and Odysseus has to drag his idiot crew back the ships by force.

So they set out again, only to wash up on the island of the cyclopses, where they see a nice-looking cave

surrounded by delicious-looking flocks of sheep.

Unfortunately, the cave is home to a large hungry Cyclops by the name of Polyphemus,

who seals them in with an enormous rock, kills two of the crew, and then falls asleep.

Since they can't kill him without trapping themselves in the cave, they bide their time until the next night,

when Odysseus gets Polyphemus drunk, introduces himself as Nobody,

and then when Polyphemus passes out, they take a large wooden stake and stab out his eye.

So Polyphemus is like "Aaah, help, Nobody blinded me!" and all his Cyclops friends are like

"Yeah, yeah, you're hilarious. Polyphemus, is nobody stealing your flocks too?"

So Polyphemus opens the cave to check, and Odysseus and remaining crew bolt for the ships.

Then Odysseus- remember, the WISEST of the Greeks - takes it into his head to taunt the Cyclops.

So he's like, "Hey, guess what dumbass? My name's not nobody; it's Odysseus!"

And Polyphemus is like "Dad, Odysseus gouged out my eye."

So funny story: all cyclopses are children of Poseidon, so Poseidon hears about this and he's like

"Oh really? Time for some disproportionate retribution."

So after that point, he starts trying to make Odysseus's journey home just as difficult as godly possible.

So after that little adventure, they land on the Aeolian island, where the King very nicely gives them

a magic leather pouch full of wind to speed them on their way home.

But we can't give Odysseus a break just yet - they're maybe 10 feet off the coast of Ithaca when his

idiot crew decides that the magic bag has gold in it, and bust it open. The resulting HURRICANE sweeps them

all the way back to the Aeolian island. So Odysseus is like, "Hey, got another one of those magic wind bags?"

But the King's like, "Not for you dude, you've got to be super cursed to have that bad luck, get off my island."

So next they arrive on the Laestrygonian island, populated entirely by cannibal giants.

When they start eating the majority of Odysseus's crew,

Odysseus and the other survivors get out of there as fast as humanly possible.

Next on this mythological island world tour, they come to the Aeaean island,

where Circe, the daughter of Helios lives.

Circe is a sorceress, and some wicked hankering for bacon makes her take it into her head to turn

Odysseus's rapidly dwindling crew into pigs.

Odysseus learns of their tragic swineification and resolves to rescue them.

So Hermes gives Odysseus some anti-magic drugs so that Circe won't be able to enchant him.

Y'know, for someone who the gods supposedly hate, Odysseus sure does seem to get a lot of help from them.

So Circe's like, "Here, have some enchanted booze!" and Odysseus is like "Awesome", drinks it,

fails to turn into a pig, and then draws a sword on her. So she's like

"Wait, wait, I'm a mage, I have like two hit points!"

And he's like "Then I suggest you turn them back before I have to whittle that number down to zero."

So she does, and then they all chillax on the island for like a year.

So then Odysseus is like, "Yeah, we should probably be getting back." And Circe's like,

"Well, fine with me, but first you gotta go talk to Tiresias. I mean, he's the one who knows how to get you home."

"Oh yeah? Where can I find him?" "He's dead."

So Odysseus and crew sail down to Hades. They do this wacky ghost summoning ritual, which ends up attracting

a few other ghosts they weren't looking for, and then Tiresias shows up.

He's like, "What's up Odysseus? Poseidon's determined to screw you over, but you all might make it back

as long as you don't harm Helios's pet cows that can be found on Thrinacia.

If you do, though, your entire crew will die and you'll be home, like, super late."

And Odysseus is like, "Cool! You heard the man folks, no hurting the cows."

Then Odysseus has a little touching reunion with the ghosts of all his now dead Greek war buddies.

Like Agamemnon, very grumpy at being dead,

Achilles and Patroclus, now hetero-death partners,

*Romantic Music*

and Great Ajax.

Then Odysseus sails out of Hades, and back to Aeaea, where Circe maps out the route back to Ithaca.

Which for some reason is extremely densely populated by monsters. So first, they find the island of the sirens,

who sing so beautifully that anyone who hears them will be entranced, jump off the boat,

and swim to their deaths.

So the crew block their ears with beeswax and keep rowing, but Odysseus is really determined

to hear their song, so he has them tie him to the mast so he can listen without doing anything stupid.

The sirens are likeTurn the beat around

and Odysseus is like "Release me, I must hear their dulcet tones up close!"

and his crew is like "What?"

So they get out of earshot of the sirens, only to encounter the monsters Scylla and Charybdis.

So Scylla is one ugly piece of work: she's a six-headed monster at the top of

a giant craggy cliff whose heads reach all the way down to the ocean to devour

any unfortunates who happen to drift too close. Charybdis is like a combination garbage disposal

and malfunctioning garbage disposal, that sucks in the ocean and then spits it back out again.

So as they're trying to find a way to sail between the two without running into either the cliff or Charybdis,

Scylla eats six of his crew members. On the bright side, this means her mouths are full

so she can't eat any more of them. So Odysseus and crew take the opportunity to gun it between them.

They finally come across Thrinacia, more easily pronounced as the Island of the Sun,

where despite Odysseus's prophecy based protests, they land and rest for the night.

But then, Zeus strands them on the island for more than a month.

At this point the food Circe gave them starts to run out, and Eurylochus,

a somewhat mutinous crew member who has inexplicably survived everything up till this point,

is like "Hey, what if we sacrificed one of these lovely golden cows to the Gods?

We'd get to eat it, AND leave the island." and Odysseus is like

"Damn it! what did Tiresias say?"

And Eurylochus is like "Oh wait, too late, I seem to have killed one."

So when they finally set sail, Zeus hits the ship with lightning.

The boat explodes, the entire crew dies,

and Odysseus is left clinging to a single timber from the boat, silently

contemplating where everything went wrong. Then, adding insult to injury,

Zeus sends a wind to blow Odysseus back to Charybdis, who eats the rest of the boat.

A few hours later when Charybdis pukes up the timber, Odysseus hops onto what's left of the boat

and paddles the hell out of there. Nine days later he washes up on the shore of Calypso's Island,

and the rest is questionably reliable history.

So Odysseus finishes telling his story and the king is like "Dang dude, want a boat?"

And Odysseus is like "Yes please."

So the King gives him a ship and crew, along with a few tons of fine treasure,

and Odysseus naps all the way back to Ithaca. And who can blame him?

So that's the end, right? He's made it back to Ithaca; so that's it, right?

Nope! We're barely halfway through this book. Come on, give the man a break!

So Odysseus is finally home in Ithaca, but there's one small problem:

the suitors are still making trouble all up in his backyard. But Athena, as always, has a plan.

She magically disguises him as an old man, then goes off to Sparta to bring Telemachus home for the reunion.

Odysseus, now disguised, goes off to talk to some loyal swineherd.

Meanwhile in Sparta, Athena's like, "Yo Telemachus, get your butt home."

So Telemachus sets sail for home, along with several gifts from Menelaus and Helen.

Oh and he's also joined by this dude, uh, Theoclymenus, who's a prophet and a fugitive from Argos.

While Odysseus and the swineherd bond, Telemachus and Theoclymenus arrive at Ithica,

and knowing that the palace isn't necessarily safe for either of them,

immediately head off to the friendly neighborhood swineherd's house.

So Telemachus is like "Swineherd, my man, how are things up at the castle?"

and the swineherd is like "Uh...still pretty bad..."

and Telemachus is like, "Oh good, nothing's changed."

And Odysseus is like, "Come on kid, man up. Why are you letting these suitors strut around YOUR house as if

they own the place? I mean if I were, say, the king himself, returned in secret from all my, I mean his,

travels, why, I'd strut right in there and kill all of 'em."

and Telemachus is like "Yeah, you're right! It's just too bad you're not him."

and then Athena's like, "Hey Odysseus, I've decided you should reveal yourself to your son!"

and rips the illusion off of him. So, Odysseus is like, "Hey son, I'm home."

and Telemachus is like "daaaaaad" and it's all super heart warming.

Pause for a moment to absorb the feels.

So Odysseus and Telemachus start plotting their revenge on the suitors. Meanwhile, back in the castle,

Penelope and the suitors -a good name for a band by the way-

learn from the swineherd that Telemachus is back and the suitors are like,

"Ah... dammit, our ambushes failed.

Guess we'd better kill him right here before he can tell everyone that we tried to kill him."

and Penelope is like, "What? How dare you plot to kill my son!"

and they're like "What, no, we didn't say that." and she's like "Oh, okay."

So the next day Telemachus returns to the palace, while Odysseus,

once again disguised as a beggar, goes into town. So Telemachus tells Penelope about his journey,

although he leaves out the part about Odysseus, and his new prophet buddy, Theoclymenus, is like

"The really weird thing is, I'm getting a sense that Odysseus IS here in Ithaca."

and Penelope's like "Man, that's just ridiculous."

Meanwhile, Odysseus and the swineherd head for the palace,

where the disguised Odysseus is immediately recognized by his old dog Argos.

God, this story is so adorable.

Then the dog dies.

*Sadness*

Whyyyyyy!

So beggar Odysseus begs scraps of food from the suitors, who generally oblige,

except for this one guy who throws a stool at him. So the suitors get pretty

boozed up and start talking smack to Odysseus, but then Telemachus is like

"Sleep it off you drunks!" and they all go to bed. Then Odysseus and Telemachus put their plan into motion.

First they hide all the suitors' armor and weapons upstairs. Then Odysseus goes to talk to Penelope,

who he promises that before the end of the month, Odysseus will return. Hint, hint.

Penelope asks beggar Odysseus if he thinks she should remarry, and Odysseus is like,

"No! No... I'm sure your husband will be back real soon to murder all your suitors. Don't sweat it."

and she's like "Man, I don't know... tell you what. Tomorrow I'll hold a contest among the suitors

and anyone else who wants to try, and only a man just like Odysseus will be able to win

and become my husband."

And Odysseus is like "That's a great plan! Do exactly that."

So the next day all the suitors assemble, still trying to figure out how to discreetly murder Telemachus,

when Penelope unveils her secret plan.

So, some context. Odysseus had this crazy strong recurve bow.

It was a really cool bow, but it was a present and he never ever took it to war

so it was still locked up safely in the palace basement when he left for Troy.

Now, this bow is ridiculously strong, but Odysseus never had any trouble dealing with it,

because as mentioned previously, he's a badass. So Penelope's like,

"All right everyone, no more delays. I'll marry the man who can string this bow most easily,

and then use it to shoot through these twelve axe heads."

Now this bow has a draw strength of something like 500 pounds, so none of the

suitors can even bend the bow far enough to string it. And then beggar Odysseus is like,

"Hey, uh, just for kicks... can I have a look at that bow?" and the suitors are like,

"Suure, pftt, this is gonna be good."

And then of course, Odysseus strings the bow easily.

Then he casually shoots an arrow through all twelve axes, and then, it's murderin' time.

Odysseus reveals himself in all his glory, the suitors start panicking, and Odysseus and Telemachus engage

in some healthy father-son bonding by killing nearly all of them.

After wreaking bloody vengeance on his enemies and then after a nice long bath,

Odysseus is finally, FINALLY reunited with Penelope.

Then Athena persuades the entire rest of Ithaca not to take vengeance on Odysseus

for killing the entire noble population, and they all lived happily ever after.

♪ 'I'm Gonna Be' by the Proclaimers

The Description of Classics Summarized: The Odyssey