O is for — Odysseus, from Homer’s The Odyssey
“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold on the proud height of Troy.”
I had to memorize those first four lines, along with some other passages, in one of my high school English classes, some thirty-plus years ago. To this day, I can still recite the first two lines from memory, which amazes me since half the time, I can’t remember what day of the week it is.
This is another one of those books I had fully expected to dislike or be bored with. But the more I read, the more I realized the poetic translation from the Greek original wasn’t that difficult to understand, and the exciting adventure it told made the reading well worth the effort. Who can forget Odysseus’ battles with Polyphemus the Cyclops, or the sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis? His ten-year struggle to return home after the fall of Troy is truly epic.
The story has been brought to the big screen a number of times with varying results. I enjoyed the 1954 version, entitled Ulysses (Odysseus in Roman mythology), with Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn. The movie takes liberties with the book as all movies do, but it’s still an entertaining production. From what I’ve read, the 1997 TV miniseries, The Odyssey, with Armand Assante is also quite good. It’s currently on my very long to-be-watched list.