Homer's Iliad And Odyssey And Their Reception Mcs Essay

3204 words - 13 pages

Homer, Life and Death: Epic, its themes and the modern fantasy genre

Our admiration for Homer’s stories is deep-seeded, due its permanence as a central part of the oral tradition of Christian Europe since antiquity. Homer captivates his audience through the central characterisation of human heroes, something that makes it unique to other oral traditions like those of Mesopatamia and Egypt, that placed their focus far more on gods than heroes. In this vein the epics have held sway over storymaking ever since, possessing some evident parallels with the 12th century AD German epic the Nibenlunglied, which much like the Odyssey integrates human and supernatural elements to impressive lengths. One of the questions we can therefore pose is one that looks at the various qualities of the Odyssey that make it so relevant to today’s time, the contrasts it has to the ancient chivalry of the Iliad, its sister poem, and why both poems stand out as the sophisticated and timeless trailblazers of the fantasy genre.
Folklore and fantasy have strong ties going back millennia, so our discussion becomes one about the importance of folklore with each poem. This brings to importance the role played by bards, especially the role of Demodocus, the Phaeacian bard through whose songs Odysseus is inspired to pick up the proverbial lyre to tell his own tale- one of the more metaphysical moments of Homer’s work, since it is the same oral tradition that encapsulates the composition of the Odyssey and the Iliad. The issue here is, there is genuine evidence to suggest that fairy-tale writer Charles Perrault was inspired by the Iliad; The Teller's Tale: Lives of the Classic Fairy Tale Writers, a book by Sophie Raynard states the role of the Charles Perrault in “defining legend as folktale, more historically grounded than we imagine”. Perrault was not so much interested in the Iliad’s battle, but through its providence and the story of the origin of the Trojan War. In fact the he stirring up of trouble by the Goddess Eris, who finds herself uninvited by Thetis and Peleus to their wedding feast, is imitated by the wicked Thirteenth Fairy of the popular story of Sleeping Beauty, which Perrault published a version of in 1697. Homer himself utilises fantastical elements and pairs them with real places; that said, there is a degree of poetic licence undertaken by the poet, who is not specific in where he locates a lot of the stories’ most frequented venues, including Ithaca, and this location has been subject to debate which reaches the overall conclusion that the island is somewhere off the coast of the western Peloponnese- this demonstrates to us that our trying to be scientific about Homer has limits- his art truly belongs with the poets and folktellers, not with historians. It must be said his art was an inspiration both for Herodotus’s Histories which primarily focus on communities and their heritage, similar to the Odyssey, as well as Thucydides, whose focus on wars pay...

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