In ancient Greek society, the mistreatment of strangers was considered to be a serious offence. Hellenic culture was encouraged to cultivate ethics, an attitude of welcome, and was very proud of its hospitality to strangers. The Greek word for hospitality, philoxenia, literally means “love of strangers”. Homer might have had such a definition in mind while introducing the theme of hospitality in his epic poem, The Odyssey. His idea correlates with those of his time.
I realized in the sixth episode (The Princess and the Stranger) that the reason for such a prominent position on this theme made by the author was due to the importance of this subject in society at a time of strong belief in divinity and superstition. However, in a similar story that takes place in another part of the world, in another period of time, we once again come across the same theme of hospitality. This is the story of Tristan and Isolde, a sweeping tale of love and loss, based on a timeless Celtic myth of star-crossed passion.
In both of these timeless classic stories, the main storyline begins when a young, beautiful princess finds a lost, foreign stranger in desperate need of help. Whether it is by providing vital medication for a poisoned wound, or simply providing the necessary tools for bathing and clothing, both these princesses greet these strangers with unquestionable hospitality and generosity, and eventually fall in love with them. After hearing of Odysseus’ bold and courageous adventures, the Phaecian princess, Nausicaa feels compelled to provide him with everything and anything he needs. “But now, seeing you’ve reached our city and our land, / you’ll never lack for clothing or any other gift…” (Book 6, line 210) She then takes him back to her father’s castle, where he is heartedly welcomed, and is even offered the princess’ hand in marriage, along with a house and great wealth. On the other hand, when Isolde, the fair princess of Ireland, finds Tristan, a brave English warrior, she saves him from imminent death and keeps him in hiding, in fear that someone should find him and kill him. As she cares for him, the two fall in love, and become caught up in a forbidden affair, threatening to tear apart an uneasy peace between England and Ireland. Separated by loyalty to their king, they must suppress their emotions for the sake of their country.
Much later in the story, when most of the excitement has died down, we once again find the theme of...