Monday, October 15, 2012

Mythology Monday

So we're not actually changing the name to Mythology Monday, but we are giving a little bit of a mythology lesson this week. (And by "we," Cassy really means she, because for all the mythology I learned in 19 years of formal education, I remember very, very little of it. So I'm more on the learning side than the teaching side of things this week, which is fun!) We're going to be reviewing The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood at the end of the week.  The book is based off of the myth of Penelope and Odysseus.  Atwood actually has become quite fascinated with Penelope's version of the tale and has decided to tell her own version.

"But what's the tale of Penelope and Odysseus?" you might ask.  (As I did.) Well, I'm so glad you did!  Because I'm going to tell you.  Sure, we've all heard of Odysseus (went off to fight the Trojan war for ten years, pissed Poseidon off right at the end and so it took him yet another ten years to get home.  Talk about your bad luck.)

However, right before Odysseus left, he had a wife and a kid and then bam.  Left for twenty years (so his kid barely knew him and then was an adult when his father returned.)  While no one really bothered Penelope too much during the Trojan War (after all, it was a big deal and she was a fairly intelligent woman), when Odysseus didn't show up after it was over, everyone presumed him dead.  And then Penelope was bombarded by suitors.  They came into her home, ate her food and drank her wine.  As usual, no one thought a woman could rule, so clearly she had to be married.  

But Penelope never did marry.  In fact, she used every trick in the book to hold them off, including making a burial shroud everyday and then unraveling it at night.

"But why ever would she do that, Cassy?  It seems so counterproductive."

Well, yes, but that was the point.  She told her suitors that once it was finished, she would choose a suitor.  Ergo, if she never finished it, she would never have to choose a suitor.  This went on for three long years before one of her maids discovered her and ratted her out to those pesky suitors.

Odysseus finally came home and killed all the suitors (mind you, because of another trick from his wife) and they were happily reunited.  But not before he killed twelve of her maids.

Now, the idea is that the maids had either betrayed her (ok, that seems reasonable) or slept with the suitors (excuse me, what?).  Atwood has never really liked this explanation for the maids.  She's always felt that there was something more that went on with them.  And what did Penelope think of the whole situation?  Her husband was hardly faithful in all those years that he was missing, yet she was unendingly faithful to him, only to have him come home and kill her staff.

That's just a little back story on this week's book.  Stay tuned for our review of The Penelopiad on Friday!

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