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Episode 2: Odysseus Starts his Story

Teaching activities

  • Starting points
  • Follow-up
  • Further activities
  • Odysseus as storyteller: In Episode 1 we began by listening to storyteller Hugh Lupton speaking as himself. Then we heard him speaking as the storyteller Demodocus. In this episode our other storyteller, Daniel Morden, speaks as if he is Odysseus. He tells the story in the first person, from Odysseus’ own mouth. It is first hand, describing Odysseus’ own feelings. (Think about how you feel when you hear someone telling their own story, first hand, and describing their own feelings and reactions.)

  • Links: What are the last words we heard in the first episode? (I have used several names but the name by which you would know me is Odysseus.) These words will be used again to start this episode. They form a link. (Show how this story is organised into episodes with links.) Where else do you find links (in a chain or bracelet) and how is a story like these objects? Do you know of links from TV?

  • Create a timeline: A timeline can help students see that the story takes place over a long period, and help them follow the potentially confusing changes in chronology. Try starting with a blank line and mark “Odysseus leaves Ithaca for Troy” near one end and “Odysseus returns from Troy to Ithaca” near the other. Events can be placed along this line as we learn about them, so students can see how the whole story structure works and to help record the order in which events happen. This is important because in any story, events will not always be told in the order in which they actually happened. Start by showing the time that Odysseus is thinking back to — the time before the war with Troy, and explore the way this narrative text is structured.

  • Odysseus: What made Odysseus question whether he should go to war? (The birth of his son Telemachus.) Talk through the things he did in an attempt to appear mad. They seem strange. They are not things we would do today. What would you do to make people think you were mad? Odysseus says he was known for being clever and cunning. This could be the first characteristic to put around [pdf] his picture. What else have you found out about his character? (E.g. his actions provide evidence that he had become home-loving, unwilling to leave his son.)

  • The wooden horse: Does anybody know the story of the wooden horse? What is a siege? Whose idea was it to build a hollow horse? (It was Odysseus’.) We don’t know what the horse looked like. Ask learners to design and label the horse. We need to think about how big and high it would need to be for the men to fit inside. How can they get in and out? How could they move it with all that weight? (Learners could take on different roles in a group to manage, discuss, draw and report back their decisions.) Afterwards, look at the [pdf] downloadable illustration to compare ideas.

  • The hero’s welcome: What does Odysseus mean when he says that he could see his homecoming in his “mind’s eye”? What does he imagine it will be like? (Find the words that he uses to describe it.) Here he is remembering a time in the past, when he was looking to the future. Use the timeline (activity below) to help understanding of that complex sequence. Put his words near the end of the timeline, ready to compare with what really happens. We have not got there yet!

  • Timeline: Ask for ideas about what can be added. Plan out the timeline together. Mark on it the events we already know of. (Ten years of war; arriving at the island of King Alcinous; leaving for home after the war.)

  • Suspense: The Cyclops story is tense. As they listened, did they feel worried for the men? At which points and why? Together map the uncertainties the men faced. Match these uncertainties to points in the story. (What will we find? Is he friendly? Will he swap things? Will he kill us?) Uncertainties like these create suspense. Try some ‘what if…?’ questions. (What if the Cyclops eats me?) Did the performance of the storyteller add to the suspense? (Consider how Daniel Morden pauses, and uses his voice to make changes of pitch and pace. Try reading a part of the story in this way.)

  • What could they do?: “We were trapped in that cave!” This is a cliffhanger ending! A new question arises; ‘How can we escape?’ More suspense! How does the use of the gong add to it? Who can remind us how and why the men are trapped? (Retell the events leading up to that moment.) Odysseus is their leader and must come up with a plan. Give learners some sentence starters (maybe, what if, perhaps, we could, could we). Ask them to work in pairs. One child continues the sentence to suggest a way of escaping. Their partner points out what might go wrong with the plan. (Use talk to explore ideas.)

Writing an ending to the story: This activity results in writing an alternative ending to the story which they can later compare with the actual ending.

This could be a shared or individual writing. Using the transcript for the story of the Cyclops, look at how the story is told. (It is written in the first person, repetition is used to give it a pattern, when there is action the sentences are short.) Develop ideas from the paired or small group discussion about ‘how could we escape?’ to write one or more possible conclusions to the story. (Write maintaining the stylistic features and viewpoint of the storyteller.)

Visual aids

The wooden horse

Based on a clay relief storage vessel, c.670-650 BC, Mykonos Museum
With naive simplicity the artist shows the wooden horse brimming with soldiers ready to spring out and slaughter the Trojans once the horse has been dragged inside the walls of Troy. The horse is already equipped with wheels to make the process easier.

Suggested activities
Discuss the design of the horse. Do you think it would work? How would the Greek soldiers get in and out? Their heads are shown but where would their bodies and legs be? Is the artist trying to draw a realistic image or simply give an impression?

Find other illustrations of the Trojan horse and compare.

Line drawing of the Trojan horse, filled with Greeks, advancing on the Trojans