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Episode 5: Bewitched

Teaching activities

  • Starting points
  • Follow-up
  • Further activities
  • Now what?: Recap the problems which Odysseus now faces. (He had angered the sea god twice - first blinding the Cyclops, then by allowing the winds to be released; a curse hangs over him.) He needs to get home to Ithaca, but is travelling by sea. Can he succeed with Poseidon against him? Where can he turn for help?

  • Myths: Talk about why we call some stories ‘myths’. Explain and list the following features in particular: changing from one life form to another; being in disguise; having magic powers; being given special tasks; prophecies being made. There will be examples of all of these in this episode. We will look out for them.

  • Characters: Think back and list those we have met so far. Discuss whether they are gods or mortals. Describe how you will use cards to record characters — like a database. In this episode listen out for a character from Episode 1. We also meet a new goddess. Will she bring trouble, like Poseidon did?

  • Myths: Did they spot these examples? Changing form (men turned into animals); disguise (Hermes in the guise of a beautiful young man); magic powers (the powers of Circe); task (Odysseus had to put moly in his cheek); prophecy (Circe had had a prophecy that a man would come whose name would mean ‘trouble’). There might be more. Discuss them. (Identify and describe features of myths.)

  • Odysseus: We see the contrast between the character of Odysseus and of his men, at the beginning of the episode. What did each do? (The men sat on the beach, weeping; Odysseus explored the island.) Odysseus showed strength of character. Later Hermes says he must show strength of character in another situation. (He must keep the moly in his cheek.) What about Odysseus’ promise to stay with Circe for only a month? (Ask the class to explain their views on this, perhaps leading to a vote.)

  • Odysseus’ name: We hear one name that is told in a prophecy and another that tells of his family relationship. What are they? (They say my name means “trouble”; Laertes’ son.) Do you have more than one name? What are you called by different people?

  • Map: Put the island of Circe on [pdf] your map and mark in north, the direction in which they must travel next.

  • Hermes: Who is he? Where have we met him before? (The messenger of the gods. He brought the message from Zeus to Paris asking him to choose who should have the golden apple.) His sandals are winged and he can fly. Do you know of any other characters who can fly? (Superman, Harry Potter…) What gives them the power to fly?

  • Circe: How is she described? (Long-limbed, pale-skinned, dark-haired and dark-eyed.) This is another way of describing people by starting with body parts — remind them of seeing this before (e.g. describing themselves, the Cyclops, Poseidon). How long has Circe waited for Odysseus? (100 years.) So how then do we explain that she is still young? (She is a goddess — they do not die like mortals.)

  • Character cards: Add Circe to the character list. Make 3 cards for each of the characters, one to show his name and picture, one to describe and give information about him and a third to say whether he is a god or a mortal. (Refer to the ‘Character and places’ lists.)

  • Odysseus and the sorceress Circe: [pdf] This illustration is on a cup. It is different from the cups that we are used to. It shows Circe in the centre, giving such a cup to one of the men. She is the main character. Can you find Odysseus? What is he holding? Look carefully to see which parts of the men have changed to animal form, and which are still human. Can you identify any of the animals or are they fantasy creatures? Notice how the bodies are still human-like. Try drawing men changed, or half-changed, into other animals. What would you change into?

Musical composition — Circe’s magic charms: This activity results in presenting a musical composition to retell a scene from this episode.

Listen again to the part of the story where Circe changes the men into pigs. Imagine it as part of a film. Think what the soundtrack might be like. With voices or instruments compose a background sound — an ambient sound — to create a mood of magic and mystery. Notice a sound effect of the falling stool, during the telling of the story. Find ways of making musical sounds to represent the touch of the wand, the falling goblets and the pigs flopping from their stools. Experiment with glissandi and graduations of pitch and dynamics to convey the shrinking and growing of arms and legs. Compose a short melody as Circe’s signature tune. It should express her character.

Visual aids

Odysseus and the sorceress Circe

Based on an Attic archaic kylix (cup) attributed to the Polyphemus Boston painter, c. 550-525 BC, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Odysseus (far right) approaches the sorceress Circe with his sword drawn and wearing a cloak. Circe stirs the contents of a cup she has just taken from the man facing her, who is in the process of being transformed, and has the head and neck of a boar. A dog sits on the ground between Circe and the transforming man, looking toward the sorceress. Others of Odysseus’ companions surround Circe, each partially transformed.

Suggested activities
Part of this vase is missing so the drawings of some characters are incomplete. Ask them to speculate as to what the missing part of the drawings might show. They can draw in their ideas but should use a distinctly different colour to show that their drawing is not the authentic version. We cannot be sure of what is missing, so we must make it clear that this is only a suggestion.

Line drawing of Circe, surrounded by human-animal hybrids and with a dog at her feet, stirs a bowl full of potion. On the right, Odysseus draws his sword.