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Episode 8: Shipwrecked
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
The cattle of the sun-god
Odysseus recognises the island as that of Hyperion, the sun-god. In the land of the dead Tiresias had warned him not to stop at this island or to feast upon the cattle so he tells the crew to voyage on. Eurylochus speaks angrily on their behalf. He demands that they stop and rest. Odysseus agrees but they must promise not to harm any of the cattle. Storms prevent them from leaving. Supplies of food run out. Odysseus realises they are in a trap. He leaves the men in order to offer sacrifices. Waking from a deep sleep he finds that the storm has calmed. He is joyful until he rejoins his men: he finds them around a fire eating the carcasses of two of the cattle.
Odysseus sees the carcasses open their lipless mouths and moans. The meat is cursed! Odysseus is starving but does not join his men in eating. As they row away from the island Hyperion cries out for vengeance. Zeus sends a thunderbolt. The ship is dashed to pieces. The storm that follows is like no other. Between them Poseidon and Charybdis claim the lives of all of the men except Odysseus. He reaches out and clutches first a branch of a fig tree and then a piece of wood from the ship. He clings to this for many days and nights.
A mortal choice
Odysseus is found on the shores of an island by the nymph Calypso. She falls in love with him and for seven years offers him eternal life in return for staying with her. Odysseus refuses. He wants only to live, grow old and die with his wife. Eventually, supported by Athene, he sails away on a raft, survives another of Poseidon’s storms and is washed up on the island where we now find him: the island of King Alcinous. King Alcinous promises to send a high-prowed ship to carry him home to Ithaca.
- Starting points
- Further activities
The prophecy of Tiresias: Remember that Odysseus had gone to the Underworld to hear these words. It is only through following them that he can escape Poseidon, and return safely to Ithaca. Read out the words of the prophecy ( Episode 6 transcript p. 2 lines 8-14). Keep these in mind while listening to the rest of the story.
Fate: What did Odysseus mean when he said: ‘It would be hard to cheat Poseidon of his quarry’ and ‘the men ate their fill and sealed their fates’? Was he right? What is Odysseus’ fate? How will this story end?
Sacrifices: Twice in this episode a sacrifice is made to the gods. What is a sacrifice? Who made these sacrifices and why? (Odysseus made offerings to ask the immortals to end the storm — then he was able to fall into a deep sleep. The men offered the best cuts of meat and the storm ended within moments — but the meat was cursed: they should not have eaten it and were punished through the storm which took their lives.) What other sacrifices do we remember? (Sheep in the land of the dead.)
The trap: Odysseus says ‘I began to see the nature of the trap in which we were caught.’ How were they in a trap? (Together, draw a storyboard to trace the series of events that led the men towards their death.) How could they have known where these choices would lead? (Ask learners to imagine they are the men, then, to establish their viewpoint, question them about the choices they made.) Were there times when Odysseus could have acted differently and changed their fate? (Refusing to land on the island? not leaving the men? not sleeping? telling them of the words of Tiresias?)
Hyperion’s revenge: This is a dangerous and action-packed section of the story. (Ask learners to consider how Daniel Morden’s use of his voice and choice of language communicates the danger, pace and action.) First listen again to the section ‘Hyperion’s revenge’ ( transcript p.2 line 5 to the end). What happens to Daniel Morden’s voice when telling it? (Rapid speech; few pauses; gradually raising the pitch; slowing right down and lowering his voice at the end when Odysseus is floating and helpless.) Now use the transcript of this section to see how he chooses words and puts together sentences. Highlight examples. (Short or broken sentences to keep things moving; lists within sentences; repetition of words to show intensity; powerful vocabulary choices in short phrases; description of all the senses; use of images.)
Lives lost: What words does the storyteller use to show that all the men are dead? (Bobbed lifeless in the brine.) Now Odysseus is alone.
Odysseus’ name: It is all he has left.
Fate: Reflect on all that has happened in this story. Do you think it shows that man can cheat fate? Can Odysseus change what the gods have planned for him?
Odysseus’ biggest decision: Calypso offered Odysseus eternal life, if he stayed on her island. For seven years Calypso tried to persuade him. Yet Odysseus wants only to return to his home and family. (Use ‘conscience alley’ to investigate this difficult decision.) The class makes two lines facing one another. Odysseus walks between the lines, as learners from alternate sides voice thoughts for and against accepting the offer of eternal life. At the end of the line he makes his final decision. As preparation, look at Episode 6 again. Think back to the horrors of the land of the dead. Recall the words of Achilles whom Odysseus met there. To become immortal would seem the best gift of all.
The ending: How does this ending link to the start of the story? Did you notice how the voice of the storyteller changed? Where have we heard that voice before? (It is the storyteller from Episode 1. We first met Odysseus washed up on a beach and taken to King Alcinous’ palace. He began to tell his story and now he has reached that point — where he arrives on King Alcinous’ island. Now we know how he got there.) Use the timeline to make this clear. (Understanding and interpreting text: Identify the structure and organisation of the text.)
A Treasure chest of stories: This activity finishes with learners creating a treasure chest containing chosen objects to remind them of the stories.
Look back over Odysseus’ voyage. It is full of adventures, and small stories within the big story. For each story agree upon a significant object which reminds you of what happens. For instance you could begin with the golden apple that Paris gave to Aphrodite, or a sack for the winds of the world. Now think of the treasure chest that Athene and Odysseus hid in the cave. Imagine what it was like. In your mind’s eye examine its lids and sides. Open it up. Use what you see in your imagination to design and make your own treasure chest. It will hold all of your objects, as story reminders. Stories to treasure: a treasure chest of stories!