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Episode 9: A Stranger in his Own Land

Teaching activities

  • Starting points
  • Follow-up
  • Further activities
  • Home again: Use the [pdf] story map to show where the ship takes Odysseus. His travels will soon be over.

  • The curse of Polyphemus: Look again at the curse. Do we know it from memory now? Say it together. What has come true so far? (He is home alone because his men have all been killed; he is under a strange sail as he is not in his own ship but the ship of King Alcinous.) In this episode Athene will disguise him so that he will be unknown. She will remind him of the curse and tell him something of which he is not yet aware: there is danger waiting where there should be a welcome.

  • Being undercover: Have you ever seen TV documentaries or dramas where people go ‘under cover’? They might be doing secret filming or investigations. Reporters take on a different identity so they can find things out. We are about to see Odysseus do this. Athene tells him to listen and learn.

  • Athene: She is the goddess of war but also of wit and wisdom. Odysseus is known for the way he uses clever ideas to get out of difficult situations. Athene has already helped Odysseus (in building a raft to leave the island of Calypso) and will continue to do so. Listen out for ways in which she does this.

  • Odysseus is transported to Ithaca by King Alcinous’ men: [pdf] Illustration. Use this illustration to focus on the reversal of roles for Odysseus. He is no longer the active leader staying awake, being in charge of his own ship, and making decisions. Instead he is asleep and helpless. King Alcinous’ men are gently placing him on the ground on the shores of Ithaca and watching over him. Notice the treasures.

  • Odysseus then and now: Look at [pdf] the picture of the head of Odysseus. Read all of the ideas written around it. These link to the journey. Now much has changed, so let’s work out what. Give a statement card to each child. Some statements are about Odysseus in the past, some about Odysseus at this point in the story. (Some statements to use: a god against him/a god on his side; travelling/staying in one place; known to everyone/unknown; as himself/in disguise; telling stories/listening to stories; impulsive/restrained; a young man/an older man; one of a group/alone; leading/following; dreaming of a glorious homecoming/coming home to danger; main speaker/silent; important/humble; strong and awake/weak and asleep; king/beggar.) Ask learners to find the person whose card pairs up with their own. (They will need to talk to sort the information and draw it together. Pairs can then present their explanations to the class.)

  • ‘While you have been away’: Listen again to Athene quickly telling Odysseus what has happened during his absence. This is a summary. Detailed description, similes and conversation are left out because there are lots of facts to communicate. Remind them of how Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden bring stories alive by bringing in such description. Model this to them. Select an element from the summary and expand it. (Organise some pair work in which learners tell this story quickly to their partner, but in an exciting way, adding detail.) After every minute the partners swap roles and so take several turns. (Babble gabble technique.)

  • The timeline: Athene’s summary could be put on the timeline. Where would you put it? (Parallel to Odysseus’ story: it took place at the same time.)

  • Odysseus undercover: What was he disguised as? (An old beggar.) Remember he was told to listen and learn? What did he find out through being in disguise? (From Eumaeus all the stories of what had happened while he was away; that Eumaeus is loyal to Odysseus and can be trusted; that Eumaeus welcomes people as decreed by Zeus, whatever their status.)

  • Athene: How did she help Odysseus? (Watched over him while he slept; dragged the chest to a cave; covered the island with a mist; told him about what had happened while he was away; changed him into a beggar; advised him to stay with Eumaeus; warned Telemachus that his life was in danger.)

Drama — Odysseus sees his son… at last!: This activity results in communicating through drama the thoughts and feelings of Odysseus when he first sees his son.

Listen again to this episode’s final section: where Telemachus appears in the doorway. Odysseus says nothing. But thoughts and emotions must have rushed in. This is the son he did not see grow up. How does it feel to meet him? (Remember Odysseus chose his family instead of eternal life.) Give the class [pdf] the transcript of these two paragraphs. (Drama: Use a range of drama strategies to explore his feelings.) Decide the layout of Eumaeus’ hut and the positioning of the characters. While the passage is slowly read out, three learners in role act out the scene. As the scene closes create a freeze frame. Consider carefully how body shape and positioning can show the emotions of Telemachus, Eumaeus and Odysseus. The rest of the class make a circle around Odysseus. One at a time, they say out loud the unspoken thoughts of this character.

Visual aids

Return From Troy, Episode 9

Based on L’Odyssée d'Homère gravée par Reveil d'après les compositions de John Flaxman (Paris, 1835)
After wandering for twenty years, Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca with the help of King Alcinous’ men. Notice the care with which the sailors lie the sleeping Odysseus down. At his feet are some of the items he has been given as gifts along his journey. Odysseus’ sufferings, however, are not over yet!

Suggested activities
Think about what would be in the background here. Learners could draw the ship to emphasise the fact that Odysseus came in a ship under a strange sail. The shore and mountains of Ithaca which Odysseus described long ago could be shown and perhaps Athene, invisible but standing over Odysseus to care for him.

See also teaching activities for Episode 9.

Line drawing of the sleeping Odysseus being carried ashore by the Phaeacians, along with gifts from Alcinous.