The Odyssey In The Odyssey, the act of storytelling plays a significant role in revealing the story of Odysseus. Each storyteller reveals a part of the past of Odysseus and his heroic deeds. Each of their stories gives insight into what a hero should be, according to the standards of the Greek society, and they each reflect a different aspect of a hero. When pieced together, each story becomes part of a whole, however, each has a different function within the epic. Some may not contribute to the hero directly, but teach a moral or lesson to the audience listening to the story. The audience directed towards is the Greek society and the morals are taught by storytelling. By using storytelling, a hero is often created as the ideal and spread throughout the land to become a legend In The Odyssey, there are many storytellers that contribute to the creation of the hero, Odysseus.
Storytelling within the story creates a fictional world in which the characters play in. We, the audience, are in the same position as character listening to the story first hand as well. Each story teaches a different moral aspect that the hero, Odysseus, has to the audience. Although The Odyssey is narrated through Homer, the poet, there are so many storytellers in the story, that the epic becomes a multiple narrative, encapsulating many different aspects of great archaic heroes. Odysseus is the one who reveals the most about his past and where he has been for the years between the Trojan War and the present. Helen and Menelaos tell the stories of Odysseus’s tactile ways during the Trojan War and reveal a great hero to Telemakhos, Odysseus’s unknowing son. The Sirens, beautiful as their song is, tell a profound story of Odysseus and the Trojan War, which lead men to a potential death. The explanation of where Odysseus has been is told by Menelaos in Book IV, leaving the audience at Calypso’s island.
In book IX, Odysseus begins to tell his story from the time of the Trojan War to Calypso’s island, approximately eight years. The story of Odysseus, before his homecoming, approximately 18 years, is condensed into the next two books. This condensation is also shown in the storytelling of Menalaos and Nestor when they tell their stories of other Archaen heroes. It is also significant that the entire section of Odysseus’s trials is told by Odysseus himself, rather than Homer, the narrator. There are several reasons for this.
By making Odysseus a great storyteller, Homer adds to the evolution of the hero’s own fame. Odysseus can spread his own fame of how great he is and how much of a hero he really is. For example, the famous story of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, was only known to his shipmates who traveled with him and Polyphemus himself. Alkinoos would not have known this story otherwise, if Odysseus had not told him. Not everyone knows of all the adventures that Odysseus has been through, except for Odysseus. His entire crew who did travel with him and live through his adventures has been killed.
There would be no point in a hero who could not tell his story, because he would not have the ability to reveal the variety of heroic deeds he has done to his audience. What makes Odysseus a hero is the stories told about him that are spread throughout the land to make him known as a hero and a legend. Although Odysseus is not a braggart, he does hold himself in high esteem because he knows of his fame. He demonstrates this by saying, ‘Men hold me formidable for guile in peace and war: this fame has gone abroad to the sky’s rim.’ (Book IX, Line 21) Another reason for Odysseus being the storyteller of his past is because of the function of a poem during Antiquity Ages. Homer knew storytelling was an oral tradition, which involved a live audience, namely the Phaecians.
The audience was being told by Odysseus himself, as if the audience, or reader, was part of Alkinoos’ court listening to his story. Odysseus tells the story in the book because it follows the oral tradition, as if he is talking to you directly, like in the antiquity. The use of Odysseus is also helpful to the audience because it brings the action of the story to us. The audience gets a primary source for the actions that took place, therefore the audience is more involved and the source is more credulous because it involves the primary source, Odysseus. Odysseus is a “tragic hero”, according to Aristotle in The Book of Poetics, because of certain aspects that Odysseus has. Aristotle says that a tragic hero is a relatively noble character with one fatal, tragic flaw. The hero is a common man, in between pure evil and pure goodness, and the purpose of the story is to reinforce the moral framework of the society during those ages.
A strong example of Odysseus’s “tragic hero” characteristic is in the story of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus. The audience can see Odysseus’s tactile ways when he gets the Cyclopes drunk with wine and slowly he falls into a deep sleep, and he stabs in the eye with a spear, and says his name is “Nobody.” Odysseus finally escapes from the giant, hiding underneath the belly of the sheep. However, as he sails away, Odysseus’s pride overcomes him and he mocks the Cyclopes and he yells out his real name. This act leads to his misfortune and costs him several more years away from home because Polyphemus’s father, Poseiden makes Odysseus’s journey even longer. Odysseus’s tragic flaw in this episode is his pride and gloating, even though he demonstrated heroic and clever abilities escaping from the giant. A pattern among the crew and Odysseus is also evident in his story.
Odysseus’s crew plays a large role in the misfortune of Odysseus and eventually their own deaths …