Odyssey Book 2 – Her Milkshake Brings All The Boys To The Yard
So where were we….
The morning after Athene’s visit, Telemachus, son of Odysseus, calls a meeting in the town. He enters, carrying a bronze spear, with two dogs at his side and states his grievances: the loss of his father; the constant hounding of his mother Penelope by all her suitors, who it seems aren’t only after her milkshake:
They slaughter our oxen, our sheep, our fatted goats; they feast themselves and drink our sparkling wine – with never a thought for all the wealth that is being wasted.
He begs the suitors to leave and let them grieve for Odysseus in private, then crumples to the floor in tears.
Interrupting the ripple of sympathetic ‘Ahs’ going round the room, Antinious leaps to his feet in the suitors’ defence. He claims that Penelope has been ‘leading them on’ all this time, tantalising them with – wait for it – her handicraft skills and feminine wiles. *sigh*. Unless Telemachus sends his mum back to her Dad’s house, for him to choose her a replacement husband, they’re going nowhere.
Telemachus points out that if he did that, his Mum would summon the wrath of the Furies on them all, so he refuses.
Now Zeus has been watching all this, and decides to intervene. He sends a pair of eagles down from the mountain side by side as a sign. When they reach the assembly, they cast meaningful Paddington stares at the crowd before tearing each other apart.The local bird omen specialist is summoned to interpret, however, having declared that calamity is a’coming and Odysseus is homeward bound, Haliserthes gets shouted down by the suitors who claim his bird-reading skills are bunkum and poppycock.
I can’t help thinking that being a god and all, Zeus might have considered developing his communication skills a little. I can see that a pair of fighting eagles is fabulously dramatic, and it keeps the likes of Haliserthes in work, but it would have been more efficient to get a plane to trail a banner over the assembly, or he could have used the holy megaphone, effortlessly combining drama and clarity: ‘This is the voice of Zeus….’ Actually, I suspect that Zeus was rather partial to a cryptic crossword, and just wanted to make his subjects work for their divine intervention – clarity be damned!
Back in the assembly, Telemachus asks for a ship and crew to go and seek news of his father in Sparta (SPARTA!). If he hears confirmations that his father is dead, he’ll return, perform funeral rites, and see his mother remarried. Everyone agrees, mainly relieved to get the pesky little sniveler out of the way, and they all go home for tea.
Athene pops up again in disguise and commends Telemachus for his bravery and public speaking prowess. She advises him to go home and store up provisions for the journey in secret, and to leave the rest to her. Having found the best crew and galley that Ithaca has to offer, she lulls the greedy drunken suitors to sleep, so Telemachus and his long-haired crew can safely set sail across the wine-dark sea, in search of Odysseus.