Odyssey – Book 4 – The Old Man of the Sea – so much better than a Sat Nav.
Telemachus and his pal Mr Pee (Peisitratus), rock up to Menelaus’s house only to discover that wedding celebrations are underway. Menelaus’s equerry Eteoneus suggests the the old hide behind the sofa and pretend no-one’s home method of social avoidance, but the generous Menelaus berates him, telling him to invite the strangers to join them, after all it isn’t everyday that you marry your son to a girl from Sparta (SPARTA!), and your daughter to be wed to the son of Achilles, (bearing a gift basket with a selection of organic ankle ointments for her father-in-law, no doubt).
After Telemachus and Mr Pee have been washed, primped and fed, they talk to the red-haired Menelaus about his travels, while relaxing in his luxury gold and silver pad – clearly minimalist chic has yet to have its moment in Lacedaemon. Seeing their wonder, Menelaus says possessions don’t make you happy, and he’d trade the lot to see his friends and relations returned from death – well, up to two thirds of them at a pinch.
When he mentions the loss of his great friend Odysseus, Telemachus’s sorrow doesn’t go unnoticed. Just then the beautiful Helen turns up accompanied by handmaidens, with her silver wheeley-trolley of handcrafts in tow – because the knitting bug can hit at any time. Seeing their miserable faces, she slips some happy juice into the wine to lighten the atmosphere (‘I’m coming up so you’d better get this party started’) and in the absence of Netflix, suggests they tell each other stories to pass the time.
Helen starts reminiscing about the time when she absconded with Paris to Troy, while the two guests blush and stare fixedly at the floor. She praises Odysseus’s bravery, cunning, and daring, locating her and helping Menelaus and his men fetch her back home, generally saving the day for one and all. By then, the thrill of the affair had worn off and she was beginning to miss home.
I was already longing to go home again. I had suffered a change of heart, repenting the infatuation with which Aphrodite blinded me when she lured me to Troy from my own dear country and made me forsake my daughter, my bridal chamber, and a husband who had all one could wish for in the way of brains and good looks.
Not to mention that wheeley craft trolley!
The next day, Telemachus tells Menelaus that he is the son of Odysseus (you don’t say!) and is looking for his father. Menelaus is outraged when he hears how Penelope is being plagued by suitors and exploiting their hospitality and he tells Telemachus all he knows about Odysseus’ last known whereabouts.
Forgetting to pay homage to the gods, Menelaus had found himself and his crew stranded with dwindling supplies, miles from home and with no idea how to get back. Luckily, Eidothee, the daughter of Proteus – the Old man of the Sea – appeared and told him that if he trapped her father, he’d tell him not only the route and distances home, but also what had been happening in his palace, while he’d been away.
Catching Proteus was a little tricky, involving wearing stinky seal skins as a disguise, then holding tight while he used his ninja skills to change into a lion, a snake, a panther, a boar, running water, and a tree. However, he eventually tells them how to get home, reminding them to offer sacrifices to Zeus and the gang before doing anything else. He also tells Menelaus that Odysseus had been taken captive by the Nymph Calypso, and is trapped on an island unable to escape.
On hearing this, Telemachus begs leave of Menelaus, and despite being offered and turning down many generous gifts – horses, chariots, a nice mug, he manages to set off in grateful receipt of a luxury mixing bowl (Kenwood, obviously).
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…….. the suitors discover that Telemachus has set sail, and shake their fists at the boy’s tenacity. They plot to capture and kill him on his way back. Penelope also discovers that her son has gone to sea without saying goodbye, and the suitors are plotting to trap him on the rocky isle of Asteris. It’s all too much and she falls into a swoon. She prays to Athene asking her to protect her boy, and the goddess appears before her as a Princess Iphthime to assure her of her son’s safety. However, the disguised goddess remains evasive over the fate of her husband Odysseus. His fate is still very much in the lap of the gods.
Until next time……..