Book 8 – In Which Odysseus Spins Some Discs And Just Can’t Stop Crying
To get with the program, you can find previous posts here.
Moved by Odysseus’ bum shuffle in hot ashes, King Alcinous arranges for a ship to be made ready to take his guest on his way complete with a full crew of fifty-two. Before setting sail, Alcinous arranges a great feast for all, and calls for Blind Lemon Demodocus to sing and play the lyre for their entertainment. His songs are so moving, Odysseus has to pull his hoodie up to hide his tears, so all the other big boys don’t see him cry.
After the feast, Alcinous suggests they all pop outside for a spot of exercise, which is probably not advisable straight after eating, as his idea of exercise involves running, boxing and wrestling. After watching the races, jumping, and rounds of boxing and wrestling, Alcinous’ son, Laodames challenges Odysseus to pick a sport and show them what he can do, but feeling like he’s grappled with more than enough challenges of late, he refuses. Euryalus, the wrestling champ calls him a chicken, which stirs the wrath of Odysseus.
Odysseus is livid. He turns to the pile of throwing disks and picks up the biggest one and hurls it into the air. It spins into the far distance beating all the other throws by a huge amount. Still raging, he then turns to the assembled athletes and challenges them to ‘Come and have a go, if you think you’re hard enough’ or words to that effect. Alcinous tries to diffuse the situation saying he hopes that Odysseus will remember his hosts, the Phaeacians as being good runners and sailors. And especially fond of feasts, and the lyre – they really love the lyre – and dancing. Also hot baths, and bed, they all love a nice bed. But what they love most of all, is an abundance of clean linen.
While Alcinous is regaling Odysseus with a few of his favourite things, Blind Lemon Demodocus starts to sing about the doomed marriage of Hephaestus and Aphrodite. The poor lame blacksmith is heartbroken when he discovers that his wife is having an affair with Ares. Hephaestus fashions an unbreakable net out of chain links which he attaches above the bed. After tricking the lovers into thinking he is going out, he doubles back, and catching them entwined, traps them in his net. He calls on Zeus to repay all the gifts he bestowed when taking his daughter as his wife. The gods all rally round and have hysterics at the lovers’ plight. Poseidon promises Hephaestus justice if he frees them, saying that if Ares does not pay his due, he will take the debt upon himself. Ares scarpers to Thrace, while Aphrodite escapes to Paphos in Cyprus.
At the end of the song, an experimental dance troupe do a turn with a purple ball and everyone claps. Relieved to see Odysseus in better spirits, Alcinous gives him some lovely new outfits and gold in a nice chest and the remorseful Euryalus gives him a bronze sword. Then Odysseus goes off for a hot bath and to change into some of his new clothes before dinner.
He spots Nausicaa on his way back to the party, and she wishes him well, reminding him not to forget that she saved his life. He gets Blind lemon Demodocus some food and asks him if he’d sing the one about the Wooden horse. Once again, it’s not long before he’s crying like a baby, and Alcinous begs him to tell him who he is and of his travels so he might know the source of his deep grief.