A Mid-Week Post to Shake Things Up
Penelope and the Suitors by John William Waterhouse
Well hello again! Not to confuse everyone, but I'm putting up our next article mid-week for a change, because I've got a thing this weekend and may not get to it otherwise. Surprise!
Hands up if you love Greek mythology! Of course you do. I'm sure you've read some version of the Odyssey at some point. Odysseus fights the Trojan War and then takes ten years to get from the west coast of Turkey to his island of Ithaca on the west coast of Greece.
He was the cleverest man in Greek myth, but somehow it took him a decade to travel a distance of some mere 600 or so nautical miles.
He might be forgiven his terrible navigation because there were gods and monsters actively hindering his progress. Also, he didn't have a woman with him telling him to just pull into a harbor and ask for directions, already!
Not to mention he was lingering along the way for some sweet nymph lovin' here and there.
But we are told that, despite his philandering, that his one goal was to return to his island kingdom of Ithaca and his faithful and beloved wife, Penelope.
Meanwhile, Penelope had troubles of her own. While Odysseus was presumably fighting off monsters and dogging around with demigoddesses, she had to hold his kingdom together, raise a son on her own and fend off a pack of opportunistic suitors looking to marry her for her wealth, gobbling up her son's inheritance and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
The article this week is a book review of Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, a fresh retelling of Penelope's story. It's a sharp and entertaining take told by the faithful wife herself, freed now from the weight of other people's opinions, because she's dead.
No need to mince words anymore, I guess.
Her story is witty and heartbreaking by turns, particularly as it relates to the twelve maids. The maids are merely glossed over in the Odyssey. Homer tells us that they slept with the suitors, and Odysseus in his rage at their supposed betrayal of him had them clean up the blood of the suitors he killed and then hanged them.
(You know, I'm starting to think Odysseus was kind of a jerk.)
Penelope's story has a different perspective on this - in fact, on nearly everything.
I've always been a big fan of the retelling of stories we think we know, told from a different point of view. The Penelopiad doesn't disappoint.