Day 41: The Land of the Dead

Today we focused on the Land of the Dead episode of The Odyssey.

1. Spelling: traveling, refrigerator. Traveling only has ONE L and refrigerator is spelled differently than fridge. reFRIGErator. The spelling quiz is on Friday.

2. Land of the Dead review. Students should be able to answer the questions

  • What does Tiresias tell Odysseus not to do? (Answer: kill the cattle of the sun god, Helios)
  • What will happen if he does not obey? (Answer: He will come home to a “world of pain,” all his men will be dead, and suitors will be trying to court his wife. The reader already knows that this is basically true.
  • What do you think Odysseus will do? (Answer: We know that he will most likely kill the cattle of the sun god because Tiresias’ prediction is already true.)

3. Listening to Land of the Dead. We listened to a section of the Land of the Dead episode that is left out of the textbook. The Ian McKellan audiobook is excellent and we listened to about five minutes of it in class. Here are the main points from the listening:

  • At first Odysseus sees that his mother isn’t looking at him. He is confused, but Tiresias tells him it’s because she must drink the blood of the sacrificial sheep before she can speak to him.
  • After his mother drinks the blood, she wonders why Odysseus is in the underworld, as it is difficult for mortals to get there. She realizes he hasn’t been home to see Penelope since the battle of Troy.
  • Odysseus asks his mother how she died and whether his father, son, and wife are alright.
  • She tells him that Penelope has not wed any of the suitors. Telemachus is doing his duties as a young nobleman. His father, Laertes, however seems to have lost his will to live: he sleeps in servants’ quarters, dresses in rags, and, in the summer, sleeps in between the rows of vines on a pile of dead leaves. Laertes has lost his will to live (and perhaps some of his sanity) after 1) losing his son, Odysseus, 2) losing his wife, and 3) seeing his property overrun with suitors.
  • Odysseus’ mother then tells him that she died of grief over his absence. We discussed whether or not Odysseus is responsible for his mother’s death. Yes: He had plenty of time to get home and the gods are only mad at him because he refused to make sacrifices to them in the first place. No: Poseidon has blown him off course many times and he is generally an unlucky person. It was not his choice to go to war — it was a calling.
  • Odysseus tries to hug his mother but realizes she is only a spirit and has no material being.

4. Notes on Odysseus’ name: for your Literature section or to copy down into your book

Odysseus comes from the Greek verb odussomai meaning both to hate and to be hated. It is also related to the verb ôdinô, meaning to feel pain. Thus, the name Odysseus is translated as man of pain.

HW: Read “Scylla and Charybdis” and “Cattle of the Sun God” by Friday. Take notes on stickies.

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