Dawn with her fingertips of rose

We are still reading The Odyssey at bedtime, and since that just happened it’s what I’ll talk about!

But here’s the quick catch-up news: I haven’t had Moomin here a whole lot this summer – I went to WisCon, then he was in Korea with his dad for a couple of weeks, at a cousin’s wedding, and I was at a conference and got to visit my friends and their awesome tiny daughter in Boston. But in the last couple of months we went to Maker Faire and soldered and saw tons of things and hung out at the Noisebridge table. We’ve kayaked little bits here and there, but no long voyages. We got bicycles — mine is a folding one. Moomin had a ton of dance performances, played violin at a school concert, and had some choir concerts too. He watched a fair amount of Doctor Who and is studying a big book about the last few seasons of the show. We went to a totally kick ass local pool club which I hope to keep going to – I swam 10 laps. I think that’s all the catching-up news.

So, about Odysseus. Tonight Milo and I got to the bit in The Odyssey where they leave Kirke’s island to go to the land of the dead. (I was regaled in the middle with bits of gossip about Percy Jackson and how they went to CC’s Spa, or something, but I haven’t been able to stomach reading that series yet.) So after having a really awesome bath and a feast and sleeping with Kirke for a year, Odysseus finally takes off and arrives at an entrance to Hades. Odysseus keeps back the shades from the pit of blood with his sword and only lets some of them drink.

book cover for The Odyssey

Then the story cuts back again back to Alkinöos’ hall again where the queen and king propose giving Odysseus a huge party the next day to have sports contests and give him amazing presents. But first Odysseus is about to tell some more stories of talking to the shades of the heroes of Troy.

From Milo’s perspective the ancient Greeks were all about being drunk, doing stupid things, and crying — they all burst into tears before and after every incident, when they tell stories, and during every drinking bout! He is skeptical of Odysseus’ supposed cunning and wisdom. So far, he manages to do everything wrong, even when specifically warned not to do it.

After I sang the unicorn song, I was trying to make up something funny and Homeric about the unicorn of the gods (and failing) but he said something like “Except the unicorn is NOT loveliest of all, we hate it and with every statue we CURSE THE EMPEROR” and I realized he was quoting a story from Digger, a comic by Ursula Vernon about a geologist wombat and her companions — a bit about a sculptor who for years had to carve only statues of unicorns to please the emperor. So I was totally cracking up as he continued reciting long chunks of story from Digger and then pedantically explaining to me that it was kind of like a prequel, or a prologue, but it was technically after the story not before it though it was chronologically set before the story. I countered this with a long winded and vague attempt to explain how Aristotle classified every sort of literary technique but that couldn’t make up for the fact that I have no idea what you call a thing like a prologue that tells a bit of the story that came before.

We looked up through the hatch at the stars. Right now if you like just right you can see the Big Dipper.

We’re reading the translation by Robert Fitzgerald which I love because it’s good but also because I grew up reading it over & over. If you try to read it with a younger kid you might try starting with the Polyphemus story, in the middle, and then cut back to the beginning — or just read bits and pieces and stitch it together later.

It was a nice opportunity to explain that the myths Moomin knows from D’Aulaire’s or other books might be different from the “facts” of the myths in The Odyssey and that we have all sorts of sources for who does what and what happens in the stories & so what’s true varies. We also talked about how if you were telling it from memory you could expand certain bits infinitely and just keep stretching it out — and put in different spirits of the dead telling their stories at the pit of blood.

I hope he likes the poetry and that some of the amazing language sticks with him.

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