Monday, April 16, 2012

"Great Teller of Tales"

At the beginning of Book 9, just before he tells the Phaeacians about his ill-fated journey, Odysseus is described as "the great teller of tales." In a sense, then, Odysseus is bard. What are his motives in telling his tale? Does he have the same motives as other bards in the story (such as Demodocus in Book 8)? Does his tale serve the same purpose or a different one? Finally, we know that Odysseus is a master of deceit and guile who concocted the scheme for the Trojan Horse. Should we take his story of one-eyed monsters and visits to the underworld at face value? Is there reason to believe his story is a fabrication?


  1. Odysseus, who is described as “the great teller of tales,” becomes a bard who tells his own story. A bard is a poet who sings and recites the stories of great heroes for all to hear. Odysseus is a bard when reciting his tale, however his motives are ulterior of Demodocus’, another bard in the Odyssey. As stated in book eight about Demodocus, “The muse inspired the bard/ to sing the famous deeds of fighting heroes-” (8.86-7). When Demodocus is the bard, he chants the tales of other fighting heroes not because he wants promote himself; but because he is inspired by the muse to pass on the stories of other great heroes and their deeds. Odysseus’s motives, however, are strictly for self-promotion and to glorify the details of his so-called valiant adventure. When Odysseus tells his tale, he states “’I am Odysseus, son of Laertes, known to the world/ for every kind of craft- my fame has reached the skies’” (9.21-2). The preceding quotation proves Odysseus’ true motives in recounting his adventures home from Troy. Odysseus aims to let all people know of his heroic, legendary escapades in hopes of acquiring fame and glory. Unlike the bard, who is inspired by the muse and intends to recount the escapades of other heroes, Odysseus is especially self-interested and motivated by fame and recognition.

    Finally, with Odysseus’s glorified tale as an example, there is valid reason to believe that Odysseus is not the hero that he is made out to be throughout the beginning books of the Odyssey. Penelope, Telemachus, and the rest of Ithaca worship Odysseus for his service in the Trojan War and always speak incredibly high of him. However, Odysseus has a clear history of deception and trickery. For example, as stated above, Odysseus is the “mastermind” behind the Trojan Horse during the Trojan War. In addition, when fighting off the Cyclops, Odysseus invented a secretive plan to save himself. Throughout the Odyssey, Odysseus continues to devise secret plans and tricks to save himself from trouble, but he never seems to have the lives of others in mind. One thing to consider is the fact that Odysseus always puts the safety of his own life before the safety of his comrades. Perhaps, Odysseus’s lies are a sign that Odysseus is not the idol that himself, his family, and the rest of the world believes him to be.

  2. When Odysseus assumes the position of bard in Book Nine it is for different reasons than Demodocus. The main goal of most bards is to entertain. Throughout Book Eight Demodocus, would sing the stories of Odysseus and the Trojan war at events, and feasts. This was to entertain the guests. The main motive, I believe, why Odysseus begins to tell his story is because he wants fame. Throughout the epic, Odysseus is constantly trying to spread his name, and story, to gain fame, as shown in multiple stories.

    While, I believe, his main goal is to gain fame, his stories still has validity. At times they may be fabricated to portray him as a stronger hero, but they most likely still occurred. This is my belief because many aspects of his stories affected him later. An example of this is the story of the Cyclops. While Odysseus might have over exaggerated some details, parts affected him later. While escaping, Odysseus shouted his name to the Cyclops to gain fame. Because of Odysseus had blinded the Cyclops, he cursed Odysseus and asked Poseidon to punish him. I believe details of his stories must be true because they affected him later. Odysseus' journey home was far from easy because of Poseidon's punishments and "road blocks", which were an outcome of one of his stories.

    Because some aspects of his stories relate and affected him later, I believe, aspects must be true. While there are definitely parts that are true, there are some parts that seem over exaggerated or fabricated. Overall though, I believe Odysseus to be a reliable bard.

  3. In Book Nine, Odysseus is called “the great teller of tales,” taking on the role of the bard, and a great teller of tales he is. The word tale often suggests a fictional story, often based off of a true story. Because of this and because of how fantastic the story which follows is, one might think that Odysseus is stretching the truth in his story to make himself look better. However, I do not believe this is the case.
    First, I feel that Odysseus says too many things which make him look bad as a leader to be trying to make himself look better. For example, he and nearly all of his men would still be alive had he not taunted Polyphemus after escaping his cave. Poseiden would never have released his wrath if Polyphemus had never sent him his prayer, and he never would have known who to send his wrath upon if Odysseus had never given out his name. While this example does show how much Odysseus is willing to sacrifice for fame, it seems strange that he would include a section such as this in his story if he was just trying to become famous.
    Secondly, Odysseus would never have told the men his story had Alcinous not prompted him to do it, saying,"Come, tell us the name they call you there at home-" (8.618). If he had really wanted to become even more famous, he probably would have told his story and shared his name before being prompted. Instead, he was set up to leave when Alcinous finally asked him to tell his story. Had he not asked, Odysseus never would have told it, which seems counter-productive if Odysseus truly is searching to become famous.
    Finally, since the story of Odysseus was told orally for many generations before Homer finally wrote it down, the story might have been changed a lot within that time. Odysseus may not have been boasting for himself, but his great actions as a leader and warrior may have prompted bards to enhance the story to make him look better. It is, after all, the job of a bard to spread the fame of those they sing about. For these reasons, I feel that Odysseus is not stretching the truth to make himself look better.

  4. From what we have observed in our analyses of the Odyssey, Odysseus has one main motive for most of his actions, and this telling of stories is no different. The main reason Odysseus tells these stories is to spread his own fame and make an ever-lasting legacy for himself. The more people that know of his heroics and adventures, the larger his fame grows. However, another reason he may be so quick to tell the tales is to full-fill his end of the guest-host relationship of Ancient Greece. Odysseus would be full-filling his end by participating in the activities and by entertaining his hosts to some degree. Although Odysseus does entertain, this is not his main focus. Unlike Demodocus, the bard of the Phaeacians, Odysseus looks to spread his legacy through story-telling. When Odysseus tells his stories of cunning and trickery in perilous situations, a question can be raised about the validity of his stories. Is this man really this great, or is he falsifying his stories. In my opinion, I think Odysseus’s stories hold some truth, but he may over-exaggerate parts of his stories. Based on what he have learned about a sense of moral integrity from the Odyssey, I believe Odysseus feels required to be truthful, although stretching this truth is not out of question. In many of his stories where Athena, or other gods, just so happen to drop in on him in a moment of peril, I question how much these gods really adore him. By telling these stories with the gods consistently favoring him over his opponents, he gains respect from the gods, and therefore his audience. This is one way Odysseus may be stretching his stories to spread his legacy.

  5. Odysseus' motivation for telling stories of himself is the same as most of his other motivations in life- to become famous! why would his story telling be any different than any other aspect in his life? I believe that many of the aspects in his stories are false and have been twisted and manipulated to make himself and his legacy remembered for the longest period of time possible. Imagine if you heard about a man who escaped a cyclops. Would you be impressed? Whereas a man who escaped a large man would be less remembered. There may be some aspects of his stories which are true but there is a possibility that he is "stretching the truth" with the stories he tells. Odysseus' entire motivation in life is to become remembered with a legacy so his ego and life is centered around that one main idea.

  6. Even though Odysseus does take on the role of becoming a bard in Book 9 of the Odyssey, his purpose as a story teller differs from Demodocus’s, another bard in the story. In Book 8, the role of Demodocus is to tell a story of others through song, but not of himself. His role is to simply entertain, such as he did when singing the story of the affair of Aphrodite and Ares. At the end of the song sung by Demoducus, Odysseus, “relished every note as the islanders, the lords of the long oars and master mariners rejoiced” (8. 412-413). The fact that Odysseus “relished” the tale told may imply that he wants others to be moved by the story of his journey. However, when Odysseus becomes the bard, he tells his story to gain fame and admiration. Odysseus tells his stories only to educate his listeners of all the “great” accomplishments he was done. One reason to believe that Odysseus may not be completely honest when speaking of his heroic deeds is that his devious plans only save himself and not his crewmates. This may infer that his cunning plans were not so cunning after all if they only saved himself.

  7. There are a few factors that come into play when examining the question of whether or not Odysseus's tale should be taken literally, or celebrated as a fabricated tale of the return of a Greek hero. First, the job of a bard is not to spread knowledge and useful information, it is to entertain guests and royalty. In other words, bards are not bound by honesty, integrity, or even reality. Second, because Odysseus is delivering his story with the motive of spreading his fame, and is not bound by honesty, he has absolutely no reason not to paint a hyperbolic image of his travels into the minds of his hosts. These are just two reasons that would suggest Odysseus's concoction of this story. Furthermore, Odysseus, as mentioned in the prompt, is a master of deceit. Having come up with a plan to capture Troy, and lied his way out of numerous situations (To Helen and Eumaeus), Odysseus has already proved himself to be a fluent and masterful liar. This series of tales could just be another example of Odysseus's cunning. Still, just because someone is a good liar does not mean they lie every chance they get. This statement is not true for Odysseus. In book 14, a disguised Odysseus is asked his story by Eumaeus, a pig herder. Instead of simply telling Eumaeus that he is a peasant, Odysseus instinctively lies about having seen "Odysseus" and fought at Troy.

    In summary, because Odysseus's goal is to entertain his guests and maintain his fame as a valiant hero, his story is not bound by integrity. Additionally, Odysseus has proved himself time and time again to be an instinctive and fluent liar. Because of these three reasons, Odysseus's stories should be enjoyed as dramatic narrative rather than taken as fact.

  8. Odysseus does take on the role of a bard in book 9 however his motives are different then Damascus's. Odysseus says stories seem to be a way for him to gain fame and popularity. Damascus's goal is to entertain, like most bards do. Damascus entertains by singing and telling stories about the Trojan war. While Odysseus's stories were supposed to make him famous they still had meaning. However, things tended to be exaggerated in Odysseus's stories, in my opinion. Exaggeration is okay in terms of being a bard because no one wants to listen to a boring story. Odysseus is a rather good liar as well, in many stories it is told of him lying to others. This could bring up the possibility of all his stories being completely made up; however this could not be the case. If this was the case the whole collection of stories would be a lie, due to the fact that what he tells in some stories effects him later. In conclusion, I think many things in this story are true, although there are most likely several lies.

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  10. In The Odyssey, bards are poets who sing and recite intriguing stories of famous heroes. In Book 9, Odysseus undertakes the position of bard for different motives, but nothing like Demodocus. In Book 8, Demodocus sang stories about Odysseus and the Trojan War for one reason and one reason only: to please the guests. While Odysseus is telling his story, his main motive is fame. In many examples of The Odyssey, Odysseus is trying to leave his legacy, ultimately to gain fame. An example of this is when Odysseus is telling his story towards King Alcinous and the Phaecians.

    “Now let me begin by telling you my name…
    so you may know it well and I in times to come,
    if I can escape the fatal day, will be your host,
    your sworn friend, though my home is far from here.
    I am Odysseus, son of Laertes, known to the world
    for every kind of craft---my fame has reached the skies” (9. 17-21).

    This quote depicts while Odysseus is beginning his story, that he is only promoting himself and no one else only for the purpose of gaining fame.

    Moreover, in other stories like the Cyclops, Odysseus over exaggerates and adds in extra details. Features from stories like this one had affected him later. When Odysseus and his shipmates were escaping, Odysseus yelled his name towards the Cyclops. This right here was an action to essentially gain fame. Meanwhile, Odysseus stabbed the Cyclops in his eyeball with a stake, the Cyclops afflicted upon Odysseus and his shipmates and told his father Poseidon, to discipline them on their journey back home. In conclusion, features like these from this story affected Odysseus later in the book, they have to be true. In Odysseus’s stories, some details are actually true. However, there are parts in his stories that are unbelievable and too fabricated.

  11. In this situation, yes, Odysseus does take on the role of a bard. BUT, Odysseus is definitely not and/or does not deserve to be a Bard. The Role of a Bard, and the Bard in this part of the story, is to tell good stories about war and good people. They tell stories for the enjoyment of the people and for the spread of tales.They are good people. They are nice people. They are not selfish. And they do not tell stories for their own personal gain. Odysseus, on the other hand, does not tell his stories, or act as a Bard, for any of these reasons. He does do it for his own personal gain. The only stories he tells are stories about himself and the things he has done. And, the reason he tell only his stories is to spread the popularity of his name. (Only his name, not anyone else's). He acts as a Bard in a very selfish type of way and does so for completely his own personal gain. He does not do this for solely entertainment, rather entertainment of others to create popularity for himself. His motives for story telling are completely selfish, and he clearly doesn't have nearly the same or similar motives of a Bard.