Storytelling in Homer's Odyssey

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Tall Tales
Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.
--Neil Gaiman
The escapades of wily Odysseus are ingrained into the hearts of countless children. The bedtime story of one man’s journey home and the obstacles he faces along the way forever lives on in youthful imagination. Alas, a problem arises when mythology-loving children grow up. Vocabulary and comprehension matures slowly over time, and, at some point, the youth is ready to delve into the feast that is Homer’s unabridged poetry. As the reader devours book after book of The Odyssey, he or she finds comforting familiarity in the stories, the characters, and the monsters, but something is not quite right. While hearing of Odysseus’ adventures as a child, the action was spoken from the steady voice of a omnipresent narrator, but in Homer’s work, the poet often speaks through Odysseus as a storyteller recounting his glorious past. This is when the disillusioned youth comes to a devastating conclusion: Odysseus is a liar. Homer distances himself as the poet from the more fantastic tales that the reader recognizes from youth: the Lotus eaters, the Laestrygonians, the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis, Circe, Aeolus and the winds. All these wondrous tales are told from the deceitful, crafty mouth of Odysseus. To the Phaeacians, he is a illustrious adventurer ready for derring-do at all times. To the knowing Athena, he claims to be a Cretan fugitive. And to Eumaeus and Telemachus, he in all his craftiness asserts that he is (while still a Cretan) a beggar who fought alongside the great Odysseus on the Trojan shore. Odysseus adopts these facades for different motives, but the response to his stories are unanimously positive. Through his stories, Odysseus does not sacrifice his integrity, rather he gains honor.

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