Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bronzing in an Iron Age

In my attempt to catch up with the rest of the world, I just finished Homer's "Odyssey". The Harvard Classics edition changes the poetry into paragraph prose which facilitates the reading considerably. The translation was made S.H. Butcher and A. Lang. I assume that "A. Lang" is Andrew Lang whom I have encountered in other venues. The translation was adequate and I learned where the phrase "rosy-fingered dawn" came from; it appeared just about every time the sun comes up in the narrative. Given that the story covers twenty years, the phrase shows up 7300 times. My guess is that if Odysseus got up every morning to check out the "rosy-fingered dawn" that the rosy fingers would have made him as brown as a berry. Unfortunately for him, Penelope his wife was back home in Ithaca unable to raise the cuff on his short-sleeved shirt to see if he were suffering from the effects of iron-overloading. No clip board, no perfunctory check mark, and no "No worries then".

But Odysseus had plenty of worries. He spent seven of the twenty years fighting a battle against Troy in an attempt to recover the famous Helen thereof for her husband. This is all recounted in the Iliad, if you are a reader, or "Troy" if you are a Brad Pitt fan. I do not wish to dwell on the Iliad inasmuch as it has little or nothing to do with my current situation, save that there were a lot of involuntary phlebotomies performed on a daily basis. After the war against Troy, Odysseus and his army set off for home in their "black ships". They have all sorts of adventures which usually resulted in someone, or several someones, being eaten. By the time the twenty years are up, no one but Odysseus is worrying about iron-overloading. All of his friends are in the Underworld lamenting the fact that they are iron under-loaded.

Penelope has been the faithful wife, hoping against hope that Odysseus would soon return home from the wars, but reports are not encouraging. P and O's son, Telemachus, goes out to find more reliable news. The networks were still obsessing about whether Helen looked frumpy or not. The story of Telemachus' travel seems a bit out of place. It does little to advance the story line and everyone he talks to seems as dumb as a brick. Meanwhile, Odysseus is moping about Calypso's island, eating apples, trying to figure out how to get Jack Sparrow back from the end of the world (actually, Jack Sparrow does not figure into the story, but Calypso does send Odysseus on an adventure where the hero does try to bring someone back from the end of something).

Eventually, after 330 pages of really small print, Odysseus finally returns to Ithaca where he finds that for many years the men of his generation, ALL of the men of his generation, have become wooers for the hand of the lovely Penelope. That's what they are called... "wooers". They were petitioning Penelope to choose one of them so that the lucky gent could be the "woo-hoo-er". She was reputedly a handsome woman. Penelope had put them all off for almost a score of years, tending to her knitting and weaving rather than succumb to the entreaties of the gaggle of courtiers. Odysseus is irritated at the conduct of the wooers and summarily dismisses them with a series of flicks from his great bow that no one other than himself can bend. More phlebotomies. some brought about by 14-gauge black-fletched arrows, others by instruments of various sizes, most all of which had a tendency to remove large portions of personal iron from the wooers, who by this time had become "boo-hoo-ers" (sorry, I couldn't resist). P, O, and T apparently live happily every after, having been given a clean bill of health by Athene (a goddess who serves as the "Doc Holliday" component of the story).

So, what is this all about? Why does this story have any resonance with me? It has to do with the thing that really ticked off Telemachus during the twenty years that Odysseus was gone: the eating habits of the wooers. These guys have at least three meals a day, which according to Homer, consisted of a herd of goats, five pigs, three oxen, eight sheep, and a small dog for breakfast. Lunch was about the same except that they added 87 chickens and several koi from the ornamental pond in the patio. For dinner, anything that moved was fair game, including some rather exotic animals from Brazil. The fact that the Ithacans actually survived for more than ten years on this diet is astounding; that Odysseus and Telemachus could kill any of them is stunning; that father and son survived their revenge upon the wooers is incredible.

Imagine some Ithacan with a ferritin level of 14752, suffering from high blood pressure (396/275), being hit by a pointy anything. The effect would be like standing in front of a cannon filled with ball bearings. If you hit the guy's liver, your trusty blade shatters. Smack his pancreas and everyone starts running around, holding their heads screaming "The Bells! The Bells!". The only saving grace in all of this is the gratitude of the townspeople in Ithaca who had been compelled to listen to an endless cacophony of "clinks", "clanks", "clunks", "squeaks", and occasional "pings" for thirteen years (flax seed oil had not as yet been perpetrated upon a credulous public).

Well, there you have it: another non-report on my medical condition; another title that apparently has little to do with the non-report, except that Odysseus lived during the Iron Age and was tan.

4 comments:

shydandelion said...

LOL! I was imagining all those suiters not being able to defend themselves because they couldn't get up from the table. Big rolly polly men..LOL. So when you mentioned T and O killing them all I imagined them popping a whole bunch of berries. LOL!
"Pwnep" the sound of a giant man being popped.

Trillium said...

Mount Everest and kumquats come to mind. :D


tpikan oooooooooo

Katscratchme said...

That was really funny. I, too, was imagining the suitors popping because of all the food...
I must say, I'm enjoying your non-reports quite a bit! :)

Chris said...

Be careful when talking about about rosy palm and her five sisters...

Would that be woohoo,
like the Woo Hoo candy bar,
or is it yoohoo,
like Yoo Hoo chocolate milk?

Wait, that was a haiku. Teheehee.

Also, another way of saying someone was a handsome woman is like really saying they are plain. Wait a minute, I vaguely remember mom telling me once about my girlfriend in highschool was "kind of plain". So, maybe she really meant to say she was handsome...

Kumquats? I love kumquats. Especially the variation that comes out of my mother-in-laws garden as lemon cucumbers.

vxtrc - what happens when your stmoach pops... "Would monsieur care for a wafer thin mint?"