Page 131. " Now they had pigs’ heads and bristles, and they grunted like pigs "

This video is a clip from the 1988 fantasy film Willow. Although it does not represent Circe and Odysseus’ men, it provides a good visual idea of how the transformation from man to pig might look. This scene, of course, like so many other fantasy stories before and after, is heavily influenced by The Odyssey.


Page 132. " She will shrink from you in terror and invite you to her bed. "
Circe, by John William Waterhouse
Public DomainCirce, by John William Waterhouse - Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Circe is the typical dangerous woman of Greek mythology. She is sly and deceptive, using magic and strange drugs to exert power over men, resorting to seduction when this fails. This idea of the powerful witch-like woman was extremely disconcerting, even frightening, to the patriarchal Greeks, who preferred their women submissive and dutiful. In order to defeat her, Odysseus must sleep with her. In doing so he will reassert his manly dominance and put the natural and proper order of things back into place.
Page 137. " find your way to the Halls of Hades and dread Persephone, to consult the soul of Teiresias "
Odysseus consults Teiresias, by Johann Heinrich Füssli
GNU Free Documentation LicenseOdysseus consults Teiresias, by Johann Heinrich Füssli - Credit: Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH/Wikimedia Commons
 Persephone was Hades’ wife and Queen of the Underworld. She spent half the year on earth with her mother, Demeter, and half in the land of the dead with her husband. Demeter’s turmoil of emotions surrounding this arrangement account for the changing seasons of the year.

Teiresias was a blind prophet from Thebes who was involved in a number of famous myths including the story of Oedipus.

Page 138. " meet and pour their thundering streams into Acheron "

The river Acheron
Creative Commons AttributionThe river Acheron - Credit: Samuli Lintula/Wikimedia Commons
 Acheron was one of a number of rivers in the Underworld, and known as the river of pain. It is also a real, physical river in northwest Greece. The Greeks believed that rivers from our world could flow down into the land of the dead.

Page 138. " Go round this trench and pour offerings to all the dead "

Odysseus consulting Teiresias, Lucanian red-figure calyx-krater, ca.380 BC
Public DomainOdysseus consulting Teiresias, Lucanian red-figure calyx-krater, ca.380 BC - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons
For the ancient Greeks, part of showing proper respect to the dead involved visits to and offerings at the grave. These might consist of gifts and libations. One might also want to appease the powers of the underworld, or petition them on a deceased relative’s behalf. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is instructed to offer the blood of a sacrificial animal to the spirits of the dead. In normal religious sacrifice, the focus lies on burning the meat so that the smoke will rise up to the gods. When honouring the spirits and gods of the Underworld, however, the offering needs to go down, to descend to Hades’ Halls below the earth. It is therefore the blood of the animal that is important. Black or barren animals were particularly appropriate for sacrifice to the chthonic deities.

Page 141. " And now the souls of the dead came swarming up from Erebus "

 Erebus is another name for the Underworld. It is also the name of a god of darkness and shadow, son of Chaos.

Page 141. " brides, unmarried youths, old men who had suffered greatly "

A grave marker in the form of a loutrophoros, a marriage vase. Modern copy of an ancient Greek funerary monument, situated in the Kerameikos graveyard in Athens
GNU Free Documentation LicenseA grave marker in the form of a loutrophoros, a marriage vase. Modern copy of an ancient Greek funerary monument, situated in the Kerameikos graveyard in Athens - Credit: DerHexer/Wikimedia Commons
These categories would have been considered some of the most pitiable spirits of the dead. According to Greek belief, such shades had a greater chance of becoming the restless dead, miserable earth-bound spirits, or ghosts who cannot cross the Styx to the Underworld and so can never rest. Unmarried youths were often buried with marriage gifts or in their bridal clothes, a gesture meant to soothe or appease their restless spirit, letting them achieve in death what they could not in life.

Page 142. " raise a mound for me on the shore of the grey sea "

Elpenor’s spirit cannot rest or  cross over into the Underworld until he has received proper burial. To be left unburied and unmourned was a tragic and pitiable fate for an ancient Greek, for whom burial was a vitally important custom. Elpenor asks for a mound, a method of burial typical of Homeric heroes. Bodies were cremated on a funeral pyre after which the bones would be collected and buried.

Page 143. " who refers to the object you are carrying on your shoulder as a ‘winnowing-fan’ "

A winnowing-fan is a tool used to separate grain from chaff.

Page 144. " or did Artemis the Archeress visit and kill you with her gentle darts? "

GNU Free Documentation LicenseArtemis - Credit: Albert Kok/Wikimedia Commons
According to Greek myth, Artemis’ arrows would trigger a quick, natural death. Her brother Apollo’s arrows were said to cause plague and sickness.