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Friday, April 02, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge: C Is For Circe!

 

John William Waterhouse. Public Domain


The goddess Circe, daughter of Helios the sun god and an ocean nymph, appears in a lot of poems, including Ovid’s Metamorphoses,  the Aeneid and the Argonautica, some ancient Greek plays and at least one novel, by Madeleine Miller, which I read and reviewed here.  https://suebursztynski.blogspot.com/2018/05/just-finished-reading-circe-by.html  She is the sister of Pasiphae, mother of the Minotaur, and Aeetes, king of Colchis and father of Medea, who turned up on Circe’s island Aeaea, on her way back to Greece with her lover Jason.


She is best known, though, for her appearance in the Odyssey. Her home Aeaea is full of wild beasts, wolves and lions, who, as Odysseus and his crew discover, are transformed sailors who had visited the island and made the mistake of accepting Circe’s hospitality. (In the Miller novel, it’s punishment for a group of sailors who had raped her.)


Odysseus, on his way back from Troy, stops by the island and allows some of his men shore leave. Led by the ship’s first mate, Eurylochus, they explore and find themselves being greeted by a beautiful woman, Circe, who is singing at her loom. She offers them dinner, which is drugged. Eurylochus is suspicious and stays outside the house, where he sees Circe turn his shipmates into pigs and hurries back to warn Odysseus. Luckily, Odysseus has some help from a few gods, including Hermes, the trickster god, who gives him a magical herb called moly, which will keep him safe from transformation. 


I’m sure quite a lot of women will feel that it wouldn’t have been too far a stretch between the sailors and pigdom, especially when you consider their behaviour in the rest of the Odyssey. Still, they are Odysseus’s lads and he isn’t going to abandon them. 


So, he marches up to the house, accepts the offer of dinner and, much to Circe’s dismay, isn’t affected by her magic, due to the moly. He threatens her, then sleeps with her on her promise not to harm him and to turn back all those enchanted sailors, including his men.


Odysseus stays with her for a while, long enough to father three sons, including the one who will eventually kill him. At this point, Circe gives him information and advice so he can get home safely. One of the places he must go is past Scylla’s rock, where six of his men are seized and eaten. The irony is that the monster Scylla is there in the first place because Circe turned her into one, over a man, for goodness’ sake! 


Circe eventually marries Odysseus’s son Telemachus, after Odysseus’s death. I suppose we could say she more or less lives happily ever after, which is more than can be said for Odysseus, or, for that matter, his men, who are all dead by the time he gets home to his Penelope. 


Stick around for my next post, on Monday, which is D is for Daedalus!  


26 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - they do tie themselves in knots don't they ... but talk about weaving a tale ... thank you for Circe - there's so much to Greek Myths. All the best - and have a peaceful Easter - Hilary

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I love Madeline Miller's retelling of the Circe myth too! She is such a wonderful writer!

Sunday Visitor said...

I've aways been curious about Greek Mythology and I love your posts. Circe by Madeline Miller is on my reading list.https://diaryofthesundayvisitor.blogspot.com

David said...

I'd missed that Odysseus was killed by his own son - I thought he got back to Penelope and they had a long life together. This is making me thing of the cartoon Ulysses 31.

David - @BreakerOfThings from
Fiction Can Be Fun
Saying hello as part of the #A2ZChallenge

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Hilary! Yes, Greek myths do get in a knot, don’t they? Probably because there are so many versions of all the stories,

Debra, yes, Madeleine Miller is amazing. I’ve promised myself to read her Song Of Achilles.

Sunday, glad you enjoyed it, and I hope yo7 enjoy that novel as much as I did!

David, I think you are thinking of the implications of the Kirk Douglas film, but happily ever after doesn’t happen often in Greek myth. He did get back to Penelope, yes, after twenty years, but got bored and didn’t stick around. His son by Circe, Telegonus, unintentionally killed him with a poisoned spear when he came back after another adventure. There is even a story where he was told to carry an oar and get walking till somebody didn’t recognise it because it was so far inland. He must have had enough of the sea by the time he got back.

Stuart Nager said...

Madeleine Miller's Circe & Song of Achilles were really good books. I enjoyed Circe more. Not sure if she's on (or already published) another greek myth book.

Swine, the lot of the sailors, then.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Stu! I think it took her ten years to write The Song Of Achilles and about the same for Circe. So, no, no more novels at all, let along Greek myth. Perhaps she is writing something now. Her day job is teaching Greek and Latin,

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Oh, definitely DO read "The Song of Achilles" -- I think it's even better than "Circe." It's one of the most beautifully written books I've ever read.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks, Debra, will do!

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

"Men make terrible pigs" is my favorite line from Miller's Circe :D
Also, I remember the Odyssey movie where she was played by Bernadette Peters. Excellent choice.

The Multicolored Diary

Jayashree Srivatsan said...

I mainly came across Circe in the Percy Jackson series where there is a modern twist to the conversion to pigs....I must get hold of Madeline Miller's book sometime...

https://pagesfromjayashree.blogspot.com/2021/04/c-curses-and-charms.html

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Jayashree! As good a place as any to discover something you didn’t know. I remember when I was in primary school I read the story of the “Egyptian Cinderella” in a comic. Only much, much later did I find it in Herodotus! Who cares? I knew the story.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Goodness, Zalka, I didn’t know of the film you mention, must look it up. I’ve only ever seen Ulysses with Kirk Douglas, in which Silvana Magnano plays the dual role of Penelope and Circe. It also had Rosanna Podesta as Nausicaa, interesting as she went on to play Helen of Troy. I thought it was reasonably faithful to the Odyssey - to the spirit, anyway.

TWW said...

I love these stories, I've always been a fan of the greek legends, thank you so much for putting these up. I am now following along happily. Cheers.
https://theroadtobeingapublishedwriter.blogspot.com/

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi TWW! Nice to meet a fellow mythology fan.

Iain Kelly said...

A rare happy ending (of sorts). Very informative, enjoying these posts Sue!
https://iainkellywriting.com/2021/04/03/the-state-trilogy-a-z-guide-c/

Sue Bursztynski said...

Thanks,mIain, glad you’re enjoying!

AJ Blythe said...

Nice she got to live happily ever after :)

Sue Bursztynski said...

Oh, she did! As did Medea, by the way. It did help to be related to the gods. 😉

Stuart Nager said...

Circe is a beautifully written book.
I love when adaptions of mythology reinvigorate the original version. Keeps the myths alive.

Sue Bursztynski said...

A wonderful book, Stuart! It doesn’t play with the myth, either - nearly every event in the book was in the myth.

Debs Carey said...

Ah, finally, someone I know a little bit about having read & enjoyed Madelaine Miller's book. Agree with another commenter in recommending Song of Achilles. I also enjoyed Pat Barker's Silence of the Girls, except for a few odd chapters where the POV changed.

Am delighted to hear that the book stayed true to the myth, especially as my preferred learning process is through fiction.

A-Zing from Fiction Can Be Fun
Normally found at Debs Despatches

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debs! I haven’t come across the Pat Barker book, must look it up.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I have "Circe" on my TBR -- and even own the ebook -- I just need some reading time!

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Cunning Cats

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I do love Circe, and like many I have that book on my TBR pile as well.

And I also love the Waterhouse painting.
--
Tim Brannan, The Other Side: 2021: The A to Z of Monsters

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Ronel, Tim! Just move it to the top of your TBR pile, both of you! Well worth it. 😉