Odysseus: An Original Barbarian Badass

Odysseus: An Original Barbarian Badass

As a performing storyteller (think bard), I’ve had the chance to participate in some epic tellings. And I mean EPIC! Up to three days of multiple tellers from across various countries telling a long and ancient story, one chapter at a time. It’s, well, it’s epic.

"I could string his bow, too, but everyone would just say the Hulk could have done it faster... It's not easy being me."
“I could string his bow, too, but everyone would just say the Hulk could have done it faster… It’s not easy being me.”

I’ve had the chance to tell The Odyssey twice, once in my hometown of Ottawa, the other time on the West Coast in Nanaimo, BC. The last telling was two weekends ago, and it struck me that you could take Odysseus out of his story and plop him into a sword and sorcery adventure and voilà! You have a perfect barbarian hero. Let me, in fact, count the ways:

He Has Super Strength
He’s so badass that he’s the only one who can string his ash bow. The only one! People try, fail and then go drink wine while mumbling.

He Knows How to Keep a Story Going
Okay, so we encounter him in The Iliad (bloody fun stuff). That war lasted ten years. Ten years! Then he takes another nine years to get home, while partaking of multiple adventures. Kind of makes you understand why Epic Fantasy is so, well, Epic.

He’s a King
It’s not a prerequisite, but usually the lone hero has some sort of royal blood. Makes them be able to take power back whenever necessary.

He’s Irresistible, Apparently
He sleeps around with everyone. Usually after a goddess has made him look more handsome, but hey, whatever works, right? Plus, he always makes it sound like a bit of a chore. He’s doing it for the girl or because he has to. While pining once in a while for his wife. What a guy.

He Lathers Himself with Oil and Walks Around Naked
Anointing they call it. Sometimes he holds an olive branch to cover his “manhood.” Sometimes he greets his entire household staff before covering his nakedness. The man owns the look.

He’s the Sole Survivor of Multiple Horrible Events
He survived the Trojan War, which that right there is pretty awesome. He then survived multiple boat crashes, losing his entire crew several times. Yet he goes on. And he doesn’t give a crap, just like a badass.

No one did giant disinterested goats better than Sinbad.
No one did giant disinterested goats better than Sinbad.

He Hides Under the Belly of a Giant Goat
To escape the Cyclops. I mean, the fact that he blinds the Cyclops is pretty badass, too, but the escape is more fun. A giant goat, people. That, right there, is made of win.

He Slaughters All Who Offend Him
Which, by the end of the book, are all the deadbeat suitors who came to claim his wife’s hand and annoy his whiny son. He then has the “bad” maids clean up the gore before killing them, too. It’s the original pre-Game of Thrones blood bath.

He Built His Bed on a Tree
I feel that’s pretty badass. He built an entire courtyard around a giant olive tree, then built a bed by cutting off its branches. I wonder if he retired to be an interior designer? Homer doesn’t cover that bit.

He Has a Most Loyal Pet
His dog clings to life for nineteen years waiting for his master to return. Upon recognizing his then-disguised master, he thumps his tail once and dies. Bam. Rips your little heart out.

He Masters Disguises
That makes him a master infiltrator. He sneaks into his own palace dressed as a beggar and no one except his now dead dog and his old maid recognize him. He then threathens his old maid to keep quiet, because he’s Odysseus and he gets a free pass.

In a most awkward time for the Doctor, Odysseus once considered this to be an olive tree.
In a most awkward time for the Doctor, Odysseus once considered this to be an olive tree.

He Has Recognizable Scars
Well, one in particular, on his upper thigh. He shows it to a bunch of underpaid sheperds at the end of the story to prove his identity. It’s a bit weird and uncomfortable. This is why unions and workplace codes of conduts were invented.

Time Stops for Him
Athena actually stops the dawn from rising after he “finds” his wife again. I’m not sure how long Mr. Badass Odysseus enjoyed finding his wife again that night, but it’s implied that the has decent stamina.

If you want to know more about the Odyssey, I tweeted the whole Nanaimo show in, um, perhaps less than epic style.

The Epics are fun because you can really spot the roots of fantasy in them. The love of big stories, of heroes and villains, of characters bigger than life, while addressing very real topics like post-traumatic stress disorder. I love them. Check ‘em out if you can and if ever there’s an epic storytelling presentation near you, go sit for hours and listen. Bring a pillow. It’s an experience unlike any other.


Marie Bilodeau is an award-winning science-fiction and fantasy author, as well as a professional performing storyteller. Check out her writings and find out what the heck a storyteller is at www.mariebilodeau.com.

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Wild Ape

I think there are many life lessons in the Odyssey.

1. Sleep is the Great Equalizer. I don’t care how big and bad you are. Even if you can roll a boulder that a dozen horses couldn’t move and eat a Greek warrior like a poptart, once you close your eyes and fall asleep you are on equal terms.

2. Never mess with another man’s BBQ. Helios after a tough day of dragging the sun across the sky comes home to find Oddeseus’ men chowing down on his cattle. Sorry, they deserved it.

3. The answer to the second deadliest question known to man. When Calypso offers Oddesseus, wealth, luxury, immortality, and to be a goddess’s sex toy in Paradise and he still wants to go home she gets a little about him pining away for Penelope. So she asks basically, “What’s she got that I ain’t got?” You know that Oddesseus would be toast in if he misspoke in his reply but said, “Oh, no, Penelope has nothing on you, I just miss my home.” This prevents her from going bat guano crazy on him. Nothing is as deadly as a woman scorned.

4. An epic hero/real man never asks for directions. The Odyssey was about Greek values and noble virtues. So he took a scenic route….get over it.

5. Most men are pigs. When Circe turns the men into animals they become caricatures of themselves. Brave men become lions, thieves become rats, but most, end up as swine.

6. Epic women are tough. Keep in mind that Oddeseus had help from Athena. Zeus mandated that Calypso release him. Hermes gives Oddeseus the antidote for Circe’s spell. Who did Penelope have? Nobody—which brings me to

7. Oddeseus makes the first prank name and those are funny. When Polyphemus, the Cyclops asks Oddeseus what his name is he says, Nob-Od-Ee. So when Polyphemus gets his eyes poked out and screams for his brother to help because Nob-Od-EE is attacking me….hilarity ensues. Think of how many generations have tried prank names from the inspiration of the Odyssey.

8. The deadliest threats facing an Epic hero are women. I know this probably sounds sexist but I did not write the Odyssey. Consider that Circe, Calypso, Charibdis, Scylla, the Sirens, were the most frightening of foes when compared to the bungling Cyclops or the Circones.

9. Even epic heroes get tested by their wives. After a Trojan War, an long voyage, fighting off monters, dodging angry gods and goddesses, stringing a bow and making an impossible shot, and in a wake of hundreds of suitors, Oddeseus STILL has to prove himself to Penelope. It is the ancient old school quip equivalent to, “How could you forget to bring home the three simple things I asked you to buy after work?”

10. Your dog is your only epic friend.

I might be burned at the stake for printing that but it was meant to be in good fun.

Great post Marie, glad it made John’s monthly recap, else I never would have read it. That is a very strong reference list of qualities S&S writers, shoot, heroic writers, should keep handy…including Wild Ape’s additional points 🙂

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