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’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.
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.
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.