Are you someone who listens to advice when it’s offered? In this lesson we will travel to Thrinacia, relive Odysseus’ adventures there and learn the importance of following sage advice.
Reasoning with One’s Self
In Disney’s cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland, Alice says, ‘I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it. That explains the trouble that I’m always in.’ It seems Odysseus and Alice have more in common than one would think. They both embark on long journeys away from home and meet interesting creatures with supernatural qualities. They also tend to get themselves into a great deal of trouble, sometimes by not following smart advice when it’s given.In The Odyssey, Odysseus is given very good advice, and there are moments where he can’t seem to follow it.
He gives in to his men time and again, which ends up putting everyone in danger. Let’s look at the advice Odysseus was given and see how the consequences of his actions play out on Thrinacia.
Very Good Advice
Circe sends Odysseus to the Underworld to speak with the blind prophet Teiresias. Teiresias knows Odysseus wants to return home, but he foresees danger in his future. He claims Odysseus will make it to the island of Thrinacia, where Helios, the sun god, keeps his cattle. He informs Odysseus that so long as no one harms Helios’ cattle, he and his men will return home safely. If Odysseus or his crew harm the cattle, his ship will be destroyed, and his men will perish.
When Odysseus returns to Aeaea, Circe reminds him to make sure no one touches Helios’ cattle.
If he or his men bring harm to the animals, Odysseus will return home alone and in agony.
Arriving at Thrinacia
After escaping Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus and his men see the island of Thrinacia. Exhausted from the terrors they have barely escaped, the men want to stop and rest. Odysseus explains the prophecies from Teiresias and Circe and argues with the men about avoiding the island.One of Odysseus’ men, Eurylochos, speaks for the crew, saying they need a break in case they are hit with a storm or harsh winds. Since Odysseus is now one against the many on his ship, he agrees to stop at the island but begs the men not to touch any animals they find.
The men take an oath, and Odysseus tells them to head toward shore. Once ashore, the men eat their food and rest, and Odysseus again reminds them of the danger if Helios’ flock is harmed.The men start out by following orders, but after a month of bad weather, the crew’s food and drink runs out, leaving them no choice but to look for food on the island. Odysseus continues to remind the men they can eat anything but the cattle.
A Good Argument with a Bad Consequence
Odysseus leaves his men to go pray. He finds shelter from the windstorm and falls asleep. In the meantime, Eurylochos gathers the crew and begins to persuade them to eat the cattle. He argues that death is terrible, but dying of starvation is the most dishonorable death there is. Eurylochos says they will make sacrifices to the gods, and when they return home, they will build temples in Helios’ honor. The men quickly approve and begin to kill and cook the kine, or cattle.
Odysseus awakens and smells the burnt meat; he curses Zeus for his terrible fate. One of Helios’ nymphs quickly reports the news to Helios. Furious, Helios tells Zeus that if Odysseus and his men are not punished, he will never shine his light on earth or in the Heavens again. Zeus complies and tells Helios he will destroy Odysseus’ ship when they sail away from Thrinacia.
Odysseus runs back to the men, but their fate has been sealed.
The gods show signs of danger to come. The meat begins making noises as if it were alive, and the animal skins crawl on the ground.
Once the men sail away from the island with no land in sight, a storm destroys the ship, Zeus fulfilling his promise to Helios. The ship breaks into pieces, pieces that Odysseus attempts to tie together, creating a makeshift raft to keep himself afloat.
He looks around to see his entire crew bobbing lifeless in the ocean.The current takes Odysseus back to Scylla and Charybdis as Charybdis is sucking the water down into the abyss. Odysseus grabs a fig tree, watches his raft get sucked into the hole and waits for it to return. Once the water is spewed back out, he returns to his raft without being seen by Scylla and floats for 9 days until he reaches Calypso’s Island, Ogygia, where he will remain for almost 8 years.
As we can see, Odysseus was given very good advice, and he kind of tried to follow it.
He was warned twice, once by Teiresias and once by Circe, to avoid the island of Thrinacia and the cattle there. Both told Odysseus if the cattle were harmed, he would return home to Ithaca alone, a fate that was actualized. While Odysseus did not literally harm the cattle, he agreed to stop at the island and left his men unsupervised; his men have proven time and again they are not to be trusted.
With the help of Eurylochos, the men are persuaded to eat the cattle due to starvation. Once they leave the island, the men are killed in a storm, and Odysseus is washed ashore an island where he will be held for over 7 years.In their respective tales, Alice and Odysseus return home, both the wiser for their journeys with many lessons learned.
But Odysseus returns at the cost of his men and his ship, an experience that will teach him to follow good advice in years to come.