Odyssey Wayland Analysis

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Though both considered romances, The Odyssey and tales of Wayland the smith differ greatly in narrative and context. Homer’s The Odyssey is an epic poem composed in the eighth century Before Christ, detailing the nostos—or homecoming—of the hero Odysseus after the Trojan War, while tales of Wayland, such as in the tenth century Old English lament Deor , the tenth century Old Norse poem Völundarkviða and the thirteenth century Old Norse prose narrative The Story of Velent the Smith , tell of the remarkable metalworker’s escape from the clutches of a wicked king. While the category of romance is ‘notoriously slippery’ , its defining features are evident in these texts. By analysing the active role of men, the passive role of women, and each …show more content…
If the hero’s quest, can be gendered as male, then it is female passivity and antagonism that hinders the hero in completing his propulsive journey . In The Odyssey, many of those who delay Odysseus’ homecoming are female, including the Seirenes, Skylla and Kharybdis, Kirke, and Kalypso. Homer uses much imagery to evoke the fearsomeness of Skylla and Kharybdis when they appear in Book 12. The portrayal of Skylla with the simile ‘like an angler on a jutting point, who casts his bait to lure the little fishes below[…] and whips his struggling catch to land’ compares Skylla to a fisherman and her victims to fish, emphasising her size, might, and supremacy to Odysseus and his crew. A woman dominates over men; yet she is a monster; thus this relationship is perverse. On a similar note, Kharybdis is often accompanied by the epithet ‘dread’ and sucks seawater down ‘in her dreadful way,’ this repetition highlighting her monstrosity. While these two terrifying women are violent in their attempts to delay Odysseus, it is the gentle nymph Kalypso who detains him on Ogygia for seven years. She creates stasis in the journey of Odysseus, threatening his position as a romantic hero for whom dynamism is vital. Homer, appropriately, uses a marine metaphor to demonstrate the effect of female-induced passivity on Odysseus: …show more content…
Each of the women in the text—the three swan maidens, Niðuðr’s wife, and Böðvildr—wrong the tale’s hero Völundr in some way. Völundr’s wife and her two sisters, referred to as ‘valkyries’ in the poem’s prose preface, are repeatedly called ‘strange, young creatures,’ emphasising their foreignness from their husbands whom they later abandon. The next woman encountered by Völundr is the queen of his captor Niðuðr, and it is she who encourages her husband to have Völundr hamstrung and imprisoned: ‘Cut from him the might of his sinews and afterwards put him in Sævarstadir!’ She is demonstrated to be observant by noting how Völundr ‘bares in teeth in craving’ at sight of his sword and ‘recognises Böðvildr’s ring,’ a quality ironically alluded to by Völundr’s choice to gift her with ‘exotic stones’ made from her sons’ eyeballs. Finally, Völundr is wronged by Böðvildr, who—after watching the smith hamstrung—breaks the ring she knows once belonged to his wife. The ring’s break symbolises the destruction of Völundr’s original marriage and its repair a manner of new marriage to Böðvildr, later justifying his ‘[overcoming]’ of her. Böðvildr is also deceitful in her concealment of the broken ring from her parents, and perhaps even her report of her ‘hour of terror’ to her father, pleading that ‘[she] did not know how to strive against him, [she] was not able to strive against him!’ The epistrophe of the

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