“...But first there came the soul of my companion, Elpenor, for he had not yet been buried under earth of the wide ways, since we had left his body behind in Circe’s palace, unburied and unwept, with this other errand before us. I broke into tears at the sight of him, and my heart pitied him...”
Odysseus, The Odyssey of Homer, by Lattimore ~ Book XI, 51 to 55
I am the great Elpenor from the land of Ithaka, and having been the eldest in my family, I was called to serve my homeland and fight in the Trojan War, alongside the great Odysseus. The war was a battle well fought, and during it, I was astonished by my learning that Odysseus was not one of the, but THE greatest warrior I’ve ever seen in my short life. I idolized that man; he was the reason why we won the war. He was also the reason why I did not die while fighting. Yes, that man saved my life. He, having blocked that sharp arrow that was heading right toward my beautiful young face, blessed me with the gift of a longer life. Well, a few weeks longer, at least.
|The realm of Hades|
Yes, the great battle had ended, but another more challenging feat laid before us - getting back home.
Ever since I left Ithaka, I already had the feeling that I would never see my loved ones again, except, it was a thought in my mind that I would die a heroic death. Little did I know, the Fates had set for me a more shameful ending for my life.
I shall cut down to the evening of my death, for I do not wish to bore the readers and myself. I was there, the stars gazing upon my beauty and youth. Though I was young, I was of the right age to be filled with the spirits of wine causing thoughts of eternal bliss to fill my head. Oh, how beautiful and bright were the constellations that breezy night on the roof of Circe’s grand palace.
My temporary happiness was interrupted by the loud noise made by a source that until now, I am still unaware of. I rose up and attempted to go down to the earth. Oh, those darn spirits and the Fates have cast a spell upon me, causing me to forget about going down using the long ladder, the same way as I had gone up. I walked towards the edge of the roof, and tried to jump, aiming at the dark bushes that looked pretty well like a good spot for my buttocks to land on. Long after three counts, I found myself lying flat on the muddy ground, unaware of anything but my broken neck.
The next thing I knew, my soul exited my body and went straight down to this dreaded place. The house of Hades was exactly what the tales had told. It was dark and no body and soul was at sight. None except that of the gods and the Fates.
|Odysseus and Friends in the underworld|
After a few nights that seemed like an eternity, a gathering was taking place outside the house. I had never attempted to go out because of the absence of any light outside. But now, I see souls of every shape and size outside, gathering around a pool of what seemed to look like blood. And standing by it, there he was, the great Odysseus.
It was evident that he was not of the dead like us, for his skin was radiant and his body was not at all weak. As he stood there, being all heroic and all, I rushed to meet him and give my last few words to him.
He greeted me with shock and tears. He seemed like he had lost his own brother. The way his eyes flickered every time a tear dropped down his cheeks wanted me to burst out into tears as well. Oh if only the gift of emotion still remained in me.
At that point I realized how Hades had given the dead souls with the gift of knowledge of the future. Having a very deep feeling within me, I announced to Odysseus that he would surely arrive at his homeland, Ithaka, and see all his loved ones and neighbors.
I then asked him one simple thing - to give my body a proper burial. Having realized how shameful my death was, it was a a genuine necessity for my body to at least be respected as all dead bodies are supposed to be. That would at least lessen some of the shame.
After having promised to do what I had requested of him, he went and met the other souls out there, even more than the number I’ve met so far! What a popular man.
I decided to follow Odysseus around, but stayed a good 10 cubits away from Odysseus, for I did not want him to notice me.
He a had a good long talk with the great prophet Teiresias the Theban who holds the golden staff. I sensed a sense of seriousness on both of their faces, so I dared not look.
And after that, he went to what seemed like his dear old mother. His mother had a fine figure, and didn’t look as if she was his mother. Having Odysseus’s handsome looks, I’d say she’s his sister.
They talked for a much longer time after she had drunk the blood from the pit. I was struck at my invisible heart when I saw Odysseus attempting to hug his mother, but his body and her soul simply could not touch. He tried this three times, only to end up with an even sadder heart.
He met many more women after that, women of whose identities I am not aware of.
After all the women, then came the men. He began talking to men of great history. History that would’ve gone forever if it were not for death that brings all things to an end. He conversed with several heroic and iconic personalities such as the great Achilleus. There were simply too many for my non-existing brain to remember.
Time had passed, and the time had come for Odysseus to embark and continue on his long journey. He would be one of the last men I’d see enter and leave Hades’ realm alive. What a great soul.
Written by: Jerome Lim on the point of view of Elpenor