Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Odysseus

By virtue of his starring role in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus (Ulysses in the Roman version) has become one of the key symbolic figures of subsequent fantasy: an Accursed Wanderer who eventually returns to save his wife Penelope from the suitors who have laid siege to his home. His story has been frequently retold and variously recast. His Myth makes much of his Trickster ingenuity, which secures the conquest of Troy before allowing him to outwit such adversaries as the Cyclops, the Lotus Eaters and Circe in the course of his much-interrupted voyage. Notable recapitulations and reconfigurations of the Odyssey include Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce, Penelope's Man (1927) by John Erskine, The Voyage Home (1958) by Ernst Schnabel and Space Chantey (1968) by R A Lafferty. Tales based on particular episodes include "Letters from the Phaeacian Capital" (1914) by Oswald J Couldrey and "Circe's Island" (1925) by Eden Phillpotts. "On the Margin of the Odyssey" (1905) by Jules Lemaître (1853-1914) was the author's second addition to the myth, following the sarcastic "Nausicaa" (1894) – which also features Odysseus's son Telemachus, famous in France through being also the hero of the didactic mock-epic Télémaque (1699) by François Fénelon (1651-1715) – and Lemaître subsequently composed other "marginal" episodes featuring Helen and Penelope. Further adventures of Odysseus are featured in The World's Desire (1890) by H Rider Haggard and Andrew Lang, "Death and Odysseus" (1915) by Lord Dunsany, "Odysseus Goes Roving" (1929) by F Britten Austin (1885-1941), The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel (1938) by Nikos Kazantzakis and Atlantis (1954) by John Cowper Powys. A recent characterization can be found in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Iliad-inspired novel The Firebrand (1987). [BS]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.