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And what of Mary? As Penelope, who for three years warded off the long siege of her suitors and thus, the destruction of her house, through the brilliant deception of continually weaving and unthreading a burial shroud for Laertes, Mary, too, wished to protect her children from the war she knew was raging in the shadows by keeping silent about the truth. But, like virtually everything in Supernatural, that choice had a tragic denouement.
 
This mission, quest, thing
 
 "He's gone, no sign, no word of him; and I inherit
trouble and tears - and not for him alone,
the gods have laid such other burdens on me."
- Telemachus, The Odyssey, book I
 
Sam was willing to assist his brother in searching for their father, all but playing chicken with a very important date, his "entire future on a plate." When the case that John begun had been solved and their father again disappeared, Sam was more than eager to go back to his girlfriend and his education; his home. Other burdens were required for Sam to join the Quest and just as Telemachus was finally pushed by the suitors' dark cloud slowly engulfing his home, Sam was pushed by Jessica's death, his surrogate domicile literally and figuratively burnt to the ground.
 
"The son is rare who measures with his father,
and one in a thousand is a better man,
but you will have the sap and wit
and prudence - for you get that from Odysseus -
to give you a fair chance of winning through."
- Athena, The Odyssey, book I
 
"We've got work to do."
 
The Impala roars down the road, fueled by a set of coordinates and years of training, experience and not a little bit of vengeance. John, being a military man like Odysseus, knows to use the tools at his disposal to make contact, albeit limited, with his sons, and these coordinates direct them to cases in more than one episode. The crucial difference that they are even able to remain in touch over vast distances certainly places this Quest in our day and age, but one can be sure that if the Greek hero had had a way to alert his son without having Poseidon hear about it, he most certainly would have. He was, after all, trying to get back home. As is John.
 
So where is he? As Sam pointed out in Dead in the Water, the trail was getting colder but in the next episode, they believe they've caught a break when Jerry Panowski mentions just how he got in contact with the brothers in the first place. Of course, it turns out to be another dead end, and remember the words of Dean a few episodes down the road: "I'm telling you, I don't think dad wants to be found." In time, we'll get a most tantalizing hint as to why.

In spite of Sam's reply to Jerry that he's not quite a match for his father yet when it comes to the business of hunting (a sentiment that Dean silently shares about himself as well, externalized in one aspect through a willingness to acquiesce to his father's directives when he's proven to be a capable hunter in his own right), just as Telemachus was not quite ready to assume the mantle of king and hero, Supernatural inverts and dramatically enriches the father/son(s) relationship by adding tension between both parties. And it certainly helps that there's a second son to further explore this dynamic through its familial and militaristic aspects. But through it all, Sam finds out in Bugs that his father was indeed looking out for him, in his own way:
 
DEAN: Sam, Dad was never disappointed in you. Never. He was scared.
SAM: What are you talking about?
DEAN: He was afraid of what could've happened to you if he wasn't around. But even when you two weren't talking, he used to swing by Stanford whenever he could. Keep an eye on you. Make sure you were safe.
SAM: What?
DEAN: Yeah.
SAM: Why didn't you tell me any of that?
DEAN: Well, it's a two-way street, dude. You could've picked up the phone.

 
Good advice, some that the brothers wished John would have followed in Home, the pivot point of the entire season and arguably, the series. In the process of searching for his father, Telemachus journeys from court to court and hears from Nestor and Menelaus and his wife Helen tales of his father's exploits of bravery and, above all, cunning. Jerry recounts such a success to Sam (I love that movie, too, unseen employee) and in this episode, the mechanic at the garage where John was once employed does the same:
 
OWNER: Well...he was a stubborn bastard, I remember that. And, uh, whatever the game, he hated to lose, you know? It's that whole Marine thing. But, oh, he sure loved Mary. And he doted on those kids.
 
"How can you say we'd let a fight go by,
ever, at any time when we Achaeans
against the Trojans whet the edge of war?
If you will make it your concern you'll see
the father of Telemachus in action,
hand to hand in the enemy's front ranks.
Your bluster is all wind!
- Odysseus to Agamemnon, The Iliad, book IV
 
Nope, no similarity there.
 
In book XI of Homer's second work, Odysseus follows Circe's advice and journeys to Hades to speak with the dead, who will be able to direct him towards the proper course home. Inversion appears again, for does not Sam, the son, speak of a sort with the dead through his visions? These visions are the product of demon blood, the ichor of beings that are, for all intents and purposes, denizens of the underworld.
 
"Yet, it is true, each day
I long for home, long for the spirit of home."
— Odysseus to Calypso, The Odyssey, book V
 
After many travails and close brushes with death, Odysseus was soon the captive of the nymph Calypso and one readily sees a parallel with John where he was held captive by the memory of his wife, of what he had and subsequently lost and the desire to avenge her death and the breaking of his home. But first things first:
 

Comments  

Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-18 19:48
I’m singing your praises, Randal – this is fantastic!

The Odyssey is one of my all-time favourite books, and that you decided to connect it to this show is, well, extraordinary. Or, well, you didn’t even have to find a connotation; it was always there, as you wonderfully point out.

So many of the great pieces of world literature have drawn from antique writers, and Homer provided the world with archetypes in abundance. He is to be found in Tolkien’s books, the Arthurian legends, I guess almost every European legend or myth has some kind of root in Homer’s works (and there is Ovid, Euripides, well, many others), and some poets needed to paraphrase the works of old and compose fabulous poetry, like Tennyson with ‘Ulysses’†¦

I do agree with your assumption that every piece of literature might hold a different meaning for different people, based on personal experiences or preferences or… or…, but the almost divine quality of immortal words will never be diminished. Which is a very hopeful thought.

Would you really compare John’s memory of Mary to Odysseus’ brush with Calypso? She was ordered to let him go by Hermes (who acted on behalf of the Gods’ council, if memory serves), John, however, did not seem to be ever free of remembering Mary’s horrific death. How could he? No one who experiences something like that will ever be free. Not entirely.

Thank you so much for this! Loved every line of it. This time *your* words brought an old dream of mine back to mind – to get to Turkey one day and to sit down where Troy used to stand and read the Illiad where it all happened… and I’m sure, if the Gods allow, that it will happen….

Love, Jas
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2009-12-18 20:56
WOW, Randal...this is great. I love the Odyssey, but never compared it to Supernatural. It’s fitting...the Odyssey is a classic and so is Supernatural. ;-)

I can tell you really had fun doing this. So much work too. Thanks so much.
Freebird
# Freebird 2009-12-18 20:56
"I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin'
I see bad times today
Don't go around tonight
Well, it's bound to take your life
There's a bad moon on the rise
I hear hurricanes a-blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers over flowing
I hear the voice of rage and ruin
Hope you got your things together
Hope you are quite prepared to die
Looks like we're in for nasty weather
One eye is taken for an eye"

Creedence Clearwater Revival's song was the closing song for the Season 1 finale, remember, when that truck hit the Impala with Sam, Dean and John in it? Watching the story develope, this particular scene and song come to my mind quite often, and I can't help thinking that it is a landmark of the Winchester myth arc. Bad moon rising? From that point on, definitely.

Thanks, Randal, for this wonderful review! It's amazing to see how the same story can be presented in so many ways during different times of human history and civilization.
Gotta read Homer again, it's been a while.
Lara
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-19 06:51
Randal, you are a git. Sneaky Odysseus was always my favourite out of all the warmongering gung-ho greek hoards and now you've gone and tied him in with my love-to-loath man Big J in a more than slightly convincing fashion so I'll have to have a rethink and give myself brain strain. Curse you for a smarty-pants swot. ;-)

Jas, there's not much left of Troy now but it's well worth a look if you can time yourself to miss the coach-born multitudes ... Stand on the ruins and look out over the Dardinelle straits and shiver ...
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-19 07:18
alice, thanks for adding the screen caps. Nice break for the readers wading through such rambling text. 8-)

Jas, thanks, and don't forget nigh unreadable stuff like Joyce (he's alright, but some of those linguistic inventions put a strain on my eyeballs.)

You're 100% correct that Odysseus (thanks to the reason you laid out) did escape Calypso, whereas he'll never get over Mary's death and hey I *did* say it wasn't point-by-point ;-) - poetic license, right?) but I think there is a shared sense of imprisonment. And I wonder, given the intervention of the 'gods,' both in ancient Greece and Supernatural, if John wasn't 'rewarded' at the end of 2.22 with a trip to those fields of the lord that Castiel spoke about, and perhaps a reunion with Mary, a return, at last, to home. At least we can hope so.

Speaking of hope, I hope you get to see Priam's town, and if you do, make sure you take LOTS of pictures for us, especially us stuck across the pond. 8-)

sablegreen, thanks, and it was indeed enjoyable to put together, but I wondered if I wasn't just blowing smoke out of my ass, another case of "Marxist Readings Of Chaucer." :D

Freebird, that was the perfect choice of song, and completely foreshadows the bleakness that lay ahead. I watch that finale now and it still moves, Sam's in the middle of his speech - BLAM!

As Jas said, there's an immortal quality, and their universality is why we love and retell them to ourselves.

pete, thanks, I think the show is worthy of such analysis, but to me, it's never strictly, I don't know, 'scholarly.' There's such a visceral quality to what Kripke & Co. have created. It's so human.

Suze, HA! That certainly wasn't my intention - or was it? ;-) No, John is still a bit of an ass, and made some parental choices that a few of us wouldn't have, but he loved his kids, kids who just might end up better than their pop, which is what all us parents want for our own.

Be glad John wasn't not Goya's Saturn. ;-)

As for Troy, you've been? How close can one get, given the archaeological digs (which I assume are still going on - didn't they start back up in the 1980s?)
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-19 09:57
Yeah, back in the mid '80's ( '86, I think ... Brain scrambled by interviening eons of abuse ... :oops: ) There were a few trenches but nothing keeping you from climbing all over everything and fantasising wildly, it's a big site but the actual city seems really small compared to what we term a city now and there's not much left above ground ... Still go though, let your imagination fill in the blanks ...
Bevie
# Bevie 2009-12-19 14:51
Speechless here with admiration Randal!

Haven't read the actual Odyssey, but remember the kiddie version. Fascinating analysis as usual. Bravo!
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-19 20:18
Hey Randal and Suze, well, to my chagrin I won’t be able to go to ‘Troy’ anytime soon. All the money I save for vacation will flow into my US-trip next year....

But according to a friend who’s been to Turkey, they made a huge tourist attraction of it, you know, horse and all… Lucky Suze, having trodden the paths of old… I wouldn’t care, actually, if there was nothing to be seen. To stand on that ground alone where Hector and Achilles fought, where Aeneas had his hour… oh that would be enough to fill in the blanks…

Went to Tintagel last year (basically we did an Arthur-tour, visiting many places from the legends, even found dosmary pool), and the experience was intense and rewarding. There is magic in life, indeed.

Randal, I know you said your piece was not to be a point-to-pointâ €¦ I just love to challenge you once in a while a bit. ;-)I mean that nicely, though, you know I do. And, ahem, I confess I’m not exactly a fan of Joyce. But I do love Tennyson… Ah, Tennyson…

Guys, grrrrrr, it’s even colder tonight. -21 C (how much is that in Fahrenheit?)… I need to stock up that hot chocolates and socks…. A little sympathy, please?

freezing, but kicking Jas
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-20 05:42
suze, didn't think there'd be much left of Troy (or Troy II or VIa or however many there are) besides an army of archaeologists with farmer's tans. ;-) But oh, to see those lands anyway.

Bevie, thanks! There's a kiddie version? Man, now I'm wishing that Shel Silverstein did one, that would've been groovy.

Jas, bah, go to Troy, nothing to see here besides Wal-Marts. 8-)

Please, challenge me, tell me when I'm full of shit, which is probably often! And I'm certainly with you on the Tennyson. And Swinburne, and Browning and a bunch of others who probably didn't rewrite ancient Greece either, ha!

-6°F or thereabouts? Which is, F-ING COLD. Stay warm!
Suze
# Suze 2009-12-21 04:31
Poor Jas, only -2ish here which is bad enough! Tintagel's awesome ... It's just down the road from my sister, fantasic place, just don't wear high heels!

Randal, there's loads of good stuff in Turkey ... Lots of Roman bits and bobs and Ephesus, which is well worth a look ... Parts of Istambul are straight out of Shehezerade too. You guys have given me itchy feet! ( probably an improvement on frozen feet, though ... :lol: )
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 11:24
Suze and Randal, thanks for the consoling words, they drove the cold away, well, a bit, it’s a few degrees warmer now….much obliged….

Randal, I’m not interested in Wal-Marts, so I don’t care how many of those will try to capture my attention… Initial plans were to take a road trip along the Pacific coast (don’t try to tell me that’s not beautiful), but our plans have changed. So, I’ll be going to the con in March (and, frankly, I’m so damn curious about the whole thing and I haven’t looked forward to do so crazy a thing for a long time) and then to the capital, visit a couple of friends and see the sights (my hotel is in walking distance from the Smithsonian and various libraries, come on!).

Challenges coming up, as soon as I deem them necessary, don’t worry… hehehe….

What, Suze, your sister lives nearby Tintagel?! Oh, sigh, I’m having a heart attack. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in a long time, and it’s magical (had an experience there I’d file under ‘paranormal†™).
And you’re right – it was wise to leave those heels at home… (how did you know I wear those, anyway?)

Couldn’t the writers think of some ancient Greek ghost or whatnot and send the brothers over the Atlantic to investigate? I bet Jared and Jensen would welcome the warm weather, the great food and all those nice folks… (just don’t go swimming, guys,… sharks,…)

The cold is slowly freezing away my brain cells, all I’m coming up is nonsense…. (btw: itchy feet are far better than frozen ones, believe me, right now I’m doing studies on the matter)

Crazy, Jas
Randal
# Randal 2009-12-21 13:31
Suze, freezing feet? That's what giant moon boots are for. ;-)

Ah, Sheherezade, always makes me think of Rimsky-Korsakov . I could listen to that all day.

Jas, don't worry, America has some lovely bits, but you know how it is when you live somewhere. Every place that isn't home always seems more exotic and magical.

Hmm, given that the apocalypse is planet wide, I'm sure Vancouver could easily pass for various European cities. Of course, they'd have to take the TGV instead of the Impala.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2009-12-21 17:44
Krhm. Allow me to form my own intelligent quip:

WOW. 'nuff said :-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 18:20
Well, if the TGV comes in black... 8-)
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2009-12-21 18:29
Randal, you're right - other places than home often seem more exotic or magical... Now, I somehow couldn't accept that, so I found a couple of places that meet those qualities (here it's a Celtic grave mound and the five hundred year old oak growing next to it, and a moor where I like to go for a run) - when I wish to travel to Troy (since I've read your article again and again felt transported to an ancient world mingling with Midwestern US), but cannot, for whatever reasons, then the mind must provide opportunities - even if it was to cook a Turkish meal... well, who said you couldn't visit a place or time culinarily?
Thanks again for this article. I'm going to read HOmer again as soon as I have him unpacked (I know it's a sacrilege that he is still in some box, but, you know, working hours...)
:-) Jas
Hayley McCuan
# Hayley McCuan 2009-12-26 17:58
Hey, I 'm writing a report for school and I need to pick a t.v. or movie that relates to the Odyssey. I picked Supernatural as my choice-- and I need to write 3 ways on how it relates to the Odyssey.. so I was hoping you could help me out?? You know so much about them both.. obviously.
elenaM
# elenaM 2010-01-01 22:08
Even Dean's read the Odyssey! I hadn't, though-- til now. Another great article, Randal.