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Aruther V. Odysseus

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Heroes have been around for thousands of years, and through all this time, for better or for worse, what they did and what they believed in has relatively stayed the same. The best example of this is the comparison between the ancient Greek hero of Odysseus from The Odyssey, and the medieval English hero of King Arthur from Le Morte D’ Arthur. When you first look at these two heroes you see that they are from two completely different times, with different cultures, different ethics, and different social structure. But they still have many similarities which include the support they get from others on their journeys, the adventures they go on, and the portrayal and treatment of women in their stories.

When Odysseus and Arthur go on their journeys they get a lot of help and support from others, to help guarantee their success. When we look at the Odyssey there are a lot the get a lot of help and support from others to help guarantee their success. When we look at the Odyssey there are a lot instances when if it was not for the support of others Odysseus would have failed. This is seen when the gods agree to help Odysseus get home, Aeoles giving Odysseus the bag of winds, and when with the help of his son and loyal servants he was able to retake his palace, and get his wife back. With these examples it is very easy to see that with out the support of the many helpers that Odysseus had for the tasks along the way his journey would have been impossible. The same idea of companion ship is seen in the tales of King Arthur. He employs the help of all the Knights of the Round Table, the lady of Avalon, Gwynevere, Lancelot, and King Ban, and King Bors of France. With the help of these helpers Arthur was able to gain control of Camelot, unite England, and find the Holy Grail.

While Odysseus is on a continuous journey to get home to his family, and Arthur has many individual expeditions that he and his knights go on, there is a striking similarity between the adventures that Odysseus an Arthur go on, which is the idea of honor. Honor is what compels Odysseus to get home, and what drives Arthur to greatness through his many perilous deeds. When we look into further detail of what honor had to do with Odysseus’s journey home it is clear that honor is what compelled Odysseus and his crew to raid the Cicone city for more plunder, they thought that if they did not come home with enough gifts, and riches they would have dishonored their families, and would have made every one in Ithaca think that their fighting for the past 10 years at troy was not worth the sacrifices, and that the casualties died there in vain.

We examine the tales of Arthur and what compels him or one of his knights of the round table to go on a quest is the idea of honor. When someone is killed or injured, it is up to his friends and family to seek revenge on who caused harm and in the process restores the wounded persons honor. We can see that this was an idea that was practiced on a regular basis with Arthur and the knights of the round table through the quote “My friend, revenge your self well for these injuries” (Le Morte D’ Arthur,33) it was your obligation to seek revenge because one had to have their honor. This is the reason that many of the quests occurred, such as that of Balin, Lancelot, and Galahad.

Finally even though these stories took place hundreds of years apart they still put women in the same social role. In the Odyssey women are portrayed as week, helpless, and needing men there to help them. This was mainly portrayed through the character of Penelope, who needed to have a man tell her what to do, and with the absence of one allowed a mob to take over her house. The same idea of women being week, and helpless is also portrayed in the Arthur tales. The main character that continues the image of women being helpless is seen through Gwynevere, but it is also seen through Elaine when she would do anything to be with Lancelot, and through the countless “damsels in distress” in the various Arthur tales. While the argument can be made that because of the ideas of courtly love, and chivalry, women were better off than those of Odysseus’s time, but overall the same basic idea of helplessness was still portrayed.

In conclusion, even though the Odyssey and Le Morte D’ Arthur were written hundreds of years apart they still share many of the good and bad ideals, and morals. The good is seen when both stories show that even the most powerful people need help from others, and team work helps you accomplish the impossible. As well as the idea that you should stand up for your self and your friends. But also the bad, which is seen in both stories portrayal of women. All in all, this just goes to show that even though we might think that we have changed, we are at a basic level, the same.

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