The Power of Moly

The Power of Moly

How Homer teaches us to embrace the unknown
2926
views

My very first article concerned the way Homer invited his audience to feel sympathy for the cyclops Polyphemus in The Odyssey. In the Circe episode, the mysterious substance called 'moly' offers Odysseus a chance to make peace with the unknown, unlike the encounter with Polyphemus.

While on Circe’s island, Odysseus needs protection from her magic after it is reported that she has transformed some of his men into pigs. Conveniently, the god Hermes appears at just the right time, before Odysseus goes to confront Circe personally. Hermes gives him an herb called moly that will allow Odysseus to resist Circe’s magic, telling him only that it is “dangerous for a mortal man to pluck from the soil but not for deathless gods. All lies within their power” (line 339-41). It’s unclear if Odysseus had to eat it, mix it in a drink, or if he just had to stick it in a pocket (assuming he had pockets), nor do we know how Circe missed the fact that he had the magical root on him. The important thing is that it works, canceling out the effect of the potion that would have changed him into a pig. As mentioned before, Circe is unaware of the presence of moly and exclaims that Odysseus has “a mind… no magic can enchant” (line 365). It could be that moly just had a placebo effect on Odysseus, that it only had an effect on him because Hermes, a god, said so. Who was Odysseus to argue with him? It could also be the fact that Hermes prophesied to Circe that Odysseus would come to her one day, and whatever the gods say will happen usually comes to pass in these stories.

Hermes giving Odysseus the moly

Readers get a basic idea of how moly is used, but there is no definition that adequately captures the symbolic nature of the word. The Oxford English Dictionary, usually an authoritative text in such cases, only defines it in literal terms as “a fabulous herb with magic powers”, as “a mythical herb white flowers and black roots”, and “a southern European plant related to the onion. These definitions bring us back to the symbolic meaning of moly. Odysseus would rather not use violence against a woman, and Circe’s magic isn’t working on him, so they are forced to try and find an understanding. This prompts Circe to invite Odysseus to “mount [her] bed and mix in the magic work love – we’ll breed deep trust between us” (lines 371-2). It should go without saying that they have chosen to make love and not war. Homer could have been making the point that violence is not always a viable solution in encounters with the strange and foreign, as it was in the case of Polyphemus, with whom humans could find no understanding. In the case of Circe, the unknown is dangerous, but a person can learn to embrace it, and even love it.

The Odyssey turns into a commercial for Axe body spray

Cover Image Credit: theoi.com

Popular Right Now

College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
37466
views

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

15 Thing Only Early 2000's Kids Will Understand

"Get connected for free, with education connection"

279
views

This is it early 2000's babies, a compilation finally made for you. This list is loaded with things that will make you swoon with nostalgia.

1. Not being accepted by the late 90's kids.

Giphy

Contrary to what one may think, late 90's and early 00's kids had the same childhood, but whenever a 00's kid says they remember something on an "only 90's kids will understand" post they are ridiculed.

2. Fortune tellers.

Giphy

Every day in elementary school you would whip one of these bad boys out of your desk, and proceed to tell all of your classmates what lifestyle they were going to live and who they were going to marry.

3.Bunnicula

1.bp.blogspot.com

You could never read this book past 8 o'clock at night out of fear that your beloved pet rabbit would come after you.

4. Silly bands.

upload.wikimedia.org

You vividly remember begging your parents to buy you $10 worth of cheap rubber bands that vaguely resembles the shape of an everyday object.

5. Parachutes.

btckstorage.blob.core.windows.net

The joy and excitement that washed over you whenever you saw the gym teacher pull out the huge rainbow parachute. The adrenaline that pumped through your veins whenever your gym teacher tells you the pull the chute under you and sit to make a huge "fort".

6. Putty Erasers

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/385972630558152185/

You always bought one whenever there was a school store.

7. iPod shuffle.

cdn.pixabay.com

The smallest, least technological iPpd apple has made, made you the coolest kid at the bus stop.

8. "Education Connection"

You knew EVERY wood to the "Education Connection" commercials. Every. Single.Word.

9. " The Naked Brothers Band"

www.youtube.com

The "Naked Brothers Band" had a short run on Nickelodeon and wrote some absolute bangers including, "Crazy Car' and "I Don't Wanna Go To School"

10. Dance Dance Revolution

live.staticflickr.com

This one video game caused so many sibling, friend, and parent rivalries. This is also where you learned all of your super sick dance moves.

11. Tamagotchi

assets.rbl.ms

Going to school with fear of your Tamagotchi dying while you were away was your biggest worry.

12. Gym Scooters

assets.rbl.ms

You, or somebody you know most likely broke or jammed their finger on one of these bad boys, but it was worth it.

13. Scholastic book fairs

c1.staticflickr.com

Begging your parents for money to buy a new book, and then actually spending it on pens, pencils, erasers, and posters.

14.Go-Gurt

assets.rbl.ms

Who knew that putting yogurt in a plastic tube made it taste so much better?

15. Slap Bracelets

media.rbl.ms

Your school probably banned these for being "too dangerous".

Related Content

Facebook Comments