Learning to Tell THE ODYSSEY

The letter arrived from a teacher in Norwich Vermont, addressed to storytellers across New England. David Millstone, a fifth grader teacher, who ended up writing a great book called An Elementary Odyssey, was searching for someone who could tell a few episodes from Homer’s great epic. The Sirens, maybe. The Cyclops. Maybe the Test of the Bow. I didn’t know any of them, but immediately wrote him back claiming I could tell the whole thing. Hire me! I’ll tell the entire epic in three hours, I told him, two half-hour shows a day for three days.

When I was a kid I’d seen a movie, Ulysses, with Kirk Douglas. Made in 1955 with early stop-action monster effects, it was a mixture of tan guys in knickers, sword fights and beautiful women filmed among blue waters and craggy islands, most of it on a sailing ship with oars. It was a hazy memory at best.

After I’d walked out to the end of this limb, he wrote me back fairly quickly. I was hired. The residency was in three months.

Imaginative work is really good if you can get it, and here I had the perfect excuse to create a new spoken-word tale, but a really big one this time. A storytelling longer than a movie. I’d never tried to stow anything quite that large in my hold, so I bought the Fitzgerald translation and set to reading, jotting down essential details I thought were either crucial to the story or gratuitously gory and fun. I ended up with 42 episodes in all, but still, they were spread over thirty pages in my journal. If you’re trying to forge mental images and remember them while playing a 12-string guitar, a mess like that doesn’t help.

“I need to be able to see this whole thing in one place,” I told myself, and so for my own sanity and the feeling that yes, this was manageable, I forced myself to write the essentials of each scene in teeny tiny script, cramming them all onto a 2-page spread in my journal.

Here are those two pages from many years ago. It was the beginning of an odyssey of my own.

PS: I’ll be performing The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA on April 2nd
at 8:00 p.m. It’s the first 75 minutes of what is now a 4-hour performance. You can buy tickets here, if you’d enjoy such a show. From the Walls of Troy to the Cave of the Cyclops.

Beowulf: The Only One/Listening Sample

Beowulf: The Only One, an Odds Bodkin epic storytelling audio with music, will be published at http://www.oddsbodkin.net/shop/ Thanksgiving Day 2016. The 65-minute audio is a new bardic telling of the ancient Viking tale, the oldest known piece of literature in English.

With character voices for Beowulf, King Hrothgar of the Danes, Unferth, Wyglaf and Grendel the monster and his mother, the tale is scored throughout with original music on 12-string guitar.

The download is priced at $14.95.

Enjoy this audio sample! 3:25 minutes.

THE MONSTER’S VOICE/Beowulf:The Only One

Beowulf, the oldest known work of English literature, is about a man fighting monsters. Beowulf fights three of them over the course of the story. The first is Grendel, an ancient demon who is terrorizing the Viking Danes. Since he has no powers of speech, to create a character voice for Grendel took some experimenting, but in this prototype recording of Beowulf: The Only One, my hour-long audio story coming out later this fall, you can hear Grendel growl a few times and catch a whiff of his theme music. He’s a beast.
Enjoy.

 

Music for BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, a bardic audio story

Want to hear some nice 12-string guitar music? Just a minute or so, but it’s in the play bar. It’s called Heorot, and it’s the theme I play while describing King Hrothgar’s mead hall in my upcoming audio story, Beowulf: The Only One. Heorot is the name of the Danish king’s hall, and it’s a happy place (this music is contented and happy) until Grendel the Demon shows up and starts eating people.

See if you like it.

There are plenty of other themes in the tale, and I’ll put up a few more as time permits. Enjoy.

Odds Bodkin

You can find other themes that accompany my stories at www.oddsbodkin.net.