If you want to experience a fun, educational story that’s great for long car trips, today’s the last day to order Odds Bodkin’s The Odyssey for $24.95. That’s 50% off the 4-hour mp3 download. Sale ends tomorrow at Odds Bodkin’s download shop.
I’m looking forward to it. This coming Friday I’ll drive down to the Dana Center at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. This is the hall used for presidential primary debates and other performances, and I’ve been onstage there many times, sometimes for the college itself, but this time to perform The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast for the New Hampshire Classical Association’s hundreds of high school Latin students for Classics Day. They come in buses from all over the state. I guess this is my 8th time doing this. Maybe more times than that, I’m not sure.
The stage has a thrust. Like a ship’s bow, it sticks out into the waves of seats that slope upward into the eight hundred seat space. Way up there is the balcony. And it will be filled with kids who’ll be asked to turn off their cellphones as I wait backstage, taking the last few passes at tuning the 12-string before I step out, walk to my chair there at the bow, and hit the summoning motif, which I’ll play for a few seconds before saying anything. Two elemental bass notes at the bottom with harmonic sparkles at the top. This motif is meant to launch my listeners into a receptive level of consciousness, heroic and somewhat dark as it is. The promise of things to come.
Briefly I’ll describe how in 700 B.C. in ancient Greece, not many people could read, books had yet to be invented, and people either told stories themselves or relied upon professional “Singers of Tales,” the most famous of whom was Homer. I’ll mention how in Homer’s time, when he was performing his Odyssey and Iliad poems with character voices and a lyre, his stories weren’t myths, but were more like forms of religious worship. How he and his listeners believed in the gods and goddesses of Olympus as surely as we believe whatever we do today. And how like William Shakespeare, writing about Julius Caesar long after the fact, the Trojan War was already five hundred years in the past in Homer’s time.
And then the story will begin. I’ll enter the dream, which lasts about an hour, become all sorts of characters, play the 12-string guitar like a bat out of hell and emerge at the end ready for something new this year. A Q&A. In the past I’ve just stepped offstage, but Flora Sapsin, she who arranges for my performances, has asked me to take questions from the kids and teachers this year. Usually high school audiences have all kinds of good questions. How do I remember all that? Did I make up that music? How do I change my voice? Do I have a favorite color? Do I own a dog? Why did I become a storyteller? On and on they’ll go until we run out of time, since I’ve done this sort of thing with lots of young audiences. It’s always fun and rewarding and I’ll try to crack a few jokes along the way.
And then I’ll pack up and drive home, too exhausted to do much else for the rest of the day. As I said, I’m looking forward to it.
You can purchase an mp3 of the entire four hours of The Odyssey here at my shop, if you’re interested.
In the genuine myth (if that’s not an oxymoron) of Hercules, he’s a prince destined to be king and early on marries his first wife, Megara. They have children until Hera, who hates him, sends a madness and while blindly raging, he kills his young family. The guilt that devours him afterwards is intolerable, but Zeus and the Fates decree that if he can perform his famous labors, the guilt will end. This promise drives him through much of the story, during which he avoids women, afraid he’ll lose his mind and kill them, too.
Halfway through his Underworld recounting of his life, Persephone asks him about women. Weren’t there any? All those years? No, he says, but talks about the finest woman he ever met, Queen Alcestis, who’d taken her own life so her husband could live on. Hercules had rescued her from the Underworld, for which Hades has yet to forgive him. Then he asks about the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, who he’d been tricked into killing by Hera, and how she’s doing in the Land of the Dead. After telling her story, Hades agrees to treat her ghost with a little more kindness.
Constantly filled with rage, Hercules spends a lifetime trying overcome it. It doesn’t really leave him until he spends three years as a slave to Queen Omphale for yet another murder. Accepting the punishment, he’s shocked when she takes his lion skin and commands him to dress like a woman, condemned to weaving with the girls. He learns to make his own dresses. Few people know about this cross-dressing episode in the myth. Yet it is only after this that he truly learns to appreciate women, and is finally free to love again.
Still, in the end, love is his undoing. His second wife, Deianira, loves him completely and they live together for years. Yet it is she who causes his death. To find out how, come listen to the tale, Hercules in Hell, this coming Sunday night, April 23 at 8:00 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA.
It’s a shocking, twisting tale. Told with 12-string guitar. An adult telling.
Tickets are here.
Once Upon a Time in Ancient India…
Out hunting one day, King Pandu comes upon two deer copulating and against all wisdom shoots them both in their helplessness. When he approaches to retrieve his arrows, the stag is still alive and says, “For killing us in our moment of delight, I curse you. If ever you make love again, you will die in that instant.”
Pandu’s two new wives, princesses Kunti and Madri, are horrified upon hearing this but stay with him anyway. The three go to live in the forest. However, before she was married, an old hermit, covered in ashes, has told Princess Kunti that if she ever wants sons by the gods, to utter a certain mantra. And so one night, alone in her bed, she calls upon the Sun, Lord Surya, and to her amazement, he appears in her room. The next day she gives birth to a son and sets him floating down the Yamuna River, which flows into the Ganges. He is found by a couple and raised, becoming the greatest warrior who has ever lived.
But then, two years later, Kunti wants sons to keep, so she summons Lord Dharma, the God of Justice, and the next day gives birth to Yudisthira the Wise, the first of the Pandava Brothers. Next, Vayu, the Wind, fathers a son destined to be the strongest man in the world, Bhima. Lastly, Indra, the God of a Thousand Eyes, fathers Arjuna, destined to be the greatest archer of all. When Madri, Pandu’s other wife, sees this, she asks for the mantra and summons the Aswins, Physicians of the Gods, and produces the Pandava twins, Nakula and Sahadeva. And so the five Pandava brothers come into the world, all with heavenly fathers.
In Yudisthira at Heaven’s Gate, a tale I’ll be telling this Sunday, King Yudisthira, now old, must journey to Mt. Kailasa to die, entering the the gates of heaven there. The battle discussed in the Bhagavad Gita is long past. But Arjuna and Bhima won’t let him go alone. Nor will Draupadi, wife to them all. What happens during their journey, and what happens at the gates, is one of the most dramatic stories I’ve ever learned to tell. With full characterizations, it’s accompanied by sitar-tuned 12-string guitar. Come here it!
The show is Sunday April 9th at 8 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. Tickets are $20 and $10 and you can buy them here.
India’s Ancients: Tales from the Mahabharata and Beyond.
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, an Odds Bodkin epic storytelling audio with music, will be published at https://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.
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.
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.
You can find other themes that accompany my stories at www.oddsbodkin.net.