Ancient Greek and Old Irish Literature
Odysseus and Maeldun
8th century BC, Ancient Greek | 12th century AD, Old Irish.
Odysseus hurled insults at the giant, who threw a rock at their ship which nearly sent it crashing back to shore.
Maeldun came to an island where two giants were working away in a giant smithy.
'Cheated of a safe homecoming,' said Miranda, 'Odysseus was driven by hurricane force winds through a raging sea and washed up many days later upon the shores of a tranquil and friendly land. The country of the Lotus Eaters. Some of his men went ashore and enjoyed the place so much that they had to be forcibly carried back to their ships.'
'The twelfth-century Irish Book of the Dun Cow,' responded Quintin, 'tells how the Irish voyager Maeldun was overtaken by a fierce storm at sea and driven into an enchanted ocean where he came to an Island of Laughing Folk. They put a man ashore who started to laugh and play and would not come back to the ship, so they left him where he was and sailed away.'
'Odysseus set sail once more,' continued Miranda, 'and soon came to an island where goats lived. Only goats and nothing else. He landed with his men and they made a feast of the animals they were able to hunt and slaughter.'
'Maeldun came to an island,' replied Quintin, 'where only birds lived. He went ashore with his crew, where they killed and roasted many of the fowl and replenished their boat’s stores with their meat.'
'The Island of Goats,' said Miranda with emphasis, 'lay off a much larger land which Odysseus and his crew found to be inhabited by a race of giants. One of these, the cyclops Polyphemus, imprisoned Odysseus and many members of his crew in a cave and ate two of them at a time with his meals. Having freed himself and the remaining crew members at last, Odysseus misguidedly hurled insults at this giant, who threw a rock at their ship which nearly sent it crashing back to shore.'
'Maeldun came to an island,' responded Quintin, 'where two giants were working away in a giant smithy. Quickly spotted, Maeldun turned his boat around at once, but not before a huge piece of iron was cast at them, causing a great splash nearby.'
'Odysseus came to an island where a goddess lived...'
'Maeldun came to an island where a goddess lived. There was a glass bridge leading into her castle and she possessed a magic pail and each of his men found in it the thing that he most desired to eat. And they found another island where only a queen and all her maidens lived, and she had a magic ball of thread that would fetch them back whenever they tried to escape.'
'Odysseus returned home at last,' replied Miranda, 'and instead of proclaiming his presence to everyone he could find, he disguised himself as a beggar, then spoke with his father Laertes pretending to be Eperitus, son of Prince Apheidas of Alybas.'
'Maeldun returned to the island where his father's murderers lived, but when he landed, he sat down with them as though they were his friends and related to them the story of his voyage.'
'I wouldn’t like to have to argue that these two ancient stories have nothing in common,' said Miranda.