weekly wednesday blogging challenge

Villains I’d Root for instead of the Protagonist

This week’s Weekly Wednesday Blogging Challenge question is Villains I’d Root for instead of the Protagonist

Polyphemus – the Cyclops from Homer’s Odyssey

Now, I’m not saying he was innocent or completely faultless in his own downfall, but I do root for him over Odysseus. This statement can and does also apply to Circe in regards to her interactions with Odysseus and his men. And, really, I don’t think we’re supposed to be rooting much for Odysseus – so much of the poem is a cautionary tale against breaking the custom of xenia; of the importance of honour and respect; and of the consequences of not abiding by the guidelines of proper social interaction between a guest and a host.

Homer specifically uses this story as an exaggerated example of the dangers of assuming who deserves respect. The episode takes the concept of hospitality and distorts it, showing both Polyphemus as a bad host, and Odysseus and his men as bad guests. Odysseus judges the cyclops as being uncivilised, and therefore unworthy of being granted respect (Homer, The Odyssey, 9.187-9.192). While he does not let his men steal any of Polyphemus’ flock, they do disrespect his property by entering his home without invitation, lighting his fire, and eating his food. (9.224-231). Polyphemus breaks the custom in return by questioning Odysseus as soon as he finds him, rather than feeding him first as xenia dictates (9.252-255). Then, not only does he not offer the crew a meal, but Homer further distorts the concept for his audience by having Polyphemus make a meal of Odysseus’ crew (9.287-293).

So, yes, while he’s certainly not an innocent victim, I’d root for Polyphemus over Odysseus because was protecting both his home and his livelihood from invading strangers, he was force fed alcohol to make him drunk, then brutally stabbed in his one eye – how is he now supposed to care for himself and his sheep?

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