Whoosh! Issue 17 - February 1998

IAXS project #418
By J. S. Stephens
Copyright © 1997 held by author
1979 words

The Odyssey (01-05)
ULYSSES (06-10)
Similarities (11)
Differences (12-14)
Commentary (15-19)

The Odyssey vs. ULYSSES

The Odyssey

Just don't let that blonde puke on me again, okay?

Poseidon is ticked at Ulysses and Xena.

[01] In The Odyssey, Odysseus incurs Poseidon's wrath by being on the winning side of the Battle of Troy and not giving the proper thanks to the god, Poseidon, for the victory. Odysseus is kept from going home by various stumbling blocks. ULYSSES (#43), the Xena: Warrior Princess version of Odysseus' attempts to get home, begins right after Ulysses (Odysseus) has escaped being turned into a pig by Circe, a nymph. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is aided by Mercury, who gives him a sprig of Moly to take to counteract the effects of the drink that Circe offers all the men, which has the effect of turning them into swine (hereafter referred to as pigs.) After recovering from her initial shock, Circe offers Ulysses some sound advice: when passing by the Sirens, plug your ears with wax to avoid being lured by their enchanting songs.

[02] Odysseus has his crew tie him to the mast and put wax in their ears. He must be able to hear when the songs stop in order to tell the crew when to remove the wax from their ears. He is enchanted by the lure of the Sirens and tries to escape, but the crew follows his previous orders and bind him tighter around the mast so he will not escape. Eventually, the ship is past the Sirens and all is well.

[03] After the adventure with Circe, Odysseus loses his crew, is entertained by Calypso the sea-nymph, then builds a raft to continue his travels back to Ithaca. He eventually lands in Scheria, the Land of the Phaeacians, where he washes up on the shore, stripped of his clothes. He is discovered by Princess Nausicaa, who is doing laundry with other ladies of the court. Odysseus wakes up and is discovered by the princess, who gives him oils and soap to clean himself with and clothes for him to wear. She tells him to speak to her parents, the king and queen and tell his tale. Odysseus does so and is granted a ship by the King Alcinous.

[04] Odysseus lands safely in Ithaca, where he is greeted by a shepherd (Minerva, a.k.a. Athena, in disguise). Minerva (Athena) tells him about the suitors who are trying to marry Penelope and take over Ithaca. She changes back to her true form, changes Odysseus into a beggar and sends him to Eumaens, the swineherd. Odysseus also meets with his son Telemachus, who helps him plot to take back the kingdom. Telemachus helpfully hides the weapons of the other suitors (who have been eating Penelope out of castle and home) while Penelope calls for a contest. The man who can string Odysseus' bow and shoot an arrow through twelve rings will be her husband and the new king.

[05] Many try, but fail. Odysseus, still in the guise of a beggar, asks to try his luck, as he claims that he was a soldier when he was a young man. He strings the bow easily, shoots the arrow through the twelve rings, then shoots the most annoying of the potential suitors. He throws off his disguise and announces that he has come back to claim his kingdom and his wife. They live happily ever after. Some versions state that Penelope was not present when Odysseus strung the bow and he must prove his identity to her by telling her secrets of their marriage bed.


I always wanted to be a brunette.

Perhaps Gabby should have gone for alluring in ULYSSES.

[06] ULYSSES (#43) begins as Ulysses has lost his ship to pirates after his encounter with Circe. Gabrielle lures the pirates away with her version of the "Dance of the Three Veils and Ugly Purple Sports Bra" while Xena and Ulysses busy themselves with taking back the ship. Ulysses worries about sailing with only three people, but Xena assures him that it is no problem (although in effect, it is a crew of two since Gabrielle's stomach prevents her from fully participating in sailing). While Gabrielle is busy feeding the fish, Xena and Ulysses are just as busy falling in love. Poseidon has told Ulysses that Penelope is dead.

[07] Xena ties Ulysses to a mast in his quarters to keep him from answering the call of the Sirens. He manages to escape, kicking Gabrielle in the process, then appears on the deck. Xena, always resourceful with her "many skills", starts singing with more allure than the Sirens, thus enchanting Ulysses and thus keeping the ship on course. Later, Ulysses and Xena kiss while they think Gabrielle is asleep. Xena and Gabrielle have a heart to heart talk about love the next day, with Xena proclaiming her love for Ulysses and telling Gabrielle that Gabrielle taught Xena about love.

[08] The trio eventually reaches Ithaca, where they encounter a man being beaten by thugs. The three spring into action, scattering the thugs and rescuing the man, who turns out to be an old friend of Ulysses. The gentleman informs Ulysses that Penelope is alive and there are large numbers of would-be kings eating up everything and trying to marry Penelope. He leads the trio to the tunnels of the castle. While Gabrielle is finding disguises, Xena breaks up with Ulysses, telling him that a kiss is just a kiss, not a promise of love and devotion.

[09] Ulysses disguises himself as a beggar while Xena and Gabrielle disguise themselves as servants. A mob of suitors is milling about, waiting for Penelope to decide whom she will marry. She declares that the man who can string Ulysses' bow will be the next king. Several men try to string the bow and fail. Ulysses tries and nearly fails until Xena slides under the table and helps. Ulysses promptly shoots three men with one arrow, igniting a major fight.

[10] After the fight, Xena and Gabrielle head back to the ship and wave farewell to Ulysses and Penelope. Ulysses boards the ship, trying to convince Xena that he wants to travel with her, that he loves her. She tells him to go run his kingdom and resume his relationship with Penelope. Xena and Gabrielle sail off to their next adventure.


[11] In both The Odyssey and ULYSSES, Odysseus/Ulysses is initially thwarted by Poseidon, god of the Sea. Odysseus/Ulysses must pass the Sirens in order to make it home. Odysseus/Ulysses also talks to an old friend once he lands on Ithaca, then disguises himself as a beggar to get into the castle. In both versions, he successfully strings his bow, proving his identity. Also, a fight breaks out after he shoots someone with an arrow. He declares his true identity and is restored to his rightful place.


[12] There are more differences in the two tales than similarities. The differences start with the ship. Odysseus' ship is taken by the sea in a storm. Ulysses' ship is taken by pirates. Odysseus meets with the Sirens before his ship is smashed and he does not break free of his bonds, since his crew ties him tightly and cannot themselves hear the songs. Ulysses breaks free of his bonds, only to be restrained by Xena's more alluring song. In The Odyssey, there is no doubt that Odysseus is trying to get home to his wife, Penelope. In ULYSSES, Poseidon tells Ulysses that Penelope is dead, so Ulysses falls in love with Xena.

[13] Once Odysseus lands on Ithaca, he is greeted by a goddess in disguise. Ulysses, however, saves an old friend from thieves. In The Odyssey, the goddess Minerva (or Athena) tells Odysseus that Penelope will be choosing a suitor soon, and takes him to the hut of the swine-herd, an old friend. He also meets with his son, who also helps him plot to take back the kingdom. In ULYSSES (#43), the old friend helps the trio get into the castle and tells Ulysses that Penelope is still alive. Xena then breaks off their budding relationship.

Wait a minute! This is cat gut!

Ulysses has problems stringing his bow.
Fortunately Xena is under the table to help him out.
If only we all could have Xena under a table.

[14] At the feast, Odysseus handily strings his own bow and shoots the twelve rings and a suitor. However, Ulysses cannot string his own bow without a little help from Xena. He then proceeds to shoot three men with one arrow. After he reveals his true identity, Odysseus reunites gladly with Penelope, but Ulysses pines after Xena.


[15] Both versions show a man who must overcome many obstacles to reach his home. The two versions have similar elements and some of the same episodes (the Sirens, the old friend, the bow stringing) but end very differently. Other episodes have taken stories or myths and deftly wound Xena and Gabrielle into them, making their inclusion fairly plausible.

[16] In ULYSSES (#43), however, Xena and Gabrielle are shoved rudely into the story and all three act out of character for the entire episode. This produces a rather jarring effect on the viewer, especially viewers who remember their mythology. Ulysses acts like a wimp, first effortlessly falling in love with Xena just after hearing that his wife is dead, then by not making a good effort to string his own bow. He still wants to leave his wife for Xena, seeming to forget that he just spent twenty years trying to go home to be the king and to be with his wife.

[17] Xena also acts out of character. She ignores Gabrielle, has no compassion for Gabrielle's illness, and treats her like an unwanted tag-a-long. Xena first uncharacteristically falls in love with Ulysses while watching him fight (and not helping until he is overwhelmed by the pirates), then emotionlessly dumps him before they confront the gathered potential suitors for the hand of Penelope.

[18] Gabrielle is the only one who is close to being in character throughout the entire voyage. She tries to be supportive of Xena's love for Ulysses, and she fights when needed. However, she does not seem to know that Ulysses is a great hero of Troy or why Poseidon is so angry with him. Usually a veritable fountain of knowledge, she seems to have run dry.

[19] Overall, the episode is very disappointing. No one is acting in character, events are jumbled out of synch, Xena falls in love with a man who acts like a wimp and Ulysses could care less about the woman he has been trying to come home to for twenty years. Definitely not one of my favorites.

Penelope is amazed at where Ulysses stores his bow.

Penelope, either aghast at the appearance of her supposedly dead husband
or his performance.
You decide.


Whoosh! Episode Guide: ULYSSES (#43) (http://thirdstory.com/whoosh/epguide/ulysses.html)

Bullfinch's Mythology: The Age of Fable Chapters XXIX and XXX: Adventures of Ulysses

Mythology by Edith Hamilton. Mentor Book edition, copyright 1940, 1942 by Edith Hamilton, copyright renewed 1969 by Doris Fielding Reid. Chapter 15, The Adventures of Odysseus.


J. S. Stephens J. S. Stephens
I am a librarian of many talents by day and a rabid Xenite/Trekker by night. I was born and raised in the Great State of Texas, and received by Bachelor of Business Administration in 1986 and my Master of Library Science in 1990 from two fine universities in Texas. I currently share my house with my partner of many years, a cat, a dog, and an iguana.
Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124); A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "You had people waiting on you hand and foot, catering to your every whim." Xena: "Hey, that's what you're for." WARRIOR... PRINCESS (15/115)
First episode seen: ROYAL COUPLE OF THIEVES (17/117)
Least favorite episode: ULYSSES (43/219)

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