Tuesday, April 25, 2017

DMI2017, Week 16: "Circe" by Eudora Welty

This week the Queen of Hearts came up in my card deck. Hearts is the suit chosen for Mississippi writers, in honor of the state’s bicentennial this year. It seems fitting that I matched this particular card with the story “Circe” by Eudora Welty (from The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty). This story is a captivating retelling of the story of the witch Circe and her encounter with Odysseus, as told in Homer’s Odyssey.


The basic story is this: Circe lures Odysseus’ men off their ship and entices them to drink a potion that turns them into pigs. One of the men escapes, however, and warns Odysseus of the impending trap if he comes to rescue his men. He is further warned by Athena (via Hermes, the messenger) to protect himself from Circe with the magically protective herb moly. He does, and after rescuing his men, he sleeps with Circe and ends up staying for a year with her.

Welty stays true to the story as initially told by Homer, but what makes this story so intriguing is, of course, her use of language and the way she covers the events of the story. The entire story is told from Circe’s point of view, so that we get the other side of the story, as it were. For example, I was taken by this passage, which occurs after Circe realizes that Odysseus is not going to succumb to her spell:

Before I’d believe it, I ran back to my broth. I had thought it perfect – I’d allowed no other woman to come near it. I tasted, and it was perfect – swimming with oysters from my reef and flecks of golden pork, redolent with leaves of bay and basil and rosemary, with the glass of island wine tossed in at the last: it has been my infallible recipe. Circe’s broth: all the gods have heard of it and envied it. No, the fault had to be in the drinker. If a man remained, unable to leave that magnificent body of his, then enchantment had met with a hero. Oh, I know those prophecies as well as the back of my hand – only nothing is here to warn me when it is now.

This story was truly a treat. I don’t think it’s one of Welty’s better-known stories, but it certainly is worth the read, and deserves five stars for the writing.

Deal Me In 2017 is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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