It has been sometimes since I watch TV. Last weekend I watched Odyssey and inevitably, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner came to mind brought about by the albatross portrayed in the story. An albatross commands a very powerful image of luck and most significant [until refuted recently] is being regarded as a symbol of lifelong bond between couples.
Seemingly fickle in deciding a mate, but displaying a very elaborate and romantic courtship which might span two years, they meet and work on nest construction for several seasons before breeding and nurturing a bond that can last 20 years or more. Once an albatross chooses its mate, it is known to stay together and should one dies, the other one would die too. Such is the image commanded by this grandest living flying machine on Earth which crosses ocean basins and circumnavigates the globe (NatGeo Dec’07).
Odysseus is the mythological Greek hero renowned for his guile and resourcefulness and is most famous for the eventful ten years it took him to return home from the Trojan War. He enrages Poseidon who then thwarts his journey home. His is the Trojan Horse which helps the Greeks win the ten-year war with the Troys. After winning the war, on his way back he visits the island of the witch-goddess Circe who falls in love with him because he resists her and despite being released, Odysseus spends a year of feasting and drinking until finally, his men convince Odysseus that it is time to leave for Ithaca, where his son Telemachus whom he left when he was born; has grown into a sensible young man and takes it upon himself to defend his mother’s virtue from a host of suitors.
Out of love for the mortal, the witch-goddess Circe actually advises Odysseus on the remaining stages of the journey. Sadly, his crew who has been the ones to convince Odysseus to go home ignore the warnings of Circe and were punished with a shipwreck in which all but Odysseus himself were drowned. He was washed ashore on the island of Calypso, where she compelled him to remain as her lover for seven years.
Gods have other plans for Odysseus and thus he escaped the beautiful nymph Calypso and made it to Ithaca just as his son, Telemachus landed on the shore and Penelope his wife saw an albatross gliding the wind from her window.
At a time where sexual promiscuity is the rule of the land, Penelope is portrayed as a very virtuous lady. Telemachus too, despite a missing father figure and a corrupt society grows up to be a wholesome person.
The story is about a man’s journey. His pride eventually incurs the wraths of god. But other gods who like Odysseus ‘conspires’ and lend him a helping hand here and there. Like all narratives the story has a happy ending. The image of the albatross circling Penelope’s sky accentuates its rhetorical reputation.
However, I watched Animal Planet and discovered that the albatross is no less promiscuous when the partner is not around. What a let down!!!