All epic poetry calls on the supernatural to
both help and prevent the heroic main character from accomplishing their goal.
In Homer’s epic Greek poem, Odyssey, the supernatural gods Poseidon, Hermes and
Zeus often intervene into Odysseus’ life.
the god of the sea and protector of all aquatic features, is Odysseus’
supernatural antagonist. He injects himself into Odysseus’ life while he is on
his journey home from war. Poseidon held a strong and long-lasting grudge
against Odysseus for blinding his son the Cyclops Polyphemus, therefore,
Poseidon forced Odysseus to be stuck at sea for almost twenty years. This
intervention of the supernatural into Odysseus’ life is the main source of
action into the poem. Due to Poseidon’s role in the poem, Odysseus faces many
additional challenges after a long ten-year war including storms and the death
of six of his men.
more helpful intervention of the supernatural throughout the Odyssey would be
Hermes. Hermes is the messengers between the gods and also the son of Zeus.
Hermes first assists Odysseus by telling him to chew on a magical herb that
would protect him from being turned into an animal and allows him to overpower
Circe and forces her to change his men back into human form.
does not show up much throughout the Odyssey; however, he does play an
important role throughout the poem. Zeus, being the ruler of all gods and god
of the sky, has a strong pull in the supernatural world. His daughter, Athena,
was Odysseus’ protector in the Odyssey and Athena happens to be Zeus’ daughter.
A big part of Zeus’ help was when Odysseus ended up getting captured and stuck
with Calypso for seven years. She sleeps with Odysseus and one day hopes to
marry him; however, Calypso has no choice but to release Odysseus at Zeus’
order sent by Hermes. Zeus also punishes Odysseus’ men for killing the cattle
on his island. The god of the sun, Helios, threatens them but Zeus ends up
sending lightning bolts down and killing Odysseus’ men.
As shown, the supernatural is
an important characteristic of epic poetry because it adds suspenseful twists
in the poem’s plot. Poseidon, Hermes, and Zeus are just a few examples of the importance
of the supernatural in the Odyssey.