Odysseus – Trickster and the Issue of the Compatibility of the Image of the Hero with Its Function in the Traditions of the Oral Epic

Karol Zieliński


In the Greek epic tradition associated with the Trojan cycle, the protagonists are played by Achilles and Odysseus, two heroes with contrasting characteristics. The Homeric poems endeavor to approximate the character of Odysseus to Achilles. They cannot, however, break with his traditional image in which he represents the trickster type. Both preservation of the traditional image and its reinterpretation is typical of the oral tradition. Comparison with other traditions of the oral epic reveals a connection between the trickster character and the antagonist of the hero-protagonist. Both polarized characters represent two types of behavior assessed by the listening audience in terms of their usefulness for the survival of the community. In his readiness for sacrifice, the hero represents an altruistic attitude, positively valorized as moral behavior. The trickster’s egoistic behavior moves away from moral principles, but it can also ultimately bring benefit to the whole community. Similarly to the behavior of the trickster-antagonist, that of the hero-protagonist is also ambivalent, as it brings harm to the community, which –though temporary –often takes on the dimension of a disaster.

Słowa kluczowe: trickster, oral tradition, Odysseus, epic hero, Homer, tradycja oralna, Odyseusz, heros epicki

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