The Island Dream – Odysseus and Nausicaa

William McGregor Paxton Nausicaa

I glimpsed a group of slender young women playing with a gilded ball. Divided into two camps, they battled gracefully for possession of the glittering bauble that a laughing young girl kept tossing high in the air.

The Island Dream, Hermann Hesse (translated by Ralph Manheim)

Hesse’s writing was heavily inspired by other literary sources. His first short story, The Island Dream, is clearly inspired by Odysseus’s visit with the Phaeacians. In Book 5 of The Odyssey, Odysseus washes up on a beach, where he discovers a playful group of women in Book 6. The beautiful Nausicaa is the only one who isn’t freaked out by the hairy old man, thanks to Athena’s matchmaking.

So the noble Odysseus crept out from the bushes, after breaking off with his great hand a leafy bough from the thicket to conceal his naked manhood. Then he advanced on them like a mountain lion who sallies out, defying wind and rain in the pride of his power, with fire in his eyes, to hunt down the oxen or sheep or pursue the wild deer.

The Odyssey, Homer (translated by E.V. Rieu)

Yikes.  A tad more aggressive than young Hesse’s placid adventurer.

Nausicaa, William McGregor Paxton (1937)


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