Strangers in a Strange Land
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Rivers are among the most potent symbols in mythology, representing rebirth, the unconscious, and all things maternal. Life springs from water, and the Nile, which nourishes the desert, is the most life-giving of all rivers. Conversely, rivers are also connected to death and to the terrifying and transformative passages of the soul (Jung, Symbols of Transformation 200, 218–19). In The Odyssey, Homer tells what happened after the Trojan War, when the weary Menelaus, whose wife Helen’s abduction started ten years of battle, is trying to get home. Strong winds blow his ship off course, and he finds himself stuck in Egypt. Realizing that he has transgressed against the gods, he seeks Proteus, a shape-changing wizard. Menelaus hides among the stinking seals that surround Proteus’s cave and catches hold of the wizard, forcing him to say which god must be appeased for a safe passage home. Proteus reveals that Menelaus, whom he calls, “the Stranger,” will never find his way home to Greece until he travels “the long and woeful way to Egypt” up the “divine” river, the “water of the gods” (4.80).
KeywordsNarrative Voice Coffee House Transformative Passage Potent Symbol Alien World
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