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Teaching Activities: Return From Troy, Episode 1

Starting points

  • Storytelling: Introduce your learners to the idea of a story being told, not read. Possibly, tell something of The Odyssey’s background, though this can happen naturally as questions arise (see Sources for Return from Troy). Explain that our present-day storytellers, Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, will be telling this story from their memory. They have memorised a plan of how to tell it. Storytelling is their job. We will meet a storyteller from long ago. Storytelling was his job too. He worked for a king. Listen for him.

  • The head of Odysseus: Show Odysseus’ picture and a large question mark; but don’t give his name away. Here is the stranger of this episode’s title. We meet him soon. What is he wearing? What is his hair like? What is on his head? What is he looking at? What is he thinking? What questions would you ask him if you met him? (Ask for views, supported by evidence, and develop debate.)

  • The three goddesses: Ask learners to listen out for the goddesses’ names and the gifts they offer to Paris.


  • The three goddesses: Use the illustration The judgement of Paris to help learners remember the goddesses’ names and gifts. Which goddess would you have chosen? Explain why Paris’ choice led to a war. How could he have done it differently? (Talk together to explore ideas about how he angered Hera and Athene, goddesses with powers; and Helen’s husband, a powerful king.)

  • So the stranger was Odysseus!: How did you feel when the stranger revealed his name? Had you heard that name before? Had you heard that voice before? (Identify the time when the victorious Greek kings, Agamemnon, Menelaus and Odysseus set sail for home. Describe how the storyteller’s voice changed during the first account of the war with Troy.) How do you think the people in the palace felt? Imagine telling a story about a man and there he is in front of you! So what has happened? Why isn’t he home? Why does he weep? (Deduce that the stranger has suffered; suggest reasons for his sadness.) The answer to that is in the story he is about to tell us — and our mystery picture is of… Odysseus!

  • Demodocus: Look at the illustration Odysseus weeps to the sound of Demodocus’ song. There is a storyteller in this picture. Be a detective. Can you work out who it is? What about the other two main characters? What clues and evidence did you use? How do we know for sure that Demodocus didn’t read the story? (He was blind.) He sang the story and played his lyre. How does Hugh Lupton change his voice to speak this old man’s part? Can you do an old man’s voice? Try! (Use role to judge how the use of voice helps us to depict characters in the story.)

  • Ten years of war: Imagine! How long have you been alive? We shall find out soon about a child who was born just as the war started. (Telemachus, son of Odysseus.)

  • Welcoming the stranger: Use the illustration Odysseus meets Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous. Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous, is not mentioned by name in the recording so you will need to explain who she is. She was on the shore washing clothes with her servants, when she met the stranger. How was Odysseus welcomed? What do we do when someone comes to our home? Work in small groups and use drama to show some examples. (Use role to explore the issue of differences in culture.) How do we know that the stranger was extremely hungry and thirsty? (‘And the stranger ate and drank and drank and ate and ate and drank’, ‘raging appetite’.) What might ‘Food for the soul’ mean?

  • A story told twice: There are two accounts of the war with Troy: one from Demodocus (Transcript pp. 2-3 lines 21-26) and one from the storyteller (Transcript p. 2 lines 47-52). Use transcripts of the two passages to compare their viewpoints. (Mark the text to show how the writer uses adjectives and repetition to convey this.) Choose words to describe and contrast these two views of war. (Demodocus: glorious, exciting, heroic… Storyteller: wasteful, tragic, sorrowful…)

Further activities

A performance poem: This activity results in composing and performing a group poem to show others.

Use the two accounts of war as starting points. (Working as a class, compose a poem and/or develop a performance.) Perhaps place these different views of war side by side. For the verses use the words of the storyteller, “Ten years of war…” as a scaffold. Begin with his words from the recording; add further lines, composed by learners, showing his weariness and sorrow. Create several verses. They could be the voices of different soldiers. For the chorus perhaps use the words of Demodocus as a starting point. Tell of heroes; glorious actions; excitement; energy. (Together plan and deliver the performance. Share ideas about the use of voice, grouping, positioning and sound.)

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