▯ The Penelopiad By: Margaret Atwood
Story of Odysseus’ return to home country, Ithaca, best known from Homer’s Odyssey.
Absent from Ithaca for 20 years, half of those years said to be fighting in Trojan War, the other
half slaying monster, sleeping with goddess’s etc.
Penelope daughter of Icarus of Sparta and cousin of Helen of Troy.
Penelope thought to be faithful to Odysseus.
• Chapter 1 A Low Art (pg. 14)
Told from the perspective of Penelope after her death, she knows everything now that she is
dead (wishes she didn’t?).
Arrive in the underworld with a sack filled with everything you have said, everything said
about you, and words you’ve heard.
Penelope’s sack filled with words about her husband
Odysseus used in tricks and lies on Penelope even though she was faithful.
Penelope has waited through all the various renditions of The Odyssey? To finally tell her
story in The Penelopaid.
• Chapter 2 A Rope Jumping Rhyme ( pg. 56)
Poem told from the perspective of the 12 maids killed by being hung by Odysseus after
• Chapter 3 – My Childhood (pg. 712)
Mother was a Naiad, born semidivine.
Father, Icarus of Sparta, ordered Penelope to be thrown into the sea possibly because of
an oracle said she would weave her fathers shroud.
Naiad’s element is water, purplestripped duck saved her
Nick named “duck” from then on.
Weeping a handicap of the Naiadborn, spent a quarter of her life crying.
• Chapter 5 – Asphodel (pg. 1522)
“The gloomy halls of Hades”, Penelope in the underworld. 2
The dead can go on “outings” by the sacrifice of an animal people can talk to whomever
they wish, through dreams, and being conjured by a magician.
Magicians conjure up Helen rather the Penelope.
Helen didn’t get punished when she died like most did for driving men mad in lust and
causing the destruction of Troy.
• Chapter 6 – My Marriage (pg. 2338)
Marriages were only for the important people.
There were contests to see who would marry the women.
Penelope not sure to this day why her father threw her into the ocean.
Every time she sees him in the Asphodel (light part of the underworld) her father
Sacrifice to the God of the sea??
Odysseus was never expected to win Penelope’s hand in
Contest was a race (varies in different places).
Odysseus was one of Helen’s suitors but didn’t win the
Odysseus cheated and one race.
Penelope’s Uncle, Helen’s father, gave wine to competitors to slow them down, and gave
Odysseus a potion to make him fast.
Helped Odysseus win as payment for ensuring the Helen had a peaceful
Both Penelope and Odysseus described as being “CLEVER”.
• Chapter 7 – The Scar (pg.3949)
Penelope’s Naiad mother attended her wedding
Odysseus tells Penelope to scream in pain to pretend to have had sex after their wedding
and then take the time to become friends.
Odysseus’s grandfather claimed to be the son of Hermes, a God who cheated, stole, and
Perhaps where Odysseus got these characteristics?
He has a scar on his thigh, from a boar while retrieving gifts promised to him at birth from
Penelope suspects that his grandfather had something to do with it since no one
else was injured.
Penelope feels connection to Odysseus; both were almost destroyed in youth by family
Odysseus takes Penelope away from Sparta to his homeland, Ithaca. 3
Chapter 9 – The Trusted CackleHen (pg.5564)
Voyage from Sparta to Ithaca.
Growing attraction to Odysseus.
Arrive in Ithaca with maid father gave her as a wedding present.
Maid died not long after
Everyone looks up to Odysseus, and people come from far and wide to consult him to undo
Odysseus’s mother does not like/approve of Penelope.
Nurse teaches Pe