I have ranted about my hatred of summer reading programs many times in the past, specifically zeroing in on how they focus solely on “The Classics”, a term which is defined as “The Stuff Most People Would Never Read If They Had a Choice.” A friend of mine recently lamented needing to write a one-page summary of “The Iliad” and how hard it was to condense everything down to just one page. It has been a long, long time since I read The Iliad but I decided to take a stab at it. The following is what I came up with — it fits on one letter-sized Microsoft Word page (.5 inch margins on all sides). My daughter enjoyed it and thought I should share it with the world. Since I live only to make her happy, I’ve posted this, the first in what looks like will be a series of approximately one-page summaries of The Classics (and other things). Enjoy!
This one time, at Battle Camp, there were these beautiful maidens. The maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, had been captured from the town of Chryse by the Greek army because that’s what armies are meant to do when they finish sacking their enemies. Chryseis of Chryse, cried out to her daddy. Her dad, Chryses, was all too familiar with his daughter’s many crises, but she had him wrapped around her finger so he knew he had to help. Seeing as he was a two-faced priest of Apollo (the god, not the lunar mission) he kindly offered a huge ransom for his daughter’s safe return while also viciously praying for Apollo to destroy the Greek army. Apollo, being a compassionate god, complied and sent a terrible plague into the camp. When Agamemnon, a more important Greek army dude than I am, learned that the plague decimating his people was due to the beautiful maiden, he reluctantly agreed to send Chryseis back to her daddy.
Distraught at having had to give up his maiden, Agamemnon demanded that his friend and comrade, Achilles, give him the other maiden (Briseis) to make up for this loss. This, of course, made Achilles rather cross because he liked beautiful maidens, too, and so he stomped and pouted and went back to his tent, refusing to continue to fight in the war anymore because without captured, beautiful maidens, like, what was the point?
Meanwhile, the Trojans decided to form a peace treaty with the Greeks, but before the ink had a chance to dry, they broke the treaty and had Zeus help them launch another attack. With Zeus at their side and the sulking baby boy Achilles whimpering in his tent, the Greeks suffered great losses. The freaking Trojans even had the audacity to burn the Greeks’ beautiful boats!
“Why does Achilles want us to die? If only he’d fight, all would not be lost,” the Greeks thought, because they were too scared to say it within his earshot. Achilles didn’t actually want his people to die; he just wanted to feel appreciated. But once that line was drawn in the sand, there was no way he’d stick even his left heel across it and fight. So instead he loaned his armor to his best buddy, Patroclus, and sent him off to battle in his place. Since it is the way of the world, Patroclus died in the battle (of course). When the Greeks dragged his dead carcass back to camp, Achilles was filled with such grief that he decided to use his new-found rage to rejoin the battle. Of course, he now needed new armor so a shopping trip to Mount Olympus was arranged where he could shop at Hephaestus & Fitch to get prettied up for battle.
Since the Trojan leader, Hector, decided that the battle was won, he had his men camp outside of Troy. Little did he know that Achilles would show up uninvited. Strengthened by his rage, both about his dead friend as well as his lack of captive maidens, Achilles cut down every Trojan he saw, dumping them all into the river. This last fact thoroughly annoyed Xanthus, the janitor, because he had to clean up the whole mess. The two men fought until Achilles spotted Hector watching them. Achilles chased Hector and they ran around the city three times while the theme from “Benny Hill” played. Finally, Hector stopped for a donut and Achilles decided he wanted the same donut… and a coffee, too.
“I saw this donut first!” cried Hector. “It’s mine. You find your own!”
“Dude,” whined Achilles, “my friend died and I have like no captured maidens! I need this donut to drown my sorrows.”
They debated about maidens and coffee and dead people for several hours before coming to the conclusion I could have given them in no time at all: the only solution to a coffee-and-donut dilemma such as this is clearly to have a duel. So they dueled and the air was filled with the clanging of swords, until Achilles dramatically and permanently killed Hector.
And then there was much rejoicing. Achilles danced with Hector’s corpse, twirling around Patroclus’ grave for several days before Hector’s father tearfully pleaded with him. Hector’s father told stories of Achilles’ own father and this moved Achilles to feel compassion and take pity on the old man who’d have killed him the day before. So he returned Hector’s corpse to the Trojans. A new peace agreement was forged and Hector was buried as a hero ought to be.
And everyone was happy. Well, except for Achilles. I mean, would you be happy if you lost your beautiful, captive maiden, your best friend and the dead corpse you’d grown to love like a brother… all in the span of ten days?