“She isn’t a footnote, she’s a person.”
With a title that alludes to that woman whose face purportedly launched such, the essence of “A Thousand Ships” is encapsulated in this line from the book uttered by Calliope, muse of epic poetry.
The author acknowledges that the Homeric epic poems are regarded as foundational texts on wars and warriors, men and masculinity; but through her retelling, the women of the Trojan War are highlighted. Finally, “she” is a person with fears, flaws, desires, and hopes; and “she” ceases to be a footnote.
It is largely tragic, but I personally think that this is an insightful recounting of one of the Western world’s greatest tales. The women’s feelings and opinions are expressed at last, and because of this thoughtful perspective, the previously overlooked voices make the lives affected by the Trojan War more realistic and compelling. This is definitely a fitting and worthy read for Women’s Month!
The lines by Calliope and Penelope (the loyal wife who awaited Odysseus’ return for 20 years) are my favorites:
“The bards all sing of the bravery of heroes and the greatness of your deeds: it is one of the few elements of your story on which they all agree. But no one sings of the courage required by those of us who were left behind.” — Penelope, in a letter addressed to Odysseus
“When did poets forget that they serve the muses, and not the other way around?”
“If he truly wants to understand the nature of the epic story I am letting him compose, he needs to accept that the casualties of war aren’t just the ones who die.”
“But this is the women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s, and the poet will look upon their pain — the pain of the women who have always been relegated to the edges of the story, victims of men, survivors of men, slaves of men…
And I have sung of the women, the women in the shadows. I have sung the forgotten, the ignored, the untold. I have picked up the old stories and I have shaken them until the hidden women appear in plain sight. I have celebrated them in song because they have waited long enough… this was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them. A war does not ignore half the people whose lives it touches. So why do we?” — Calliope