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Throughout history, people all over the world experienced a time of physical border crossing in which they traveled, migrated, or were in exile. These events are seen in many famous literature texts including The Odyssey, the 1001 Arabian Nights, and in The Book of Joshua. In The Odyssey, a man named Odysseus is seen lost and trying to find his way back home after fighting in a war. In The 1001 Arabian Nights, a sailor named Sindbad tells his story of his adventures during seven voyages. Lastly in Joshua, a group of nomadic Israelites are seen trying to find a home. With these texts, a lot of different ideas are seen, along with the effects of these border crossings such as the benefits, dangers, and disruption of certain conceptions.
The Odyssey is a great example of physical border crossings. The idea of travel and exile is a major part of this epic. Odysseus sets off to travel to Troy, so that he can fight in the Trojan war. With this decision, Odysseus faces many dangers. First, being that he is leaving to go fight in a war, a war in which many men die and so may he. Yet, besides this danger of losing his life, Odysseus also endangers all his wealth and his family. Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, and so as he leaves as a king, he is risking everything he leaves behind. Wars can take many years and so people back at home can take advantage of this type of situation and betray others. This is seen with the example of Agamemon. Although this happens after the war is over, it is still a good example of what can happen when someone leaves home. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, left to command the forces of the Greek army and upon his return found his wife to betray him with Aegisthus. He was killed by the traitors after losing all he owned to them. This isn’t exactly what happened to Odysseus, but after Odysseus accepted the risks of leaving his home and not returning for twenty years, Suitors from noble families came to Ithaca and tried to take over Odysseus’ throne along with his wife.
Another danger or disruption that is felt with Odysseus’s absence is that of his family whom he leaves behind. When a father leaves by crossing borders for a time and leaves his family behind, it affects them just as much as it affects himself. With his son Telemachus, the reader sees a man, but even though he physically depicts a man, Telemachus is a boy that his father had left when he went to Troy. Without a father figure to help raise and teach Telemachus, he could not grow into the heir and protector of Ithaca that he was meant to be. Throughout the epic Wilson calls Telemachus “boy” or “Odysseus’ son. ” An example of this is seen on page 131 when “the boy went downstairs to his father’s storeroom…” and on page 133 when Telemachus’ crew “loaded everything upon the decks; Odysseus’ son instructed them, and then embarked…”. The fact that Telemachus is still called a boy or is a part of Odysseus’ name, shows how he struggles in the day to day life as a son of a great warrior and king. He is unable to fend off the suitors and loses much of his inheritance everyday along with his house and mother. Telemachus longs for Odysseus’ return so that he can become an adult and make his father proud. With Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, the reader doesn’t see or learn much, but her grief is seen throughout the epic as well. The pressure of the suitors forcing themselves into her home and insisting on her to pick one of them to marry causes her weep every day and long for her husband’s return. With these examples, it is seen how ones leave for travel can affect many things beside the traveler himself. Yet, when thinking of the traveler, in this case as Odysseus, there are also many things that he experiences himself.
Odysseus’ travel to Troy unfortunately turns into an exile from home enforced by the sea god Poseidon. This was caused by the blinding of Polyphemus’ eye, who is the son of Poseidon, by Odysseus himself. This made it a great struggle for Odysseus to return home and made it a lot more dangerous as Odysseus was trying to get home by sea while the god of the sea was angry with him. Odysseus would experience many storms in which Poseidon was trying to kill him. Along with this idea of danger that Odysseus faced, the reader can also think about the idea of meeting new people when crossing over a new border. Odysseus traveled to many new lands and met many kinds of people who treated him in very different ways. There were many people who treated him fairly and would help him on his journey home like the Phaeacians. Then there were also people who treated him wrongly like the cyclops Polyphemus, who tried to eat him, and the lotus-eaters, who tried to make him forget about ever leaving their island. With all these ideas it seen how physical border crossings played a role in The Odyssey.
In the 1001 Arabian Nights the reader meets Sinbad the sailor who tells the story of his adventures and how he accrued all his wealth. With Sinbad, it is seen that he crosses borders as a merchant to gain wealth and to rise in the social hierarchy. With this motive in mind Sindbad says “listen well to this tale of mine” and goes off to tell the story of his seven voyages. Sindbad experiences many dangers as well in the stories as he is robbed by apes, encounters a man eating giant and is almost killed by a very large snake.
There are many similarities between the 1001 Arabian Nights and The Odyssey when it comes to the dangers and such, but a major difference is the benefits of Sindbad’s physical crossing of borders. Sinbad set off as a merchant to accrue wealth and rise out of his social class. On one of his voyages, Sinbad explains how he was trying to escape an island of cannibals. He met some men who helped him by taking him to their king on another island. This king welcomes Sindbad to his island for as long as he wishes. Sindbad then goes from being one without wealth in this island, to being one of the richest men on the island as he introduces the citizens to the saddle. Yet, along with this wealth, the kings wants Sindbad to marry a highly noble lady owns land. This shows the effects that some border crossings can give, as Sindbad not only gained money from traveling and trading but also became a nobleman.
Lastly, When taking a look at Joshua, it is seen how a group of Israelites are migrating and trying to find a home for themselves. They are a group of nomads who are trying to find a home for themselves, and so they end up crossing many physical borders as well, especially when taking over Jericho. Under Joshua, and with the help of the prostitute Rahab, the Israelites were able to destroy the walls of Jericho and take over the city for themselves (Berlin and Brettler). When thinking about the Israelites, it is important to think about how the many border crossings may disrupt or change their idea of home. To many people it is a place where they are safe, yet when thinking about the Israelites, it is important to think about the fact how they were always in exile from settling. They were nomadic and would conquer cities. Unlike other civilizations that built their homes, the Israelites never really had one, so they had to take it by themselves for themselves. As seen through these three texts, there are many ways in which one crosses physical borders and there are many effects of such crossings. One can benefit in gaining wealth or a rise to a higher social class. One can also suffer by bringing themselves misery, or to others. Lastly it was shown how some migrations to cities in search for a home can perhaps change ones view or understanding of home.
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