From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Odysseus or Ulysses was the Greek king of Ithaca and the hero of Homer's epic poem, the Odyssey. Odysseus plays a key role in Homer's Iliad. King of Ithaca, husband of Penelope, father of Telemachus, and son of Laërtes and Anticlea (although there was a tradition that Sisyphus was his true father), Odysseus is renowned for his guile and resourcefulness (known by the epithet Odysseus the Cunning, and said to be third to only Zeus and Athena in wisdom (see mētis, or "cunning intelligence"), and is most famous for the ten eventful years it took him to return home after the Trojan War.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses" presents an aging king who has seen too much of the world to be happy sitting on a throne idling his days away. Leaving the task of civilizing his people to his son, he gathers together a band of old comrades "to sail beyond the sunset".
James Joyce's novel Ulysses uses modern literary devices to narrate a single day in the life of a Dublin businessman named Leopold Bloom. Bloom’s day turns out to bear many elaborate parallels to Odysseus’ twenty years of wandering.
Cream's song "Tales of Brave Ulysses" speaks somewhat of the travels of Odysseus including his encounter with the Sirens. An unnamed Odysseus figure is the narrator of the Steely Dan song, "Home at Last."
Frederick Rolfe's The Weird of the Wanderer has the hero Nicholas Crabbe (based on the author) travelling back in time, discovering that he is the reincarnation of Odysseus, marrying Helen, being deified and ending up as one of the three Magi.
Nikos Kazantzakis' The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, a 33,333 line epic poem, begins with Odysseus cleansing his body of the blood of Penelope's suitors. Odysseus soon leaves Ithaca in search of new adventures. Before his death he abducts Helen; incites revolutions in Crete and Egypt; communes with God; and meets representatives of various famous historical and literary figures, such as Vladimir Lenin, Don Quixote and Jesus.
Ulysses 31 is a Japanese-French anime series, published in 1981, which updates the Greek and Roman mythologies of Ulysses (or Odysseus) to the 31st century. In the series, the gods are angered when Ulysses, commander of the giant spaceship Odyssey, kills the giant Cyclops to rescue a group of enslaved children including Telemachus. Zeus sentences Ulysses to travel the universe with his crew frozen until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, at which point his crew will be revived and he will be able to return to Earth. In one episode, he travels back in time and meets the Odysseus of the Greek myth.
Joel and Ethan Coen's film O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) is loosely based on the Odyssey. However, the Coens have stated that they hadn’t ever read the epic. George Clooney plays Ulysses Everett McGill, leading a group of escapees from a chain gang through an adventure in search of the proceeds of an armoured truck heist. On their voyage, the gang encounter—amongst other characters—a trio of Sirens and a one-eyed bible salesman.
In S.M. Stirling's Island in the Sea of Time trilogy, Odikweos (Mycenean spelling) is a 'historical' figure who is every bit as cunning as his legendary self and is one of the few Bronze Age inhabitants who discerns the time-traveller's real background. Odikweos first aids William Walker's rise to power in Achaea and later helps bring Walker down after seeing his homeland turn into a police state.
Between 1978 and 1979, German director Tony Munzlinger made a documentary series called Unterwegs mit Odysseus (roughly translated: "Journeying with Odysseus"), in which a film team sails across the Mediterranean Sea trying to find traces of Odysseus in the modern-day settings of the Odyssey. In between the film crew's exploits, hand-drawn scissor-cut cartoons are inserted which relate the hero's story, with actor Hans Clarin providing the narratives.
Lindsay Clarke's The War at Troy features Odysseus, and its sequel, The Return from Troy, retells the voyage of Odysseus in a manner which combines myth with modern psychological insight.
Irish poet Eilean Ni Chuilleanain wrote "The Second Voyage", a poem in which she makes use of the story of Odysseus.
A cartoon show named Class of the Titans has a character named 'Odie' who is a direct descendant of Odysseus. One of the episodes, "The Odie-sey", portrays the story of the Odyssey, with characters like Calypso, Scylla, and Aeolus, and also including modern twists.
Actor Kirk Douglas portrayed Odysseus in the Italian 1955 feature film Ulysses. Actor Sean Bean portrayed Odysseus in the feature film Troy. Actor Armand Assante played Odysseus in the TV miniseries The Odyssey. Actor Bekim Fehmiu played Odysseus in the TV miniseries L'Odissea in 1968. He had also been played by John Drew Barrymore in the 1961 film The Trojan Horse and by Piero Lulli in the 1962 film The Fury of Achilles.
Odysseus is also a character in David Gemmell's Troy trilogy, in which he is a good friend and mentor of Helikaon. He is known as the ugly king of Ithaka. His marriage with Penelope was arranged, but they grew to love each other. He is also a famous storyteller, known to exaggerate his stories and heralded as the greatest storyteller of his age. This is used as a plot device to explain the origins of such myths as those of Circe and the Gorgons. In the series, he is fairly old and an unwilling ally of Agamemnon.
In the second book of the Percy Jackson series, The Sea of Monsters, Percy and his friends encounter many obstacles similar to those in the Odyssey, including Scylla and Charybidis, the Sirens, Polyphemus, and others.
Tony Robinson's 1996 UK children's television series Odysseus: The Greatest Hero of Them All (sometimes listed as an episode in the Jackanory serial), comprised Robinson narrating the Iliad and Odyssey, with most of the events maintained intact, but retold in modern language.