Odyssey Compare and Contrast Essay, Willie Willson, BM Portfolio


For our third quarter BM, we had to take the knowledge that we had gathered from The Odyssey and put it into the form of a compare and contrast essay.  We had to take a creature from other literature and compare it to something in The Odyssey.

Compare and contrast essay:


Two of the darkest creatures in literature are, the Dementors from Harry Potter, and The Sirens from The Odyssey. Although Dementors and Sirens both incapacitate their victims, they do so in different ways, and by exploiting different emotions. It is strange to see how many emotions can be turned against a human.  It is interesting to see how these two creatures, even though created so far away from each other, are eerily similar.

Although both Dementors and Sirens control emotions in their prey, these emotions are very different from one another.  Dementors’ very presence instills absolute despair and fear, so bad that it is not uncommon for people to go insane because of just being around them. "Dementors infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them…  Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you… If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself... soul-less and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life,” (Remus Lupin, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10).   You can see how Dementors instill fear even unto the bravest of people.  Harry, the protagonist, is known for surviving Voldemort, the antagonist, many times, yet as soon as he happens upon a Dementor for the first time, he faints out of terror.  Likewise, Sirens use human emotions to incapacitate their victims, but instead of fear, like Dementors, it is seduction.  The Sirens sing so beautifully that any sailor on their boat has such an intense impulse to go over to them, they ignore the mounds of corpses surrounding them, and the fact that it would spell certain death for them. “ I signaled with a frown for the crew to set me free,” (The Odyssey Book 12, line 210-211).  In this quote you can see how “brave Odysseus“ fights against his bonds, even though he knows it will spell certain death for him.  Seduction and fear are both powerful forces to be tangled with.

Even both Dementors and the Sirens eat their captured victims in order to gain sustenance, they go after rather different parts of the human.  The Sirens eat the flesh, bones, and everything else physical in a human.  They are carnivores that need flesh to sustain themselves.  “Lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses.” (The Odyssey Book 12, line 51-52).  You can see that there are many bodies surrounding the Sirens, rotting and half eaten.  This shows that they have a great physical impulse to eat food.  Dementors feed on nothing except the fear, despair, and souls of their victims.  Dementors can “kiss” their victims and suck their soul out through their mouth. Likewise, they feed off of the emotions that they inspire in humans. “A Dementor's last and worst weapon is called the Dementor's Kiss. The Dementor puts back its hood and clamps its jaws on the mouth of the victim and sucks out his soul, leaving him an empty shell, alive but completely, irretrievably ‘gone.’” (Remus Lupin, The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5).  This quote shows how the Dementors literally feed off of fear, despair, and even the soul.  This need for negative emotion coupled with their ability to make humans feel these emotions is a deadly combination. 

Although Dementors and the Sirens both are in different books, they both have personas that are both different and similar to each other.  Dementor’s have the persona of being like death. They symbolize the grim reaper. “A Dementor rose slowly from the box, its hooded face turned toward Harry, one glistening, scabbed hand gripping its cloak,” (The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter, Chapter 7). Dementors are deathlike in everything they do, even in appearance.  They inspire fear, they look like floating black grim reapers, and they are eerie.  Sirens are different however.  In many stories they are said to be beautiful maidens that seduce the men on the ships to swim to their own deaths.  In the Odyssey, they are half woman, half bird, with grime and rotting flesh surrounding them with “Rags of skin hanging from their bones,” (The Odyssey Book 12, line 52). The Sirens may look ugly, but because of their singing, the sailors ignore their looks, and fill in their space with an illusion created by the mind of a beautiful woman. After all, both of these creatures have personas that precede them, and whether they are better or worse than the actual thing, when one meets them, one will probably die.

Dementors and the Sirens are both eerily similar, and at the same time different.  This is strange because of how far away form each other in time they where created, yet how their creators seemed to share a similar image of horror.  This has an underlying message that these two creatures are images that are subconsciously man’s greatest fear. Maybe they are the product of thousands of years of terror combined into two beings, or maybe not. We will never truly know how the human mind works and maybe it’s better that way.