39 Calypso’s Choice

Peeper + Connie

CW: mentions of/alusions to sexual assault, brief citation from Book One mentioning Odysseus’ suicidal ideation


For this pressbook entry, I decided to design a game focused on Calypso. After one of our class discussions and a later phone call I (Peep) had with Jody, I became focused on the question of if/how can we rewrite Callypso’s narrative without “girlbossing” her—that is, without having her gleefully participate in the structures of harm to which she is (at least partially) opposed?

Also—I really, really didn’t want to come across as an Odysseus pitier (bc he sucks!!!) but the original game design might be more sympathetic to him than is ideal :/// so it’ll have to be fixed later if this game gets made  for real perhaps


Here are some of the passages for my inspiration:


“His daughter [Calypso] holds that poor unhappy man, 

and tries beguiling him with gentle words 

to cease all thoughts of Ithaca; but he 

longs to see even just the smoke that rises

from his own homeland, and he wants to die” [I.55-59]


“Calypso forces him to stay with her.” [V.14]


“But Hermes did not find Odysseus, 

since he was sitting by the shore as usual,

sobbing in grief and pain; his heart was breaking.

In tears he stared across the fruitless sea.” [V.81-84]


“You cruel, jealous gods! You bear a grudge

whenever any goddess takes a man

to sleep with as a lover in her bed…

So now, you male gods are upset with me 

for living with a man. A man I saved!

Zeus pinned his ship and with his flash of lightning

smashed it to pieces. All his friends were killed

out on the wine-dark sea. This man alone,

Clutching he keel, was swept by wind and wave, 

and came here, to my home. I cared for him

and loved him, and I vowed to set him free 

from time and death forever. Still I know 

no other god can change the will of Zeus.

So let him go, if that is Zeus’ order, 

across the barren sea.” [V.118-140]


The goal of this game is to complicate Calpyso’s defense that she gives to Hermes. While I think she is extremely valid in her criticism of the male gods’ treatment of mortals (in particular moral women), it’s crucial to address how Odysseus is not a willing lover in this scenario. It is clear that he wants to leave; he is no longer willing to remain with her. From an ancient viewpoint, this original argument is progressive, but in a modern retelling I want to focus on how a reclamation of Calypso’s narrative should not glorify her acting like a male god and forcing Odysseus to be her lover and live with her forever, but realizing that he is a human being and she cannot own him, nor should she have tried.


And so, here are the core questions posed in this game:

What if Calypso said no to Zeus? What if after saying no, Zeus didn’t retaliate? What if Odysseus stayed, alone and miserable on her island? What if Calypso acknowledged his misery and the harm she was causing? What if she decided to let him go, after more than the seven years he stays there in the Odyssey?


In the game, the player would be playing as Calypso on her island. The cycle of play would be designed in such a way that it feels like way more time is passing than actually is—perhaps by providing snapshots into Calypso’s days, giving small bits of narrative as she did her activities, and ending each day with a confrontation of Odysseus.


Because coding is hard, this would likely be a Bitsy (an easy to use 2d pixel art development software) game, where the player would “collect” items that would in turn reveal dialogue. Imagine Calypso singing, the player following a trail of music notes across the island as she wonders if this will be the day that her song makes Odysseus forget home. Picture a scene of her gathering materials and weaving, trying to make Odysseus change into newer clothes made by her “loving” hand. Throughout all of these scenes, Calypso would be the only one to speak, be it to herself (the audience) or Odysseus. She’d have full control over the narrative (which maybe philosophically is challenging to say because she’s a character in the game but w/e, u know what I mean) and give her the space to speak. At the end of each day, there’d be a scene where she confronts Odysseus, who is sobbing silently on the shore, and asks him, if not begs him, to stay and to be happy about it.


This cycle, with varying dialogue, would continue for several scenes, perhaps over several “days,” although more than 24 hours would be implied between each daily snapshot. At the halfway point of this game, Hermes would arrive. Here’s a bit of dialogue from Calypso’s rewritten speech:

CALYPSO: “You cruel, jealous gods! You scorn me, a goddess, for having taken a man

to sleep with as a lover in my bed—”


CALYPSO: “—when you, tired of your divine marriage beds, steal away lesser beings for your own amusement! Have I, with my one prize, outdone Zeus—


CALYPSO: “—outdone Zeus and his Europa? His Ganymede? His Io, his Callisto? You male gods wish to shame me for living with a man I pulled from the wreckage of  Zeus’ wrath—how can he now tell me to give him back?”


CALYPSO: “I cared for him and cherished him as any of you might adore a mortal trophy, I vowed to set him free from time and death forever. So, I will not give him back, nor send him across the barren sea!”

CALYPSO: “If this is Zeus’ order, have Zeus come and take him from my hands himself!”

[The scene would fade. The next scene is Calypso waking in her cave.]

CALYPSO: “But my reckoning never came.”


At this point, in the endgame, I’d want it to be clear that a very long time has passed. I want the futility of getting Odysseus to change his mind to be clear to both Calypso and the player. This section would be similar to the first, as the player again walks around the island, this time experiencing Calypso’s inner dialogue as she expresses her doubts and slowly comes to terms with 1) how truly miserable Odysseus is 2) that it is, and has been, her fault. Slowly, I want her/the player to realize they’ve been gathering materials to build a raft, until they reach the final scene, confronted with the choice to let Odysseus go or not.

Should the player choose to keep him forever, there is a final scene of Calypso throwing the materials into the sea.

Should the player choose to have Calypso let Odysseus go of her own volition, there would be a scene of her giving him the materials for the raft, and instructions on how to leave. There would be a brief cutscene of Odysseus sailing away, and the camera would focus back on Calypso, having broken free from the cycle of harm. There would be one final cycle of her moving across the island, each frame becoming more and more distorted and glitched as the narrative from which she has broken free collapses around her – then, nothing.


Gender & Sexuality in Ancient Greece Copyright © by Jody Valentine. All Rights Reserved.

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