Homer’s Iliad For Halloween

Homer’s Iliad is great for the Halloween season.  I’ve been reading it, and I’m trying to finish so I can start on some easy, stress-relieving scary stories as summer ends, but I’m realizing now just how appropriate this ancient epic poem is for the new season.

I’m in Book 15 out of 24, and several recent passages have struck me with their grim, vivid obsession with the morbid. 

As Book 12 ends, the Trojans are invading the Greek headquarters, Hector urging them on:

They rushed to obey him,

Some swarming over the top at once, others streaming in

Through the sturdy gateways—Argives scattering back in terror,

Back by the hollow hulls, the uproar rising, no way out, no end—

To me, that conjures the kind of claustrophobic panic in the air felt in the Mines of Moria episode in The Fellowship of the Ring

But far more graphic horrors appear in the battles that follow.  Lines 655-666 of Book 13 describe the painful, gruesome death of Adamus at the hand of Meriones:

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Boo Humbug: A Trick or Treat Manifesto

Small children dressed up in cute costumes going door to door to trick-or-treat.  That sweet relic of Americana is largely gone.  For various reasons, people now either don’t do it at all, or go to “safe streets” or “trunk or treats,” or they’ll only go around to people they know.  I suppose a lot of this is probably fueled by safety concerns–though there has never been an actual recorded instance of poisoned candy being given out, crimes by rowdy people out and about on Halloween are a reasonable worry. 

But none of that bothers me.  What bothers me is the coopting of this children’s holiday by the greedy and the lazy.  It has become a welfare for the sugar set.  Case in point: my wife and I have put a bowl of candy outside our door before on years when we wouldn’t be home on Halloween, and there has never been a problem until last year, when as soon as we did so and got in the car, a pack of teenagers descended on it and took the whole thing. 

I remember a Simpsons Halloween episode where the show’s ring of teenage hoodlums show up at a door sans costumes, demanding candy or threatening to egg the house.  But even that little bit of nostalgia has now become quaint.  Today, they wouldn’t be consciously extorting the candy, they would feel naturally entitled to it.  And if there were to be retribution for refusal, it would sure be a whole lot worse than eggs. 

So, here’s a policy I’m working on implementing:

  • NO to teens without costumes (is it a sign of the increasing infantilization of our society that there’s no ceiling on how old kids think they need to be in order to go trick or treating?)
  • NO to adults who only have a baby under one (seriously, is a kid without teeth going to eat this candy?)
  • NO to adults entirely (does anybody else see this happening more often now?)
  • NO to kids who can’t even muster the energy to say “Trick or treat!” (I’ll wait for them to remember or be prompted by a parent on the sidewalk, but I won’t volunteer a handout to kids who can’t be polite and do their part)

There are probably other scenarios I need to account for.  I know this sounds melodramatic, but I’m getting tired of having a nice night for the kids ruined by people who won’t do it right.  Maybe the packs of aggressive teenagers, the people with new babies, and the lazy, sullen kids without costumes at all were around when I was a kid, and I just didn’t notice it.  Maybe this is just my tendency to see things getting worse. 

But I know I’m hardly the only one who feels this way, and I’m pretty close to just turning off the lights and not answering the door at all.  And another wholesome tradition for the real children out there is gone.