Michael Beausang


The seed-bedding of Ulysses attempted here provides, like Bloom's garden, for a number of scarlet runners: ( I) Odysseus is a vegetation-hero or divine king; (2) Bloom stems from the same mould, and the correspondence between Ulysses and the Odyssey makes more sense, once this is accepted; (3) Joyce's treatment of the father-son theme, and the subservience of Bloom to Molly, are both conditioned by the status of the year-king under matriarchal rule; (4) the main characters, the legendary figures, and the motif of rivals (Bloom-Boylan, Stephen-Mulligan), all relate to the divine king and his ritual functions.

I. Odysseus the Year-King

"At a certain stage of early society," writes Frazer, "the king or priest is often thought to be endowed with supernatural powers or to be an incarnation of a deity, and consistently with this belief the course of nature is supposed to be more or less under his control, and he is held responsible for bad weather, failure of the crops, and similar calamities ... if drought, famine, pestilence, or storms arise, the people attribute the misfortune to the guilt of their king, and punish him, accordingly, with stripes and bonds, or, if he remains obdurate, with deposition and death." 1 The view that kings are responsible for food supply is upheld by Homer in the Odyssey: "Your fame has reached heaven itself," Odysseus tells Penelope, "like that of some perfect king, ruling a populous and mighty state with the fear of god in his heart, and upholding the right, so that the dark soil yields its wheat and barley, the trees are laden with ripe fruit, the sheep never fail to bring forth their lambs, nor the sea to provide its fish—all as a result of his good government—and his people prosper under him."2 All of these attributes, as A. M. Hocart has pointed out,3 compose an inventory of the responsibilities of divine kingship

The year-king's term of office has been variously estimated. For Frazer, the

From Mosaic 6, No. I (Fall 1971): II-22.


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