Monday, September 22, 2008

"Why I Don't Write History Books"

This essay originally appeared as an assignment in my College English class.

“Helen of Troy: The Hoax that Launched a Thousand Ships”

Just like those supposed Bigfoot catchers from Georgia and the moon landing, Helen of Troy was nothing but an elaborate hoax. She did not exist but in the fantasies and imaginations of ancient men. She was a ruse, a lie, a deception, and a con. Men in Greece of the nude-Olympics era would often parade through the streets shouting for her, “Helen! Helen! Come here, Helen, I’ve got some olive oil and cheeses and wine and other Mediterranean foods for you!” But she never responded. Because she didn’t exist.

So here’s how Helen’s story goes. Her dad, the almighty Zeus, took up the form of a swan for a few days. Why? I don’t know. Maybe he wanted elderly women to throw bread at him at a park. An eagle started chasing him and instead of just, you know, killing it easily like he could have because he was Zeus, he ran away until he came upon a woman named Leda. While still in the form of a swan, he impregnated her. Weird? I know. But hey, that’s how it was back then. There were no paparazzi to instantly throw pictures on the Internet captioned “Leda Sings a ‘Swan Song’?!” or “Are Large Birds from the Anatidae Family Now ‘In’?” and it took painters decades to get any work done, so people could do whatever they wanted.

Anyway, Leda gave birth to an egg. (Don’t think about it too much. It’s like the plot of Space Jam: it falls apart as soon as you think, “Wait a minute, cartoons can’t play basketball.) From that egg hatched Helen, who wasn’t “of Troy” quite yet. They didn’t keep very tight records of births back then, so who knows where she was born. I’ll assume it was Decatur, Georgia.

When Helen was about ten years old, two fellas from Athens named Theseus (brother of Opening-Paragraphius and Closing-Sentenceius) and Pirithous set a goal, American Pie-style, to wed daughters of Zeus. Theseus decided he wanted Helen, so he did the smoothest thing he could think of to woo her: he kidnapped her. Pirithous chose to marry Zeus’s other daughter Persephone, who was already married to Hades. Here’s a tip for all the boys out there: when selecting a woman to steal from her husband, don’t choose the one who is married to the King of the Underworld. Theseus and Pirithous headed down to the Underworld to snatch Persephone and, what a surprise, they were captured by Hades, because he’s King of the Underworld. That’s a pretty serious home-field advantage.

Helen was rescued by her brothers Castor and Pollux and taken back to Sparta. Once there, a whole bunch of dudes from all over the world came to ask her hand in marriage. It was like A Shot of Love with Helen of Sparta. She married Menelaus because he could do a handstand for like forty seconds, which was really impressive. Some time passed and Helen sat around doing crossword puzzles and wondering why her mother would let a swan take her out to dinner, much less take one to bed with her. Eventually a Trojan prince named Paris showed up. (Interesting fact: The modern fictional character Paris Hilton is based on this prince!) He and Helen fled Sparta for the sunny shores of Troy. Some scholars believe she went willingly, but others believe she was forced. But then again, some scholars think Lyndon Johnson was really a twelve year-old boy named Petey Marx, so you can’t trust scholars.

Once Menelaus called for a sandwich and, upon not receiving an answer, realized his wife was missing, he got a little angry. Not like “Oh, man, they put mayo on my cheeseburger” angry, but “You know what? I think it’s time to start a big-ol’ war” angry.

Thus began the Trojan War, the main result of which was that Brad Pitt movie. Menelaus pledged to kill his cheating wife when he found her, but once he got a moment alone and held a knife in the air, she dropped her dress and he was all “Oohhh yeah,” so he didn’t kill her.

Helen and Menelaus went back to Sparta and spent their days eating exotic species of birds, kicking it old-school by the pool, and doing cartwheels. They also invented the sport of wakeboarding.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

This is awesome. Just wondering, what did you get on this paper? It was cleverly written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.