Teaching Students About Epic Similes
Epic similes are a form of descriptive language that originated in ancient Greece and were commonly used in epic poems like The Iliad and The Odyssey. They are comparisons between two things, usually using the words “like” or “as,” that are used to convey complex ideas and emotions.
Teaching students about epic similes can be a powerful tool in helping them to understand literature and develop their own writing skills. Here are some examples of epic similes that can be used in the classroom.
1. The Iliad: “As a blacksmith plunges a glowing axe or adze / in an ice-cold bath, with a harsh, cracking shriek, / and the metal screeches steam and its temper hardens—”
This epic simile describes the sound and smoke that comes from a blacksmith dipping a heated tool into a bucket of water. The comparison highlights the idea of contrasting elements and the idea that sometimes-great pressure creates an even greater outcome.
2. The Odyssey: “As a mother bird spreads her wings / over her nest to protect her young, so you, / a god in majesty, protect me now—”
This imagery equates the protector role of a mother bird with that of a deity, thus establishing a sense of security for the reader. It also reminds us of the relationship of the role of a mother and a protector.
3. The Inferno: “And he looked like a bull dropping his horns / to charge except that this man bore them high-”
This eerie example of an epic simile describes the appearance of a dangerous soul in Hell who is described as a charging bull by the appearance of his horns. The use of the verb “dropping” adds to the sense of ominous danger.
4. The Aeneid: “As when the winds from high in heaven descend, / now stiff with ice, now dripping with the cold, / will its snows across the fields a white – / completely, without meeting ground or border.
This example is a powerful way to evoke a vivid depiction of the heavy snowfall that occurs in harsh weather. The language used is visual and the metaphor reinforces the idea of a blank, empty space.
When introducing epic similes, it’s important to explain that these phrases are used to add depth and complexity to literature, and can help readers to understand the emotions and ideas behind the words. As students get more comfortable with using epic similes, they can begin to create their own, allowing them to express themselves more accurately and in a more vivid way.
Overall, teaching students epic similes can be a powerful way to help them understand the literature they read, and also to become better writers themselves. By using these examples and encouraging creative thinking, teachers can foster a love of language and literature that will last a lifetime.