Homer’s The Odyssey – Ὀδύσσεια

Those lucky enough to go to Brickworld Chicago this year were treated to VirtuaLUG‘s story time with their incredible 300 square foot retelling of Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

Olympus (center) by Bart Larrow 3/55
This amazing collaborative layout tells the story of the Greek hero Odysseus and his 10 year adventure home after the battle of Troy. Feel free to take the video tour of this massive Layout, courtesy of our friends at Beyond the Brick:

VirtuaLUG of course is the mega-group that brought us Lord of the Rings (2011), Alice in Wonderland (2012) and The Wizard of Oz (2013). So it came as no surprise that they took home Brickworld’s top prize (and Master Builder to boot!):

image (1)VirtuaLUG (Not pictured: Bart, Kevin, Kyle, Mark and Leo)

VirtuaLUGs Odyssey (Brickworld Chicago 2014)

The Aegean Sea built by: Adam Stasiek
The setting of Homer’s Odyssey takes place in various islands in the Aegean Sea, but instead of having base plates or blue tarp, Adam decided to cover the entire 300 square foot layout (you read that right – 300 sqft) with 1×1 dots weaved with some lifelites to add some sparkle at night.

City of Troy built by: Chris Phipson
The story of Odysseus and his Odyssey starts at of the battle of Troy where, after a ten year siege, Odysseus comes up with the idea for using a gift of a giant wooden horse to finally enter the city:
Troy by Chris Phipson 6/55
The city of Troy is complete with all the historical details such as a market, a fully functional water fountain, and of course “the face that launched a thousand ships”: Helen of Troy.

The Trojan Horse built by Matt Rowntree, was a large wooden horse which was presented as a trophy to Troy, but secretly hid a small Greek army.
Trojan Horse by Matt Rowntree 12/55

The Greek Fleet built by: Matt Rowntree
As part of the Trojan Horse decoy, the Greeks pretended to sail away only to return under cover of darkness after the gates of Troy had been opened by the men in the Trojan Horse.
Greek Fleet by Matt Rowntree 7/55
Matt designed the Greek boats, including the Phaeacian, and built 13 ships. The rest of VirtuaLUG used his design to build the remainder of the ships. Matt also hand-sewed all the sails and drew the various designs, including the famous Chicago Bears raft from antiquity.

Lotus Eaters built by: Dennis Price
After the battle Troy, Odysseus and his twelve ships set off for home but got blown off course, landing on the island of the Lotus Eaters. Despite Odysseus’ warning not to eat the fruit, his men did so and lapsed into a state of lotus-drug-induced lethargy.
Island of the Lotus Eaters by Dennis Price 13/55

“I envisioned the Isle of the Lotus Eaters to be something you might find off the coast of North Africa. I didn’t want columns and such, which would be too Greek. It’s a bit of hippy-dippy heaven with limited access from the sea and plenty of lotus plants to eat and get high up in. Odysseus had to drag three of his men back to the boat because they ate the flowers offered them and became so drugged they didn’t want to leave.” – Dennis

Polyphemus the Cyclops built by: Mark Kelso
After their time with the Lotus Eaters, Odysseus and his men were captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon. After getting Polyphemus drunk on wine, Odysseus blinded the Cyclops and escaped disguised as a sheep. Later, Polyphemus asked his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus to not return to Ithaca for 10 years.
Polyphemus' Island by Mark Kelso 16/55

Island of Aeolus built by: Kevin Lauer and Dave Sterling
After the escape from Polyphemus, Odysseus and his crew stayed with Aeolus the master of winds, who gave Odysseus a bag containing all the winds, except the west wind. The west wind would take them home to Ithaca, but as they almost got home the curiosity of Odysseus’ men got the better of them and they opened the bag. The unleashed winds drove them back to Aeolus, who refused to the help Odysseus a second time.
The island itself has a functional water fountain and of course the bag of wind (made from Mirkwood spiderweb cocoons). Though this build wasn’t completed by Brickworld and some of the rockwork was still missing on Thursday night, thankfully Dave was around to lend a hand:

I got drunk and helped Kevin build a mountain. It was fun. – Dave

Island of the Laestrygonians built by: Tyler Halliwell
Odysseus and his fleet re-embarked and encountered the giant cannibalistic Laestrygonians. They destroyed all of Odysseus’ ships with rocks. The only ship that escaped was Odysseus’s own. At 6’8, it was quite appropriate that Tyler – VirtuaLUG‘s actual giant – built the island of the giants!
Island of the Laestrygonians

Circe’s Island built by: Millie McKenzie
Odysseus and his crew then visited the Circe. She turned half of his men into swine after feeding them cheese and wine. Hermes warned Odysseus about Circe and gave Odysseus a drug which gave him a resistance to Circe’s magic. Circe, surprised by Odysseus’ resistance, agreed to change his men back to their human form in return for Odysseus’ love. They remained with her on the island for one year, while they feasted and drank.
Circe's island. VirtuaLUG's Odyssey display. Brickworld 2014
Of all the buildings on the layout, I think this one was my favorite; I really loved how Millie added the bas-relief on her buildings.
Circe's island. VirtuaLUG's Odyssey display. Brickworld 2014
This was also especially impressive given that this particular module traveled all the way from New Zealand:

All things considered it survived quite well. 20+ hours in the air, 30+ hours traveling in total with all the airport waiting around, 3 flights, 6 baggage loads and unloads, 2 taxi rides, and it only took me about 5 or so hours to rebuild. I think that’s a success. I didn’t want to risk shipping it. Them postal alligators eat LEGO for breakfast then spit it out in a heap. – Millie

Hall of Hades built by: Lee Jones, Leo J. and Adam Reed Tucker
Odysseus then travels deep into the underworld to ask for advice on how to appease the gods to let him return home. He meets blind seer Tiresias, Agamemnon, Achilles and his mother before returning to the land of the living.
This was among my favorite areas of the display, this stunning section not only is a fantastic build (and huge – 192 X 192 studs!), but there’s some fantastic features as well, including the rotating portal, a floating magnetic platform (check out the video!), and all of it sitting on a giant piece of Plexiglas with black lights underneath.

Sailing through the underworld is Adam’s Boatman’s boat:
And of course let’s not forget everyone’s favorite undeworld pet Cerberus, built by Leo J:

Island of the Sirens built by: Dave Kaleta
Odysseus’ ship skirted the land of the Sirens, who sang an enchanting song that normally caused passing sailors to steer toward the rocks, only to hit them and sink. Odysseus wanted to be the only living mortal to hear the Siren’s song, so he had his men tie him to the mast while they plugged their ears with beeswax.
Island of the Sirens by Dave Kaleta 37/55

My goal for the island was to show both a natural and supernatural reason why so many boats crashed on the island. The Sirens themselves were the supernatural reason. I tried to hint that the island was a giant monster with fingers pulling the boats into its giant gaping maw. Other than that, my goal was to make the island a mix of lushness but foreboding by the color choices of vegetation (I stuck with sand green and olive green in place of standard green). -Dave

Scylla and Charybdis built by: HMFIC Kevin Walter
Odysseus and his men passed between the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, Odysseus losing six men to Scylla.
Scylla and Charybdis by Kevin Walter 41/55
While it might not seem like a big contribution, it should be pointed out that not all contributions are in the form of bricks: Kevin was the Head “Person” In Charge of the collaboration, and lead the group in the background.

Isle of Helios built by: Kyle Peterson and Bryan Bonahoom
Odysseus landed on the island of Thrinacia. When they tried to leave, Zeus caused a storm which prevented them leaving. While Odysseus was away praying, his men ignored the warnings of Tiresias and Circe, and hunted down the sacred cattle of the sun god Helios, as their food had run short. The Sun God insisted that Zeus punish the men for this sacrilege and struck down Odysseus’s ship with a lightning bolt.
VirtuaLUGs Odyssey (Brickworld Chicago 2014)
This section was particularly nice as it also had an underwater scene complete with motorized sharks spinning around:
Helios - Water Wall
And Zeus’ lightning bolt looked fantastic during Brickworld’s Festival of Lights:
Helios - At Night

Isle of Calypso built by: Heath Flor
Washed ashore on the island of Calypso, Odysseus was compelled to remain there as her lover until she was ordered by Zeus, via Hermes, to release him.
VirtuaLUGs Odyssey (Brickworld Chicago 2014)

Ithaca built by: Hans Dendauw and Betsy Sandberg
Finally! Having listened with rapt attention to his story, the Phaeacians, who were skilled mariners, agree to help Odysseus get home to Ithaca. After a quell with suitors who had been pursuing his wife Penelope, they all lived happily ever after…
Ithaca by Hans Dendauw and Betsy Sandberg 51/55

Mount Olympus built by: Bart Larrow
All the while, at the center of the layout sits Mount Olympus – the temple of the Gods – where gods watched Odysseus’ long Odyssey.

Of course in standard Bart fashion, Mount Olympus has functional rotating clouds (check out the behind the scenes photos). For those of you who were at Brickworld last year, you might remember Bart’s memorable Dorthy’s house in a Tornado which was arguably the most amusing nomination for Best Air Ship in Brickworld history!

And of course the temple of the Gods shimmers in the night:

But the story of how the VirtuaLUG built The Odyssey is in itself an epic tale. While the final product looked like a well-polished masterpiece, there were many missteps along the way, from ambiguous building standards, to derailed and sprawling threads, and some deceptively difficult to unpack MOCs. Plus some miscommunication about how many tables to build (“hey where’s my table?”) and even a few empty spaces:

Aegean Sea by Adam Stasiek, Dennis Price & Matt Rowntree 35/55

There was a large dead space between Tyler’s island of the Lystragonians and Lee’s Hades that Danette Jones came up with the brilliant idea of filling with rocks and a graveyard of ships. Dennis and I wrecked two boats (extras I built just in case) and added the rocks and some flotsam and jetsam. I also tore up two sails and burnt the edges to give it a weathered look. It was a really effective resolution – Matt

But in the end, VirtuaLUG’s  teamwork and problem-solving skills easily overcame all these issues and we were treated with a truly fantastic and memorable build. And if you’re curious how VirtuaLUG is able to keep doing this year after year, Chris gives us a bit of insight:

That’s the beautiful thing about this LUG, we’re not a group, but a family. We’ve been the best of friends for years, and that’s what really sets us apart here. We’re not just the local Chicago LUG, or local Toronto LUG, or wherever the LUG is. We came together because we like each other first, we were friends first. And the ideas came and grew from that and from our friendship. That’s what brings us together here, and what makes us able to produce these things that get bigger and bigger each year … so next year it has to be a bigger and better story and it’s got to be more involved … but the general consensus with VirtuaLUG is go big, or go home! – Chris

3 comments on “Homer’s The Odyssey – Ὀδύσσεια

  1. Halliwell.tyler

    Hey, I’m 6’9″ and a half! :P Great write-up, Simon, thanks for taking the time and effort to put this together.

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