Adventures in Odyssey has, in a sense, been all things to all men. Some like it for the slice of life episodes, while others prefer the mysteries, the adventures, or the epic sagas.

This variety of tastes extends to topics for discussion among AIO listeners. Whatever your favourite subject for discussion—themes, characters, plot, speculations, theories, “shipping,” or the more arcane topic of comparative analysis (whether theological, historical, literary, or all of the above)—you’ll likely find at least someone out there who just can’t stand talking about it.

When I wrote a post for the Adventures in Odyssey Fan Club Facebook Group comparing a scene in an Odyssey book to a scene in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, I got this response from one reader:

“That was very much like listening to Eugene talk about some thing for an hour that would put his entire audience to sleep if they even could understand what he was talking about! But academically I get where you’re coming from and it is I guess slightly interesting although a bit of over analyzation for a children’s book I would think.”

Another post (interestingly, by the same person who found my post so regrettably hypnotic) brought up the question of Odyssey’s famously puzzling chronology, particularly as it relates to Connie’s seemingly inexplicable agelessness.

Several commenters (very kindly) offered a few helpful and carefully chosen words to gently guide the original poster to a better way:

“Can we PLEASE just stop trying to figure it out🙄”

“Must we beat this dead horse AGAIN?🤦‍♀️😆”

“It’s a fictional story that has absolutely no regard for the normal function of time. Deal with it.”

“It’s [a] show, it’s fiction, it’s not real…it’s not real life so the writers get away with it.”

“Odyssey is in its own universe and has different rules than ours.”

“I just sit back and enjoy the episodes.”

“I mean, it is a kids show. Sometimes the ends justify the means when wrapping the story up in a neat bow.”

“Let it be lol i dont mind if the facts dont add up. I love my aio no matter what”

I came to the defense of the original poster (my soon-to-be critic, the one who thought my post might make a decent replacement for Tylenol PM). I did so because I thought his question was a fair one, worth discussing, and ill deserving of such close attention from the Topic Cops.

But also because I have myself written works of fiction. And as a storyteller, I would find it distressing if readers said of my books the kinds of things the AIO listeners quoted above said about Adventures in Odyssey.

Writers are not perfect, but we do try to create worlds and stories that are internally consistent.

Many of us are also fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, who spent 13 years writing The Lord of the Rings. One of many reasons the writing was so long was that he took a great deal of trouble making sure even the tiniest details of chronology were just right.

For example, he made painstakingly sure that the phases of the moon each day were consistent for his various groups of characters (all, by that point, in different places) as he wrote the narrative for each group for a specific day.

“I began trying to write again (I would, on the brink of term!) on Tuesday,” Tolkien wrote in a letter, “but I struck a most awkward error (one or two days) in the synchronization, v[ery] important at this stage, of movements of Frodo and the others, which has cost labour and thought and will require tiresome small alterations in many chapters…”[1]

To correct for this error of consistency was not easy. But Tolkien took the time for the “labour and thought” required to make those “tiresome small alternations in many chapters.”

Any Tolkien fan will tell you that the Professor’s diligence in making sure all aspects of his story were consistent is one of the reasons The Lord of the Rings has become such a beloved and successful story.

Yet, as evidenced by the comments above, there are at least some (I have no data, but I would not be surprised to find that “many” would be the more precise word) who truly do not care about consistency in worldbuilding. They just want a decent plot and some interesting characters and a nice place for the story to happen.

I won’t say that’s the most ideal way to take in works of storytelling, but I suppose it is better than nothing—“for some, the only glimpse” to borrow Professor Tolkien’s phrase.[2] Here also, we should recall G. K. Chesterton’s important distinction: “literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”[3]

But however it may be with readers or listeners, I do not think the Odyssey writers would say, “it’s fiction, we get to do whatever we want.” “It’s just a kid’s show, it doesn’t matter.”

I think they take their art a bit more seriously than that.

After all, if it’s the case that reality is out the window because it’s mere fiction, and “Odyssey…has different rules,” since it’s no more than a kid’s story, then Whit can defeat Blackgaard by spawning a giant undead cat head like Dr Strange did in that recent curiosity they call a movie.

Writers sometimes make mistakes, but no writer of fiction worth his salt believes that such details as dates, character ages, and chronologies are meaningless.

The recent Blackgaard Chronicles books, for instance, provide several chronological clues that allow us to date the events of the books, and to even draw inferences about dates in the Odyssey radio series.

Regarding the anomalies of age and chronology, Phil Lollar did not say, “it doesn’t matter, just enjoy the show and stop asking questions!”

Rather, he offered an explanation:

“I did put a bit of Brigadoon in Odyssey, in that it is a special, magical sort of place (yes, magical – of the Aslan/Gandalf variety) – a place where time seems to stand still, and some of the residents age very slowly.”[4]

This explanation, while surely not to everyone’s taste, works because it “saves the phenomena”: it covers the paradoxes, the oddities, and at least some of the simple mistakes made by writers over the years.

“Odyssey as Brigadoon” means you don’t have to worry over whether Connie should still be sixteen in a given year.

But it also means you have to allow that Odyssey and its inhabitants exist in a magical (supernatural, or preternatural, if you prefer) setting, even if that is rarely if ever discussed.

Now, it’s fine that some (maybe many) AIO fans think such a discussion a waste of time.

But then, why bother with it when it comes up? Why read the post, much less comment?

When we find a post we’re not interested in, it is entirely possible to simply scroll by it. We need not waste valuable time typing up a demand that others stop bringing up issues we deem pointless. It is possible to just find something else to read.

Perhaps that is a philosophy whose time has come.

[1] Humphrey Carpenter, ed., The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, Letter 84 (Houghton Mifflin, 1981), 97. Kindle edition.

[2] J.R.R. Tolkien, Smith of Wootton Major, in Poems and Stories (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994), 327.

[3] G.K. Chesterton, The Defendant, in G. K. Chesterton: The Complete Works (p. 4,599). Delphi Classics. Kindle Edition. Chesterton wrote these words in an essay titled, “A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls,” referring to cheap, quickly produced fiction, what would later be called, “Pulp Fiction.” A literary artist himself, Chesterton still understood that even those without the time or ability to grasp the subtleties of literature need stories. In a later essay, explaining what he had meant by, “literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity,” Chesterton wrote, “[literature] is a luxury in the plain sense that human beings can do without it and still be tolerably human, or even tolerably happy. But human beings cannot be human without some field of fancy or imagination; some vague idea of the romance of life; and even some holiday of the mind in a romance that is a refuge from life.” (Ibid, p. 11,364). “Romance” here means, not what is today called romance fiction, but rather heroic adventure.

[4] Stated in conversation with me in the Adventures in Odyssey Fan Club Facebook Group. Brigadoon was a 1949 stage musical that was adapted into a 1954 film starring Gene Kelly. Brigadoon is a mysterious Scottish village in which only one day passes for every 100 years outside the town.