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I heard this in audio form, probably on a cassette or maybe CD, borrowed from a public library in England in the early noughties (2001-2006). I don't know how old it was, or whether or not it was an audio adaptation of a published novel. Essentially it was a version of the Iliad (I don't think it also included the Odyssey, but I'm not certain) retold for a younger modern audience.

  • It began with Odysseus as a young boy being attacked by a wild boar and rescued by his grandfather, who'd left the court after behaviour "not fitting for a member of the royal family, eh?" (I remember this phrase), and who teaches the young Odysseus the value of cunning.
  • Later on, a huge crowd of princes are pressed together for some occasion - possibly the wedding of Helen and Menelaus, or a competition for Helen's hand? Odysseus is too small to push his way to the front, but he tricks Big Ajax into going somewhere else so that he can take his place. When Big Ajax realises he's been tricked, a fight breaks out. Agamemnon breaks it up and shouts that "this isn't a football match".
  • When Odysseus pretends to be mad in order not to have to join the Trojan War, he shouts "Plough the field! Plough the field! Plough the field!" and "Sow the seed! Sow the seed! Sow the seed!" These lines I remember very clearly.
  • During the voyage to Troy, Philoctetes is showing off his archery skill, shooting burning arrows off the ship and shouting things like, "This one's for Hector! This one's for Paris! This one's for - AAAARGH!" as he shoots the arrow into his foot. "Who's AAAARGH?" someone else inquires. "Odysseus jogged me!" Philoctetes yells. Later, when the smell of his gangrenous foot becomes unbearable, Odysseus is the one who tricks him into being stranded on Lemnos ("Oh, Lemnos! I thought it was Limnos! My mistake.")

I hope these details, and the specific quotes, will be enough for someone to identify this among the many Iliad retellings that have been published in the last few thousand years.

  • Any other detail about the recording itself? Was it performed like a play with different actors or read in a single voice? Accents? – Spagirl Nov 7 '17 at 15:33
  • @Spagirl Argh, it's been too long since I heard it - I can't be sure. But I might hazard a guess that it was all read by a single man who would often put on funny voices. – Rand al'Thor Nov 7 '17 at 16:27
  • British accents? US? Canadian? A quick search suggests that the BBC have done a number of such things, some aimed at school audiences, which might be an avenue to pursue. – Spagirl Nov 7 '17 at 16:38
  • @Spagirl Probably British (just a 'normal' accent for me), since I don't remember noticing any other kind of accent. I edited to add a couple more potentially-relevant facts about location. – Rand al'Thor Nov 7 '17 at 16:44
  • These scripts seem to be in the right vein, but not the right stories downloads.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/pdfs/greece/cyclops.pdf – Spagirl Nov 7 '17 at 16:52
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I found it! Googling odysseus "plough the field" "sow the seed" gave me precisely two results: this question on Literature SE, and a Google Books version of the book Odysseus: the Greatest Hero of Them All by Tony Robinson and Richard Curtis.

  • "Hallo sunshine," he beamed. "Say hello to your grandpa."

    "Grandfather!" said Odysseus in amazement. "I thought you'd died years ago."

    "No," laughed the wizened old man. "They threw me out of court and pretended I was dead."

    "Why would they do that?" asked Odysseus.

    "Because I was always telling lies and nicking things."

    "Oh dear," said Odysseus.

    "Not quite what you'd expect of a member of the Royal Family, eh?" said his grandfather, and then burst out laughing again.

  • "Plough the field. Plough the field. Plough the field," jibbered Odysseus.

    "He's mad," said Eumaeus, but Odysseus took no notice. He started to throw something into the crazy furrows.

    "Sow the seed. Sow the seed. Sow the seed," he chanted. But it wasn't seed. It was biscuit crumbs.

    "He's stark staring bonkers," said Menelaus.

  • [...] shouted Philoctetes, the greatest archer in Greece. "When the fleet gets to Troy, we'll burn his palace to the ground."

    "HOORAY!" went the sailors.

    Philoctetes fired again. "This one's for Hector, Priam's eldest son. He may be the Trojan hero, but our hero Achilles will smash his head to pieces!"

    "HOORAY!" went the sailors.

    "And this one's for Paris, Priam's youngest son. He stole our Queen Helen, but I'll steal his life away with an arrow deep into his heart!

    By now the sailors were going mad. "HOORAY!"

    Then Philoctetes fired another burning arrow. "And this one's for AAAARGH!"

    "Who's Aaaargh?" asked Big Ajax.

    "I shot an arrow through my foot. Odysseus jogged me!" screamed Philoctetes.

    [...]

    "Apparently you're on Lemnos, not Limnos. Limnos is somewhere totally different. Look, I tell you what. We'll come and pick you up when we've beaten the Trojans."

An audio version of this story also appeared on the BBC in 1986, read by Tony Robinson himself. I guess by the 2000s it had made its way to public libraries as an audiobook.

  • lol, my gut feeling was that it would turn out to be a BBC thing I just didn’t dig deep enough! In fact, I read the quotes to myself in an internal Tony Robinson voice. – Spagirl Nov 15 '17 at 1:52

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