Odysseus' Journey Home
Odysseus is a primary concern in The Odyssey. He shows that one man can face "god like" forces and
eventually achieve victory and success. While this section does not describe Odysseus' entire journey from the minute he left Ithaca
to fight in the Trojan War, to when he killed the suitors back at his home, this does show a great deal of what happened in between.
This section describes how Odysseus defeated the various monsters during his journey and made it back home to Ithaca after twenty years.
I. From Calypso to Phaeacia (Books 5-8)
Athena convinces Zeus to tell Calypso to let Odysseus off her island. Although Calypso is very reluctant, she eventually agrees. Odysseus builds a raft and sails out into the ocean. Just before he arrives at an island, Poseidon, the god of the sea who has been very mad at Odysseus, destroys his raft. Odysseus barely makes it to shore. He then collapses from fatigue. When he wakes up, he sees young girls washing their clothes in a river. He begs one of them for food. She gives him food and tells him that she is Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous. She tells Odysseus that he is on Phaeacia. After Odysseus eats and bathes, Nausicaa leads him to the palace. He begs the queen, Arete, for a ship to go home. Before she answers him, King Alcinous seats Odysseus at the table and gives him a large feast. Later, Odysseus is promised a ship to travel home. The next day, there is an “Olympics” being held in Phaeacia. Laodamas challenges Odysseus to play. Odysseus refuses. Then a man named Broadsea makes fun of him. Odysseus gets very angry and throws a discus much farther than anyone else threw it. All the Phaeacians are amazed. That night, during dinner, a bard sings a song about the Trojan War. Odysseus cries nonstop. Alcinous notices and orders the bard to stop. He then asks Odysseus who he is.
II. Odysseus' Story (Books 9-12)
Odysseus tells everyone who he is. He then starts his story: After setting out from Troy, Odysseus and his crew landed on the island of the Lotus-eaters. The lotus that the Lotus-eaters ate made them forget everything and just want to stay on the island and eat the lotus. Some of Odysseus’ crew members ate the lotus. Odysseus had to force them back onto the ship. Next, Odysseus landed on the Cyclops’ island. Not knowing if anyone lived on the island, Odysseus and his crew went inside a cave and ate the cheese that was in there. Soon the Cyclops came back to his cave. He saw the men there and moved a boulder in front of the entrance of the cave. He then ate two of Odysseus’ men. The next day he ate four men. That night, Odysseus gave the Cyclops a lot of wine and told him that his name was “Nobody”. The Cyclops got drunk and fell asleep. Odysseus then blinded him by stabbing a long wooden stake into his eye. Then Odysseus and his men crawled out of the cave under the Cyclops’ sheep, so that the Cyclops couldn’t feel them. When the Cyclops called for help, no on came because he was saying “Nobody blinded me.” Odysseus promptly went back to his ship and sailed away.
After this, Odysseus landed on the island of Aeolus, god of the winds. Aeolus gave him a bag of wind. This bag made Odysseus’ voyage back to Ithaca easy. However, right before he reached Ithaca, his crew, thinking that he had riches inside of the bag, got greedy and opened it. Their ship was blown back to Aeolus’ island. Aeolus refused to give them another bag. Odysseus had to continue sailing aimlessly. Next, Odysseus reached Aeaea, home of the witch, Circe. Odysseus sent some men to scout the island. All of them except for one were turned into pigs. That one man made it back and told Odysseus. Odysseus went there to see for himself. On his way there, Hermes came and gave him an antidote for Circe’s potion. When he arrived at Circe’s home, he drank her potion and nothing happened. Circe immediately knew that he was Odysseus and she asked him if he would stay with her. He said that he would stay only if she turned his crew back into men. She agreed. Odysseus ended up staying there for a year. When he decided it was time to go, he told Circe. She told him that if he wanted to make it home, he had to go to the House of Death first.
Odysseus sailed to the House of Death with his crew and performed many rituals to get in. Once he was inside, he met the prophet who Circe said that he had to meet. The prophet told him that he will land on an island with cattle. He said that Odysseus could not allow his crew to kill any of the cattle, or he would be the only survivor and he would come home nine years later. After Odysseus left the House of Death, he sailed back to Circe's house too thank her. She then told Odysseus and his crew where to go.
He left, and soon passed by the island of the Sirens. Circe had told him that if any man hears their singing, he will want to go to the island and stay there for his entire life. Odysseus wanted to hear the song, so he plugged all of his crew members’ ears and told them to tie him down. When he heard the song, he ordered his men to go to the island. They ignored him. After the island of the Sirens was out of sight, they arrived at a “fork” in the ocean. In one direction was the breakers. No ship ever made it past there. In the other direction was Scylla and Charybdis. Only one ship made it past there. Therefore, Odysseus decided to go past Scylla and Charybdis. Charybdis was a giant whirlpool. Scylla was a six headed monster. Odysseus figured that if he went past Charybdis, he would probably lose his entire ship, while if he went past Scylla, he would lose six men (one for each head), so he sailed past Scylla. Six of his men were snatched up and eaten. After all of this, Odysseus arrives at the Island of the Sun. He warned his crew not to harm any of the cattle. However, they had been stuck on the island for many days because the wind was blowing the wrong way. They were out of food and were starving to death. One day, Odysseus went inland to pray to the gods. Seeing that Odysseus was no longer with them, one of the crew members convinced everyone else that eating the cattle and then being killed by the gods was better than starving to death. Therefore, they ate a cow. When the wind finally stopped, Odysseus and his crew set sail once again. However, Zeus immediately hit their ship with a lightning bolt. The ship split into pieces. Odysseus was the only survivor. He drifted in the ocean for 9 days until he finally reached Calypso’s island.
Now that Odysseus is finished with his story, has has one last feast with King Alcinous. He then recieves many gifts and, finally, he gets on a ship. The Phaeacian crew brings him home to Ithaca. At first, he doesn’t think that it is really Ithaca, but soon Athena comes and tells him that it is. Odysseus takes a moment to rejoice, and then Athena disguises Odysseus as an old beggar and tells him to go to the home of his swineherd, Eumaeus.
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