The summary of The Odyssey is a crucial part to understanding the story completely. This section gives
accurate and important information for each and every chapter. Even if you have not
read the book, this section will help you understand it better, in a nice and compact way.
Section I: Telemachus' Journey
Section II: Odysseus' Journey
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Section III: The King at Home
Athena convinces Zeus to let her help Odysseus, who has been stuck on the goddess Calypso’s island for eight years, get back home to Ithaca. First, though, Athena wants to inspire Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, to go on a journey to get news of his father. She travels to his palace disguised as an old friend of Odysseus (Mentes). Telemachus tells her about his mother’s suitors, who are living in the palace and eating all of the food. After a long talk with Athena, Telemachus is inspired to call an assembly the next day and then set out on his journey.
Telemachus calls for a town assembly. He tells everyone that the suitors are ruining his life. However, the suitors deny this and say that it is actually Penelope’s fault (Telemachus’ mother) because she refuses to marry anyone. That night, Athena, disguised as another friend of Odysseus (Mentor), gets everything ready for Telemachus’ journey. Then Telemachus, Athena, and twenty other men set sail for King Nestor's palace.
Telemachus reaches Pylos, the place where King Nestor lives. King Nestor was a good friend of Odysseus who fought with Odysseus in the Trojan War. Telemachus and Athena meet Nestor and ask him if he has heard anything about Odysseus. Although he goes through a long speech, he does not say anything about Odysseus. He tells Telemachus to go to Sparta and see King Menelaus. Telemachus travels to Sparta with Pisistratus, Nestor’s son, whom he met at Nestor’s palace.
Telemachus and Pisistratus reach King Menelaus’ palace. Menelaus also fought in the Trojan war with Odysseus. Telemachus asks him if he knows anything about Odysseus. He says that he heard from a god that Odysseus was stuck on Calypso’s island. Meanwhile, back at Odysseus’ palace, the suitors hear about Telemachus setting out on a voyage. They form a barricade of ships and hope to ambush and kill him when he comes back to Ithaca.
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Odysseus arrives at Eumaeus’ home. Eumaeus sees him disguised as a beggar and lets him inside. They have a meal, and then Eumaeus asks Odysseus who he is. Odysseus makes up a very long story about his life. That night Eumaeus gives Odysseus a nice, warm cloak to sleep under, and Odysseus falls asleep.
Meanwhile, Telemachus has a dream in which Athena tells him that it is time to go home. He wakes up Pisistratus and they tell Menelaus. They travel back to Pylos and Pisistratus returns to his palace. Telemachus then goes to his ship and sails home. Athena, still disguised as Mentor, advises Telemachus to go home a different way so that he doesn’t run into the suitors. When Telemachus reaches Ithaca, he goes to Eumaeus’ home. He tells Eumaeus to go to the palace and tell Penelope that he is home. Once Eumaeus leaves, Athena changes Odysseus back into himself, and he tells Telemachus that he’s back. They hug for a long time. Then Odysseus tells Telemachus the plan to kill the suitors. Later that day, Athena turns Odysseus back into a beggar and Eumaeus returns home.
Telemachus goes back to the palace to see his mother. Then Odysseus and Eumaeus go to the palace. Odysseus begs for food from the suitors so that he can see if any of them are actually innocent. Although most of them give him a piece of bread, thinking that he might be a god in disguise, Antinous, the leader of the suitors, throws a stool at him. Odysseus doesn’t react, but instead he thinks of how he can give Antinous a horrible death. Soon Penelope hears that the stranger in her house was hit by a stool, and she arranges to talk to him later that night. After this, another beggar named Irus enters the palace. He insults Odysseus and makes him very angry. Odysseus then knocks him out with one punch. The suitors were all amazed by this and let Odysseus feast with them. Later, Odysseus insults Eurymachus, another suitor, who also throws a stool at him. Again, Odysseus plots in his mind how he is going to kill Eurymachus. Finally, the suitors go back to their houses for the night.
Odysseus and Telemachus, once the suitors have gone for the night, hide the suitors’ weapons that are stored in the palace. Then Odysseus talks to Penelope. Penelope says that she is finally ready to choose another husband. She decides that she will put twelve axes in a row, and the first person who can string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow through all of the axes will be her husband. The next day, the suitors see many signs of their destruction, but they ignore everything. Odysseus prays to Zeus for a sign that he will kill the suitors, and Zeus thunders at that moment. After a while, Penelope sets up the axe test with grief and sorrow. She takes out Odysseus' bow, which was a prized gift from one of his friends that passed away some time ago. The suitors try to string the bow but none of them can even come close to succeeding. While the suitors are trying to string the bow, Odysseus secretly goes out of the palace and talks to two of his loyal friends, Eumaeus and Philoetius (the cowherd). He reveals his true identity to them. Then they go back into the palace and Odysseus asks for a try at the axe test. Telemachus orders Penelope to leave the room. Then Odysseus strings the bow effortlessly. He shoots an arrow straight through the axes. The suitors are amazed and confused. Then Odysseus and Telemachus get out their weapons and are ready to fight.
Odysseus immediately runs far away from the suitors and showers arrows on them, while Eumaeus and Philoetius lock all the doors and help him fight. The three of them, along with Telemachus, kill many of the suitors, including Antinous and Eurymachus. Once Odysseus is out of arrows, he kills the rest of the suitors with swords and spears. Once all the suitors are dead, Odysseus makes all the maids who had been disloyal while he was gone clean up the mess. They are then hanged. Lastly, Odysseus reunites with his faithful servants and hugs and kisses all of them.
Penelope comes down from her room when a maid tells her that Odysseus has returned and killed the suitors. Penelope doesn’t believe her, and, when she sees Odysseus, she doesn’t recognize him. However, after talking for a little bit, Odysseus mentions that their bedpost was made out of an olive tree. Only Odysseus and Penelope knew this secret, so Penelope immediately knows that this really is Odysseus. They hug for a very long time and they spend the entire night together, talking about what they have been doing over the last twenty years. The next morning, Odysseus goes to see his father, Laertes. Laertes is overjoyed to see his son after twenty years. Soon, however, the friends and family of the suitors come to Laertes’ farm. They attempt to get revenge on Odysseus, but are unsuccessful. Odysseus kills a few of them, and then the gods intervene and stop the battle. Soon Athena restores peace to Ithaca, and everyone lives happily ever after.
*The titles with this asterick are not the actual names in the book The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles.
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