The Odyssey Book Summaries
Summary of Book Thirteen • Odysseus leaves Phaeacia and starts on his way home to Ithaca. Before he leaves, the Phaeacians throw him a feast, give him many gifts, and say prayers for his safety. • On the boat, Odysseus falls into a deep sleep. The Phaeacian crew unload him and his treasures onto the shore, and head for their own home. • But Poseidon, mad at the Phaeacians for helping Odysseus, turns their boat into stone to teach them a lesson. From then on, they decide not to help wayward travelers. They also sacrifice twelve bulls to the gods in repentance. Set design for Act 1, Scene V of Monteverdi's Il ritornod'Ulisse in Patria (the Phaecian ship is turned to stone), prepared by Alfred Siercke for the 1964 production by Hamburg State Opera
Summary of Book Thirteen • Meanwhile, Athena has shrouded Ithaca in mist. When Odysseus wakes up, he does not know where he is. • Athena, disguised as a shepherd, goes to Odysseus and reveals that he is home. • Odysseus, too, pretends to be someone else. Athena is impressed. She says she will help him by disguising him as a vagabond and tells him to go to his swineherd (the man who looks after his pigs) to find out what’s happening in his house. • Odysseus goes off to the swineherd’s, while Athena goes off to bring Telemachus home.
Summary of Book Fourteen • Odysseus goes to the swineherd, Eumaeus, who houses and feeds him and tells him the story of his “dead” master. Odysseus replies that his master will come home, but Eumaeus doesn’t believe him. • When Eumaeus asks Odysseus his story, Odysseus lies, saying that he’s from Crete, that he ended up in Egypt after the Trojan War, that he was saved from slavery by the gods, and that he escaped to Ithaca. • Odysseus tests Eumaeus’s good nature by asking for a cloak. Eumaeus passes the test, offering him his nicest, warmest cloak.
Summary of Book Fifteen • Athena finds Telemachus in Lacedaemon. She tells him to avoid certain routes on his way home because there are people sent out to kill him, and to go to the swineherd first. • As Telemachus leaves, an eagle with a goose in its talons flies by. Telemachus takes this as a good omen of Odysseus’s return.
Summary of Book Fifteen • Meanwhile, Odysseus (still in disguise) tests the swineherd’s loyalty again by offering to leave. Eumaeus passes the test by urging him to stay until Telemachus comes back. • Odysseus asks how the royal family (i.e., his family) is doing, Eumaeus tells Odysseus his own life story, and then they both go to sleep.
Summary of Book Fifteen • In the morning, Telemachus lands ashore. On his way to the swineherd’s hut, he sees a hawk flying with a dove in its claws. He takes this as another good omen—that his family will reign forever.
Summary of Book Sixteen • Telemachus finds Odysseus, still disguised as a vagabond, at the swineherd’s. Odysseus sits by the fire as Eumaeus discovers Telemachus at the entrance of his hut (Bonaventura Genelli,1798–1868) • Athena reappears and turns Odysseus back into his true self, and the two men are reunited. They come up with a plan to get rid of the suitors. • They decide not to reveal Odysseus’s true identity to Eumaeus because the disguise is crucial for the success of the plan.
Summary of Book Sixteen • The suitors hear the news of Telemachus’s return and plot to kill him. Penelope overhears them and scolds them for wanting to kill Telemachus. They lie to her and say no one will ever kill Telemachus. • Meanwhile, the swineheard warns Telemachus that some men are waiting, armed, in the harbor. Telemachus, knowing the men are the suitors he’s after, smiles at Odysseus, eats a big meal, and goes to sleep.
Summary of Book Seventeen • Telemachus goes home to Penelope and tells her what he found out about Odysseus, but doesn’t tell her that Odysseus is home. • In the meantime, the swineherd brings the disguised Odysseus to the palace. On the way they encounter a suitor. He insults and kicks the beggar (Odysseus). • At the palace, Odysseus goes around to each person at the table begging for food. Antinous, a suitor, doesn’t give him any and insults him. Odysseus insults him back. Antinous then throws a chair at him. Penelope hears all this and asks Eumaeus to bring the beggar to see her, but Odysseus doesn’t want the suitor to see him going to her.
Summary of Book Eighteen • Arnaeus, another beggar, comes into the palace and challenges Odysseus in a boxing match, much to the suitors’ delight. • Athena tells Penelope to show herself to the suitors and makes Penelope more beautiful. • Penelope tells the suitors that Odysseus told her to remarry if he didn’t come back by the time Telemachus grew up, and asks them to bring her gifts. Each suitor brings gifts. • Athena convinces the suitor Eurymachusto insult Odysseus, and predictably Odysseus insults him right back. They are on the verge of a riot when Telemachus steps in and breaks up the fight.