Then came Athene, and drove the mist before her, and Odysseus saw again the land that he loved, and knew that his wanderings were past. She told him the tale of the wooers, and of the unhappiness of Penelope and Telemachus, and the heart of Odysseus grew hot within him.
“Stand by me!” he said to the goddess. “If thou of thy grace wilt help me, I myself will fight three hundred men.”
“Truly I will stand by thee,” said Athene, “and many of the greedy wooers shall stain the earth with their blood.”
She then told Odysseus how the wooers were to be destroyed, and Odysseus gladly agreed to her plans. First she made him hide far in the darkness of the cave, under the olive-tree, all the gold and bronze ornaments and beautiful clothes that had been given to him in the land of Nausicaa.
Then she touched him with her golden wand. In a moment his yellow hair fell off his head; his bright eyes were dim; his skin was withered and wrinkled, and he had a stooping back and tottering legs like a feeble old man. His clothes of purple and silver she changed into torn and filthy old rags, and over his shoulders she threw the old skin of a stag with the hair worn off.
“Go now,” said Athene, “to where thy faithful swineherd sits on the hill, watching his swine as they grub among the acorns and drink of the clear spring. He has always been true to thee and to thy wife and son. Stay with him and hear all that he has to tell, and I will go and fetch home Telemachus.”
“When thou didst know all, why didst thou not tell Telemachus?” asked Odysseus. “Is he, too, to go wandering over stormy seas, far from his own land?”
“Telemachus will be a braver man for what he has gone through,” said Athene. “No harm shall come to him, although the wooers in their black ship wait to slay him.”
Then Athene flew across the sea, and Odysseus climbed up a rough track through the woods to where the swineherd had built himself a hut. The hut was made of stones and thorn-branches, and beside it were sties for the swine made in the same way. The wooers had eaten many swine at their daily feasts, but thousands remained. These the swineherd tended, with three men and four fierce dogs to help him.
At an open space on the hill, from whence he could look down at the woods and the sea, Odysseus found the swineherd sitting at the door of his hut making himself a pair of sandals out of brown ox-hide.
When the swineherd’s dogs saw a dirty, bent old man toiling up the hill, they rushed at him, barking furiously. Up they leapt on him and would have torn him to pieces if their master had not cast away his ox-hide, dashed after them, scolded them and beaten them, and then driven them off with showers of stones.
“If my dogs had killed thee I should have been for ever ashamed,” he said to Odysseus, “and without that I have enough sorrow. For while my noble master may be wandering in a strange land and lacking food, I have to feed his fat swine for others to eat.”