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Book 14 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 14

Odysseus goes into the forest to the remote clearing of the swineherd Eumaius. There are many pigs in the pens and they are guarded by dogs. The dogs snarl at him and Odysseus throws a rock at them. Eumaius yells at him and tells him that he almost got hurt. He complains that he has been wasting away in the forest while his master has been gone. He leads Odysseus into his hut and Odysseus blesses him for his kindness. Eumaius tells him that the gods have hindered his master's return. He slaughters two young pigs and shares the meat with Odysseus:

"There is your dinner, friend, the pork of slaves.
Our fat shoats are all eaten by the suitors,
cold-hearted men, who never spare a thought
for how they stand in the sight of Zeus. The gods
living in bliss are fond of no wrongdoing,
but honor discipline and right behavior."
Book 14, lines 97-103

Eumaius complains about the suitors who have destroyed the estate and he longs for the return of Odysseus. Odysseus continues to eat but then asks Eumaius the name of his master because he has been all over and may have seen him. Eumaius tells Odysseus that Penelope and Telemachus no longer trust travelers because they have been given false hope on so many occasions Odysseus swears to Eumaius that he is telling the truth when he says that Odysseus will return and avenge his wife and estate. Eumaius answers that he believes him but will give him no gift for the news. He tells Odysseus that Telemachus went to find news of his father and is in danger of an ambush. Then he changes the subject and asks Odysseus to tell his story. Odysseus begins to tell his tale but warns that it might take a year to tell completely. He tells Eumaius that he comes from Crete and his mother was the concubine of a rich man. When the man died, his legitimate sons stripped him of most of his wealth. His connections, however, allowed him to marry into a wealthy family. He loved war, not farming and family, and spent most of his time getting plunder from battles and sieges. He went to Troy with his own ships and when the war there was over he sailed to Egypt in search of gold. His men were killed by the Egyptians and he was put into forced labor. He was there for seven years, during which he was freed and amassed another fortune. In the eighth year, he was taken in by a Phoenician adventurer who "took me in completely with his schemes,/ and led me with him to Phoinikia/... he meant in fact, to trade me off, and get/a high price for me." Book 14, lines 337-47..

The ship became lost on the way and he washed up on an island where the king took care of him. There he heard of Odysseus who had been recently sent off to Ithaca. The king offered him passage and they plotted to make him a slave, abandoning him on Ithaca without a tunic or a cloak. He escaped from the ship and hid in a thicket and then wandered into the forest where he found the hut of the swineherd.. Eumaius is sad for him, but he does not believe the part about Odysseus. He tells him that he moved out of the town and goes there only at the call of Penelope. Once, men made a fool of him by promising that Odysseus was coming back. He got his hopes up and was heart-broken. Since then he has believed no news. Odysseus offers a pact: if his news is correct, Eumaius will give him a tunic and cloak when Odysseus arrives and if he does not come back he should have the slaves throw him from a cliff. Eumaius replies that it is a bad deal for a host to make with a guest. They feast on a great pig and Eumaius makes an offering to the gods for the return of Odysseus. Odysseus blesses him for giving him shelter and kindness. At night Odysseus talks Eumaius into giving him a cloak to keep him warm at night. He tells him the story of an ambush at Troy he participated in with Odysseus when he had left his own cloak behind and was very cold. Odysseus sent a runner back to the camp so he would leave his cloak behind and everyone would have one. Eumaius tells him that this is a good story and he lends him his own cloak for the night but would have to give it back in the morning. Odysseus goes to sleep, but Eumaius goes out to watch the pigs.

Topic Tracking: Disguise and Deceit 7
Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts 10

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