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Book 16 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 16

Telemachus finds two men in the forest hut: Eumaius and a strange old beggar. The dogs do not bark at him and Eumaius is so happy he covers him with kisses. He tells him that he was sure he wouldn't return. Telemachus asks about his mother and Eumaius tells him that she is worn out by grieving. Odysseus moves aside to give his couch to Telemachus but Telemachus tells him not to move. Eumaius makes him a seat of his own from fleece and prepares some food for him. Telemachus asks Eumaius about his guest and the swineherd tells him that he is from Crete and is seeking protection. Telemachus tells him that he can barely protect himself but he will clothe the man and give him a sword. He warns that he should not stay in the hall with the suitors because it would be too dangerous. Odysseus asks Telemachus why he has done nothing about the suitors alleging that if he were in his position he would give his life to fight their wrongdoing. Telemachus calmly replies that he has no siblings or male relatives to assist him or replace him and all the princes of the island oppose him. He tells Eumaius to "Go down at once and tell the lady Penelope/ that I am back from Pylos safe and sound" Book 16, lines 151-2 but not to let everyone else know. Eumaius wants to go and inform Laertes as well but Telemachus tells him that since there is not sufficient time to go to both, he should send a housekeeper to Laertes. Athena watches all this and Odysseus sees her. She approaches him and speaks (the others don't see this):

"Son of Laertes and the gods of old,
Odysseus, master of land ways and sea ways,
dissemble to your son no longer now.
the time has come: tell him how you together
will bring doom on the suitors in the town."
Book 16, lines 195-9

When Eumaius leaves, she restores Odysseus to his original shape and he returns to the hut. Telemachus is thunderstruck and thinks that Odysseus is a god from whom he must beg mercy. When Odysseus tells him that he is his father, Telemachus does not believe him. Odysseus tells Telemachus that he is not acting princely and that he is the only Odysseus who will ever come. He explains that Athena changed his shape and Telemachus hugs him and begins to weep. He asks Odysseus how he came to Ithaca and Odysseus tells his story then asks Telemachus to count the number of suitors and their followers for him. Telemachus tells him that there are scores of men and they cannot defeat them. Odysseus assures Telemachus that Athena will be with them along with Zeus Telemachus replies that these are two great defenders but they are distant and the suitors are near. Odysseus assures him that they will help and he should not fret too much. The he tells him that when he comes to the house tomorrow as a beggar he should tolerate their ill treatment of him until he gives him a sign. At the appropriate time, Telemachus is to hide all the weapons except enough for the two of them with the excuse that he is preventing a drunk accident. He also asks him not to tell anyone else of his arrival. Telemachus tells his father that he will be courageous and thinks it is a good plan.

During this exchange, Telemachus' ship arrives in the city and the swineherd announces to Penelope her son's return. The suitors are confused and dumfounded. Eurymachus addresses them:

"Friends, face up to it;
that young pup Telemakhos, has done it;
he made the round trip, though we said he could not.
Well- now to get the best craft we can find
afloat, with oarsmen who can drench her bows,
and tell those on the island to come home."
Book 16, lines 415-20

Their comrades have already returned from the island and Antinous is in disbelief. They begin to make a new plan to kill Telemachus before he gets them exiled. No one speaks in reply to his proposal for a few moments, but soon Amphinomos says he does not want to kill Telemachus but that they should consult the gods either way. Penelope knows they are plotting her son's death as she barges in on them and tells them they are evil. She tells Antinous that his father was saved by Odysseus and he should have some respect for their household. Eurymachus speaks to her and swears on his life that they would never harm Telemachus. He lies and she retires to her room to weep for Odysseus. At dusk Odysseus and his son hear Eumaius coming and Athena turns him back into an old man. Telemachus greets Eumaius and asks about the town. Eumaius says that there is confusion among the suitors. they eat and go to sleep.

Topic Tracking: Disguise and Deceit 8

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