Book 6 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 6

Odysseus sleeps in the thicket. The king of the island on which he landed, Skheria, is Alcinous. Athena enters his palace to find his daughter Nausicaa. She takes the form of one of the princess's friends and tells her that she should be married soon, so she should go and do a ritual washing of clothes in the river. She adds "Go beg thy sovereign father, even at dawn/ to have the mule cart and mules brought round." Book 6, lines 41-2. Athena departs and at dawn Nausicaa goes to her father and asks for everything Athena told her to and he grants it. The mules are brought around and the cart is filled. At the river the girls bathe themselves as well as the clothing. While the clothing dries, they eat and play a game with a ball. The princess throws the ball the wrong way and it hits the thicket. Odysseus shouts out and then steps out of the bushes hiding his genitals with an olive branch. The other girls run away but Nausicaa stands to face him. Odysseus considers falling and clinging to her knees but he decides that this might scare her. He asks her whether she is a god or a mortal because she is so beautiful. He compares her to a young palm tree. He continues to praise her and then she speaks:

"Stranger, there is no quirk or evil in you
that I can see. You know Zeus metes out fortune
to good and bad men as it pleases him.
Hardship he sent to you, and you must bear it.
But now that you have taken refuge here
you shall not lack for clothing, or any other
comfort due to a poor man in distress."
Book 6, lines 201-207

Nausicaa introduces herself and tells her maids not to be afraid because strangers and beggars come from Zeus. They give him olive oil and tell him to bathe. He says he cannot bathe in front of them so they leave. He bathes and Athena helps him look more noble. The girl is amazed when he returns, remarking that she wishes her husband would look like him. They give him food and drink and tell him to follow them to the palace but he thinks it would be improper for them to be seen with a man. He gets directions so that he may go by himself. She tells him to supplicate her mother first and then leaves. Odysseus prays to Athena that he may find love and mercy among these people. Athena hears him and plans to fulfill his wish without showing him her true form.

Topic Tracking: Disguise and Deceit 4
Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts 4

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