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Notes on The Odyssey Themes

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The Odyssey Topic Tracking: Journeys

Journeys 1: The tale begins not with Odysseus journeying, but with him trapped at a moment in his journey from Troy to Ithaca. Athena pleads with Zeus that he be allowed to continue his journey home. The she goes to Ithaca and sends Telemachus on a journey of his own.

Journeys 2: After arriving in Pylos, Telemachus finds that there is very little to learn there and his journey is diverted over land to the city of Sparta where Menelaus rules. This journey is facilitated by the aid of Nestor and the advice of Athena. Nestor's son accompanies him on the trip.

Journeys 3: Telemachus has finally arrived at Sparta and his journey slows down for a moment. Menelaus recounts his journey home from Troy and how it was sidetracked and delayed. He had to appeal to the immortals to finally make it home. Menelaus gives Telemachus news of his father, stranded on Calypso's island. When Penelope learns of her son's journey, it causes her anguish because she doesn't want to lose him the way she lost her husband. The suitors take his journey as an opportunity to kill him.

Journeys 4: Odysseus' journey is begun again by Hermes from Zeus. He must first build his own raft, which takes a few days. Calypso sends him off with food and clothing. When he nears land, an angry Poseidon destroys the raft. With the help of a nymph, Odysseus floats for two days and crawls into the mouth of a river where he burrows into leaves in a thicket for warmth and sleep.

Journeys 5: Odysseus tells of his journeys home from Troy and his tale is filled with mysterious places. First, he loses many men in a raiding party. Then, he almost loses more men to the Lotus eaters in a magical place where a plant can make you forget your yearning to go home. Finally, they are near the land of the terrible cyclops where they eat men instead of offering hospitality.

Journeys 6: Odysseus continues the story of his fantastic voyage. They travel to the island of the king of the winds, but Odysseus did not tell his men that the storm winds were stored in the bag given as a gift from the king. In greed they opened it and were blown back to Aeolus who took no more pity on them because he thought they were cursed. They are becalmed and end up first at a nightless island where some men are eaten by giants and then at Circe's island. She turns some of them into pigs and then releases them. They remain here for a year and when they want to go, she tells them that they first must journey to the land of the dead.

Journeys 7: Odysseus and his men make a journey to the land of the dead, a journey that men are supposed to make only once in their lives. Here, the dead journey to meet them and tell their tales. Tiresias tells Odysseus how he must continue his journey and where not to go. When the dead swarm too much, they must turn around and leave.

Journeys 8: Odysseus returns from the land of the dead and Circe gives him advice on how to continue his journey. He makes it past Scylla and Charybdis only losing six men but his men mutiny and demand to stop on the island where the cattle of the sun are kept. They are kept on the island by storm winds and after twenty days they slaughter the forbidden cattle. Their ship is destroyed once they leave and Odysseus is the only survivor. He drifts back through Scylla and Charybdis and lands on the Island of Calypso.

Journeys 9: Odysseus makes the final leg of his seaward journey in sleep. When he wakes he does not recognize his home.

Journeys 10: Telemachus is sent on the last leg of his journey by Athena. He travels quickly through the day and avoids stopping in Pylos so that he can get home as soon as possible. When he nears Ithaca he gets off the ship near the house of the swineherd and the rest of the men return to the city.

Journeys 11: Odysseus returns to the theme of journey as he speaks to Penelope still disguised as a beggar. He weaves elements of his actual story into his lies.

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