Is Odysseus, the main character of Homer’s The Odyssey, really an epic hero? An epic hero embodies several heroic traits such as; having superior or super-human strength; being intellectual and courageous; and being a strong and responsible leader. An epic hero struggles and is overwhelmed with difficulties. An epic hero is on a quest of self discovery, war or some sort of goal. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is on a quest to return home to Ithaca after ten years of war in Troy.
Odysseus, during his quest, is forced to venture through a merciless Cyclops, angered Gods, deeply obstinate Goddesses, the underworld, and determined suitors that are after his wife Penelope. Odysseus surmounts over these obstacles and returns home safely with courage, intelligence, superior strength, brave leadership, and also performs brave deeds. In his quest, Odysseus uses his superior and super human strength to overcome the suitors. In The Odyssey, Penelope holds a contest for all the suitors. She declares that she will marry the one who can string and shoot Odysseus’s bow through all the twelve axes.
None of the suitors were able to bend the bow and string it. Odysseus disguised as a beggar then asks if he can try the bow. “Meantime wise Odysseus, when he handled the great bow and scanned it closely, even as one well-skilled to play the lyre and sing stretches with ease round its new peg a string, securing at each end the twisted sheep-gut; so without effort did Odysseus string the mighty bow. Holding it now with his right hand, he tried its cord; and clear to the touch it sang, voiced like the swallow.
Then laying the arrow on the arch, he drew the string and arrow notches, and forth from the bench on which he sat let fly the shaft, with careful aim, and did not miss an axe’s ring from first to last, but clean through all sped on the bronze-tipped arrow” (Homer 210-211). Odysseus used his superior strength to bend his bow for he was the only one who was able to bend it and string it. In his quest, Odysseus uses his superior intellect to outsmart Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Odysseus and his men arrive on the land of the Cyclops.
Odysseus then chooses his twelve best men and travel through the mainland and come across a cave. Odysseus and his men make themselves at home. Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, soon returns to his cave and closes the opening with a giant boulder. Polyphemus is startled to see Odysseus and his men. Polyphemus snatches two men and makes his meal. Odysseus wants to take his sword to Polyphemus but knows if he kills him now he won’t be able to escape because of the giant boulder. The next day while Polyphemus is pasturing his sheep, Odysseus finds and hardens a wooden staff.
When Polyphemus returns, Odysseus offered Polyphemus some wine. “Here, Cyclops, drink some wine after of human flesh, and see what sort of liquor our ship held. I brought it as an offering thinking that you might pity me and send me home. But you are mad past bearing. Reckless! How should a stranger come to you again from any people, when you have done this wicked deed? ‘ So I spoke; he took the cup and drank it off, and mighty pleased he was with the taste of the sweet liquor, and thus he asked me for it yet again: Give me some more, kind sir, and straightway tell your name’
Cyclops you ask my noble name, and I will tell it; but do you give the stranger’s gift, just as you promised. My name is Noman. Noman I am called by mother, father, and by all my comrades'” (86). Odysseus tells Polyphemus his name is Noman to ruse him. Odysseus soon gets Polyphemus drunk. Odysseus takes the staff and blinds Polyphemus. Polyphemus removes the boulder and asks for help from the other Cyclops. “Then in his turn from out the cave big Polyphemus answered: Friends Noman is murdering me by craft. Force there is none. ‘
But answering him in winged words they said: If no man harms you then when you are left alone, illness which comes from mighty Zeus you cannot fly. But make your prayer to your father, Lord Poseidon'” (87). Odysseus and his men then hide under sheep and escape the land. In his quest, Odysseus was a strong and responsible leader. Odysseus was a responsible when he forced his men out of the land of the Lotus Eaters. Odysseus and his men drift for nine days and on the tenth land on the land of the Lotus Eaters. When they land Odysseus and his men prepare water and food.
After they eat Odysseus sends three men to go forth to learn about the men who live there. The Lotus Eaters did not harm them; instead they gave them lotus to eat. One problem was that whosoever ate these forgot about their home and wished to leave no more. Odysseus took responsibility and forced them back. “These men I brought back weeping to the ships by very force, and dragging them under the benches of our hollow ships I bound them fast, and bade my other trusty men to hasten and embark on the swift ships, that none of them might eat the lotus and forget his going home.
Quickly they came aboard, they came aboard, took places at the pins, and sitting in order smote the foaming water with their oars” (82). Odysseus, here, could have left his men under the influence and sailed off but instead he dragged all by forced and brought them to order. Everything Odysseus did wasn’t a quality of an epic hero. For example, Odysseus raided the Ismarus, the city of the Cicones. Odysseus and his men took all the treasures and woman. Odysseus also was dissolute to Penelope. Odysseus was with Circe for one year and with Calypso for seven years.
This makes Odysseus seem less of an epic hero, but if you consider the other facts about him you should think otherwise. Odysseus was superior in strength for being the only person to be able to bend and string his bow. Odysseus was intelligent and courageous by standing up to Polyphemus. Odysseus was a responsible and strong leader by forcing his men under the influence to get on the ship and continue their journey home. Therefore, I can conclude that Odysseus is truly an epic hero. Odysseus had many difficulties throughout his journey, but he strived to continue despite his many encounters with gods, goddesses, Cyclops, and suitors.