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The Odyssey Summary


It’s been ten years since the fall of Troy, and Odysseus the Greek hero has yet to return to his kingdom in Ithaca. An anxious crowd of suitors have swarmed his palace and destroyed his land, they attempt to court his wife, Penelope, who remains loyal to her absent husband.

The son of Odysseus, Prince Telemachus, wants nothing more than to defend his father’s land and protect his mother, however, he lacks the skill and the confidence to stand up to the mob. Antinous, one of the suitors, concocts a plan to assassinate young Telemachus, abolishing the only opposition to their colonization of the palace.

Unbeknownst to the mob of suitors, Odysseus lives. He has been imprisoned on Ogygia; the island of the beautiful nymph Calypso who has fallen madly in love with the king. Still, Odysseus years to return to his kingdom, and back to his wife and son. However, without the aid of a crew or a ship to help facilitate his escape, he wonders whether he will ever return home again.

As the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus deliberate and attempt to determine the fate of the king, Athena, Odysseus’s biggest ally among the gods, resolves to go to the aid of Telemachus. Under the guise of a friend of Laertes, the grandfather of the prince, Athena persuades the prince to call a meeting of the assembly where he will reproach the suitors. Athena prepares Telemachus for the long journey to Pylos and Sparta.

It is here that he is informed by kings Nestor and Menelaus that his father has been imprisoned and remains trapped on Calypso’s island. The young prince makes plans to return to his home, where Antinous and his cohorts are waiting for him with a plan to ambush him on his return Ithaca and to kill him.

Meanwhile, on Mount Olympus, Zeus instructs Hermes to venture to Calypso to rescue Odysseus. While on the island, Hermes coaxes Calypso into allowing Odysseus to craft a ship and to set sail away from the island. Eager to return to his family, the king sets out to sea, however, his journey is soon interrupted by Poseidon, the god of the sea, who finds him sailing home and creates a devastating storm to wreck his ship. Poseidon has harbored bitterness for Odysseus ever since the king caused his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, to go blind.

Athena again comes to the aid of Odysseus, saving him from the wrath of Poseidon, and the king finds his way to Scheria, the home of the Phaeacians. The Phaeacian princess, Nausicaa, leads Odysseus to the royal palace where he is welcomed warmly by the king and the queen. After announcing his identity, the king and queen are astonished, having heard of his exploits at Troy. The couple promise that they will provide him safe passage back to Ithaca, but request that he share with them the story of his adventures.

Odysseus talks well into the night. Articulately describing the remarkable events leading up to his first day on Calypso’s island. He tells of his journey to the Land of the Lotus Eaters, his fight with Polyphemus the Cyclops, his affair with the witch-goddess Circe, how he had been tempted by the deadly Sirens, how he had ventured into Hades to meet with the prophet Tiresias, and of his battle with the sea monster Scylla.

After concluding his story, the Phaeacians make good on their promise to return him safely to Ithaca, where he ventures to the hut of his swineherd, Eumaeus. Athena has disguised Odysseus as a beggar, but Eumaeus welcomes him and provides him with a warm meal. Not long after, he happens across Telemachus, who has just returned from Pylos and Sparta despite the attempts of the suitors to ambush him, and reveals to his son his true identity. The two concoct a plan to assassinate the suitors and take back control of the kingdom.

The next day, when Odysseus reaches the palace, he becomes the subject of abuse and insults from the suitors who only see him as a lowly beggar. Eurycleia, his old nurse, recognizes him instantly but promises to never give up his secret. Penelope is intrigued by the strange beggar, feeling that he might be her husband. She organizes an archery contest for the following day and pledges to marry the man capable of stringing Odysseus’s bow and firing an arrow through a row of twelve axes – something that only Odysseus has ever been successful in accomplishing.

During the contest, each of the suitors attempt to string the bow and fail. Odysseus steps up to the bow and strings it easily. He fires an arrow straight through each of the twelve axes. After his victory, he turns the bow on the suitors. With the help of his son and a few loyal servants, they massacre every last one of them.

Odysseus reveals his identity to the palace and is reunited with his loving wife. They travel to the edge of Ithaca to see his father, Laertes. They are attacked by the kin of the slain suitors, however Laertes, who has been reinvigorated by the return of his son, kills the father of Antinous and halts the attempted attack. Zeus instructs Athena to restore peace in the kingdom and the story ends.

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