Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 16

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Book 16

  • Telemachos arrives to find Eumaios chatting with a beggar.
  • Eumaios jumps up to greet Telemachos enthusiastically; it is obvious that he loves him like a son.
  • Eumaios introduces the beggar to Telemachos and asks if he'll look after the old man.
  • Telemachos laments that his house is being intruded on, but offers the beggar clothing and food and further permission to stay with Eumaios.
  • He worries aloud that he isn't trained in arms and will likely do a lousy job of ousting the suitors. (Plus, he's sort of outnumbered.)
  • Odysseus/the beggar pumps his son up. He urges Telemachos to seek the aid of his brothers in ousting the suitors. Even if the odds are stacked against him, it's better to die in glorious battle than to be beaten by all these suitors.
  • Telemachos says he has no brothers and no chance against the suitors, who are some of the toughest men in the land.
  • He sends Eumaios to Penelope with the news that he has returned, but warns the swineherd not to let the suitors hear.
  • When Eumaios asks if he let Laertes know, Telemachos tells him to let Eurykleia the nurse tell him instead. (Keep this in mind.)
  • At this point, Odysseus spots Athene outside and goes to her. Telemachos can't see her, which could possibly make for some comic relief.
  • She tells Odysseus to reveal himself to Telemachos and removes his disguise with her wand.
  • Telemachos is blown away by the staggering transformation and assumes that Odysseus must be a god. (Well, all the ladies seem to like him.)
  • While Telemachos is all overcome by wonder and happiness, Odysseus berates him for not taking the news more like a man.
  • After the hugging and the tears, the father and son plot to defeat the suitors. Based on Telemachos' information, there are over one hundred of them. Hm. These are some mighty high odds.
  • Telemachos despairs, but Odysseus tells him to have faith—after all, the gods are on their side. (Well, most of the gods.)
  • Odysseus outlines the plan: tomorrow, Athene will disguise him as a beggar. He'll head to the royal hall to distract the suitors while Telemachos locks their weapons up in another room.
  • Odysseus has set aside only two swords, spears, and shields for their own use. Other than that, they're trusting in the gods to assist them.
  • He also warns Telemachos not to let anyone else know that he has returned.
  • The pair agrees to question the female servants of the household to discover which ones are loyal to their cause.
  • Then they send a runner to the Queen to say Telemachos has returned.
  • This not so smart for two reasons: one, they already sent Eumaios to do just that; and two, this runner shouts the news aloud so that everyone, including the suitors, hears.
  • Twenty minutes later, Eumaios tells the queen in private that her son has returned, and she's all, "No kidding."
  • Back at the royal hall, the seabound suitors return to their friends, all bummed that they've failed to ambush and kill Telemachos.
  • Antinoös urges the suitors to act fast. Now that everyone knows they've tried to kill Telemachos, they might as well strike the first blow.
  • Another (and more prudent) suitor named Amphinomos isn't quite so trigger-happy: he advises them to pray to the gods to see if they are favored. The others agree.
  • Meanwhile, Medon, our favorite town crier, has overheard the suitors' plans yet again and brings the info to Penelope.
  • She confronts the suitors and accuses them of trying to kill her son.
  • Eurymachos is all, "Who, us? Never!" and the Queen, who is helpless because she is a woman, goes upstairs.
  • Back at the hut, Athene disguises Odysseus just as Eumaios returns. He delivers the news that a crier ruined their secrecy and that he spotted an unknown ship coming to Ithaka. (It's implied that this is the ship of the unsuccessful ambushing suitors.)
  • Odysseus and Telemachos aren't fazed. They tuck into a good dinner and go to sleep.

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