Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 19

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Book 19

  • Odysseus, still disguised as the beggar, orders Telemachos to remove the suitors' weapons from the great hall, as planned.
  • Telemachos tells Eurykleia to go shut the women in their rooms while he does so. Well, this won't be suspicious at all.
  • Odysseus and Telemachos move the weapons together. Athene is conveniently lighting their way.
  • Telemachos is blown away by how deeply she's invested in helping Odysseus.
  • Penelope waits in her room for the beggar.
  • Melantho sees Odysseus coming up and insults him; he says that she should really think about what Odysseus would think of her behavior.
  • The queen tells the beggar about the long years she has spent waiting for her husband to return and how she tricked the suitors with her shroud-weaving routine.
  • But now she's desperate. She plans to marry a suitor soon, just to get out of Telemachos' house and let him live in peace. (Nooo!)
  • Finally, she persuades the beggar to tell her about himself. Odysseus assumes a fake name—Aithon—and weaves a complex story in which he came from Crete, fought in Troy, and later played host to Odysseus.
  • Penelope gets excited at hearing her husband's name, but she wants proof.
  • The beggar describes Odysseus' clothing, weapons, and men so perfectly that Penelope weeps.
  • It's cool! He'll be back…today!
  • Penelope isn't exactly unconvinced, but she offers the man a bath, clothes, and bed for the night.
  • The beggar, however, refuses the bath (which is really just a foot washing) unless he gets it from a maid as old and long-suffering as he is.
  • Playing right into his hands, Penelope offers the services of Eurykleia, Odysseus' nurse when he was young.
  • Eurykleia notices the strong resemblance between the beggar and Odysseus, but the beggar brushes it off by saying he gets that a lot.
  • She begins washing his feet.
  • Odysseus realizes something and freezes—he can't let her see the scar on his thigh. (Thigh? Just what kind of foot wash is this, anyway?)
  • Flashback to the scar story: as a boy Odysseus went on a hunt on Mount Parnassos with his grandfather Autolykos, where he was gashed in the thigh by a wild boar. It left an unmistakable scar.
  • Of course, Eurykleia spots the mark, figures out that it's Odysseus, and freaks.
  • Odysseus controls the situation and vows her to silence. Eurykleia promises to zip it.
  • In the meantime, Penelope, comes in to ask the beggar one last question. She describes to him a dream she had in which she joyfully watched the domestic geese in her garden. Sweet, until a mountain eagle swooped down and killed them all.
  • She and her attendant women began to wail in sorrow, but the eagle came back and spoke, saying that he is her lord returned and the geese are the suitors.
  • Gee, we wish all our dreams interpreted themselves for us.
  • Still, this isn't enough explanation for Penelope. She asks the beggar to interpret the dream…again.
  • The beggar, somehow avoiding rolling his eyes, tells her it means certain death for the suitors.
  • Penelope isn't convinced. She tells him that she's so tired of the courtship that she'll end it tomorrow with a contest: the suitors must string Odysseus' old bow and shoot an arrow through twelve consecutive axe heads. She will marry the suitor who wins it.
  • The beggar promises that Odysseus will be present for the contest.
  • Still skeptical, Penelope goes upstairs to sleep.

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