Study Guide

The Odyssey Book 8

By Homer

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Book 8

  • At dawn, Athene goes around the city in town-crier disguise, shouting the news of the stranger's coming and the upcoming feast. Everyone congregates at the palace.
  • She also makes Odysseus totally studly (studlier) and instills in him a desire to prove himself worthy of any challenge.
  • At this little meeting, Alkinoös orders that a ship and crew be prepared for later that day.
  • The King then invites everyone to the banquet and calls in his blind bard, Demodokos.
  • (Oh, p.s., it's likely that Homer himself was blind.)
  • Demodokos about the fight between Odysseus and Achilleus that went down before the Trojan War.
  • Odysseus, his name still unknown to the Phaiakians, sits back to listen to the tale about himself. It brings tears to his eyes.
  • He hides his face beneath his cloak and only King Alkinoös notices his tears.
  • Alkinoös orders some sporting games, bragging that when Odysseus goes home, he'll boast to his people of the Phaiakians' athleticism.
  • They play. Homer lists the names of all the men that partake and the winners of each race. (Hey, epic poems were the only way for people to get their due before Facebook.)
  • You should note that the King's sons make a good showing; Prince Klytoneos wins the foot-race and Prince Laodamas wins the boxing match.
  • It is this very Prince Laodamas, a handsome man, by the way, who invites Odysseus to join in the games.
  • When he proves reluctant, Euryalos (another competitor) jokingly says he doesn't look like the athletic type.
  • This is literary foreshadowing for Odysseus kicking some serious butt.
  • Odysseus proceeds to hurl a discus further than any man present has managed so far. (Athene, disguised as a Phaiakian, is the one to measure the distance and announce as much.)
  • Odysseus proudly asks for any man to challenge him. He will take on anyone except his gracious host, Prince Laodamas; and he'll win any contest except the running race, since his long days at sea have weakened his legs.
  • Alkinoös wisely decides to diffuse the situation by switching things up; he asks for Demodokos to come back and sing some more.
  • Demodokos sings the story of the affair between Ares (god of war) and Aphrodite (goddess of love), and of how Hephaistos, Aphrodite's crippled blacksmith husband, got jealous when he found out. The scorned husband wove a net, spread it over the bed, caught the lovers in the act, and shamed them in front of all the other gods.
  • Well, apparently that was enough storytelling for the King. Alkinoös orders some dancing to entertain Odysseus and bestows on his guest a few gifts.
  • Euryalos approaches Odysseus and offers him a lovely sword in repentance for his rash words earlier. It's cool, man.
  • Later, after being given a nice bath, Odysseus asks Demodokos to sing about that great man Odysseus in the Trojan horse.
  • We're not sure why he asked for this song, since it makes him cry. Again.
  • Alkinoös sees and begs Demodokos to stop since it is upsetting his guest.
  • Finally, Alkinoös asks who his guest is and why he grieves so much when hearing about the Trojan War. He silences his bard and invites him to tell his tale, but not before a complete non sequitur in which he tells everyone of a prophecy that one of his ships will be turned to stone and mountains thrown up around his city.
  • Everyone is all, "Um…OK" and then gets ready to hear Odysseus' story.
  • Get the popcorn, folks. This is going to be a long tale.

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