The Odyssey Books Summary

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Book 1

10 years after the Trojan War, Odysseus still has not returned home. By this time, his son Telemachus has grown up and his wife, Penelope has gained many suitors that want his family’s wealth. The suitors dishonor Odysseus and his family by eating all of the family’s livestock.
Odysseus has been missing for a long time, so people try to take advantage of his absence by winning over Penelope. They think Odysseus is probably dead. Athena likes Odysseus so she gives his son some advice.
Athena wants to help Odysseus and goes to visit Telemachus with Zeus’ permission. Telemachus travels to Pylos, taking Athena’s advice, hoping to hear news about his father. Some of the suitors plot to kill Telemachus when he comes back.
Next, the story might talk about some of the hardships Odysseus is facing while this is happening in Ithacus, or show the defiance of the suitors to Telemachus. The suitors could complain to the people in charge of Ithaca that Odysseus is unlikely to ever return.
I think Telemachus made an intelligent decision of listening to Athena’s advice, and deeply cares for his mother and family. I also respect Athena for wanting to help Odysseus and his family’s situation. I also think that the suitors will eventually regret their actions towards Odysseus, dishonoring his family.
I connect with Telemachus’ feelings. After being separated from his father for so long, he must feel lonely, but helpless to get rid of his mother’s suitors. When I am separated from members of my family or my friends, I miss them and wish they could come back. Sometimes, life just doesn’t feel the same without them, and I could feel bored, alone, etc. But, I can’t do anything about it because I know that they have other things they must do elsewhere, or can’t come back.
Athena helps Odysseus by telling Telemachus to send Penelope’s suitors away.

Book 9

Odysseus spends 7 of his 10 years stuck on Calypso’s island, until Zeus finally sends Hermes to tell Calypso to let him go. He then sails for 20 days, landing on the island of Scheria, and is asked by King Alcinous to tell of his travels.
Poseidon, a major god, dislikes Odysseus because Odysseus harms his son Polyphemus. Because Odysseus mainly travels by sea, Poseidon is able to get vengeance by killing many of Odysseus’ men.

The Lotus Eaters offer Lotus flowers to three of his men, but eating the flower causes them to forget about their homeland and their purpose, so Odysseus is forced abandon them and flee, warning the rest of his men not to accept the flower. He also has an encounter with a Cyclops named Polyphemus, in which many of his men are killed. Odysseus blinds Polyphemus using hot coals and tricks him, calling himself “Nohbody”. Odysseus and his men escape by hiding under Polyphemus’ sheep, but Polyphemus is Poseidon’s son, so Polyphemus tells Poseidon the rest of Odysseus’ men, who were left on a nearby island, as revenge.

Next, Odysseus might have to face another monster or god that wants to kill him. Telemachus could also be in danger because the suitors were plotting to kill him in Book 1.

I admire Odysseus’ cunning and bravery in taking down Polyphemus, but I think he could have used a better method and used more caution before confronting him. Because Polyphemus ended up being Poseidon’s son, Odysseus had a lot more of his men killed. But, I don’t think it was completely his fault because Poseidon is just a bad tempered god.

Many stories have weaker characters that use trickery to seize victory from stronger characters, like how Odysseus was able to beat a fierce monster by making it drunk. I think this can be applied in real life, where the stronger are not always better than the wise.
Polyphemus hinders Odysseus by eating his men, and Poseidon hinders Odysseus after he kills the god’s son by killing a large part of his men.

Book 10

Odysseus landed on Aeolus’, the wind king’s, island and stayed there for a month. Aeolus gives him two gifts, a wind that will blow his ships towards Ithaca and a bag filled with all the stormy winds. When Odysseus almost reaches home, one of his men opens the bag, releasing the bad winds, and the ships are blown all the way back to Aeolus’ island. At this time, only one of Odysseus’ ships and forty five of his crew are still alive, and they reach Aeaea, where the goddess Circe lives.
Odysseus’ men thought the bag contained gold and silver, so they became overcome with greed and opened the bag. Aeolus thought that they were cursed, so he refused to help them the second time.

Odysseus and his men reach Circe’s island, and Circe turns most of Odysseus’ men into pigs. Eurylochus tells Odysseus what happened and tells Odysseus to sail away, but Odysseus chooses to stay and save his men instead. Hermes gives Odysseus a magical plant to protect him from Circe’s power, and tells him to make Circe promise to not use tricks on him. Odysseus confronts Circe and threatens her to return the pigs to their original state, but when she does, they are still in a trance. After a year, Odysseus begs her to let them go, but Circe tells him that he must visit the underworld find ghost of Tiresias first.
Next, Odysseus will probably listen to Circe and go to the land of the dead.

I think Odysseus should have been more careful and prepared before visiting Circe’s island and confronting her. He was brave to not flee the island, choosing to save his men instead, but that put himself in great danger. If not for Herme’s help, Odysseus could have easily been tricked as well.

Many times, people have been lured or tricked with their own greed, like Odysseus’ men were. I can use this in real life to make sure to consider my choices before I act on them to make sure I am not falling into a trap. I can also learn from Odysseus’ choice to stay and fight for his men instead of leaving and saving himself.
In this book, Hermes helps Odysseus while Circe harms him.

Book 11

Odysseus and the remaining of his crew find the place Circe directs them to in the land of the dead.
Circe will let Odysseus go if he finds Tiresias, so Odysseus has no choice but to agree to her demands.

Odysseus summons the dead by sacrificing lambs and cows. He sees one of his men, Elpenor, who died in Circe’s hall. Elpenor tells him to burn his corpse, to which Odysseus agrees. Odysseus then finds Tiresias, and is given his prophecy. Tiresias tells him that the path ahead is hard, and Poseidon still wants revenge. He also warns Odysseus to be careful not to harm any of Helios’ cows. When Odysseus gets his revenge on all of his wife’s suitors, Tiresias advises him to sacrifice a ram, a bull, and a great buck boar to Poseidon, and Odysseus will receive a gentle death when he is at a ripe old age. Odysseus then speaks to the ghost of his mother, who tells him of Penelope, Telemachus, and Laertes, all mourning him.

Odysseus will probably continue on his journey home next, passing through an island where Helios’ cows are located.
I think Odysseus should have spent less time in the underworld, because it was very depressing to him. After receiving the prophecy of Tiresias, which he went there for, he should have left immediately.

I connect with Odysseus’ feelings as he communicated with the death. I sympathized with a lot of the ghosts, how they all felt like they still wanted to do so much more while alive.

Tiresias helps Odysseus by giving him a prophecy of his future.

Book 12

Odysseus completes his journey through the underworld, receiving his prophecy. He then returns to Circe’s island, and Circe asks Odysseus what happened in the underworld. Circe gives Odysseus advice of what to do next.

Circe promised to let Odysseus go after he receives his prophecy. She then decides to help Odysseus by giving him advice on what he will encounter on his journey next.

Circe tells Odysseus that he will face sirens, then have to go through a strait between Charybdis and Scylla. Odysseus then relays to his men only the part about the sirens. Odysseus protects his men from the sirens’ voices by stuffing their ears with beeswax, and instructs them to tie him to the mast. After passing the sirens, Odysseus instructs his men to keep rowing no matter what, directing them towards Scylla. Scylla strikes, killing six of his men, but Odysseus presses on. He also tries to bypass Thrinacia, where Helios’ cows were, but his men insisted on landing, and they eat the cattle driven by hunger. Zeus sinks Odysseus’ ship in response, and only Odysseus survives, drifting to Calypso’s home, Ogygia.

Odysseus ends his retelling of his journey to King Alcinous here, so next, King Alcinous will probably decide what he wants to do to Odysseus, whether to help or not.
I think Odysseus’ men made a bad decision to stop at Thrinacia and feast on Helios’ cattle. If they had listened to Odysseus, they would still be alive and could have almost reached Ithaca many times by this point in the story. Odysseus is always almost home, then because of the actions of his men or a god, is whisked back far away.

In my life, many things require group work and cooperation, and sometimes, because of the actions of one or more people, the entire group is hindered. In this book, Odysseus is hindered by his men because they could not resist the temptation of Helios’ cows.
Circe helps Odysseus by giving him advice in this book. Scylla and Charybdis endanger Odysseus, and Scylla kills six of Odysseus’ men. Helios and Zeus also hinder Odysseus by sinking his ship and killing his men.

Book 22

King Alcinous brings Odysseus back to Ithaca, and Odysseus is aided by Athena, who disguises him as an old man so he can surprise the suitors. Odysseus and Telemachus reunite, and Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, enters Penelope’s house. Penelope has given up hope of Odysseus returning, so she proposes an archery contest using Odysseus’ bow in which the winner will marry her.

Odysseus must win the contest while still protecting Penelope and Telemachus, so he must do it under the disguise of an old beggar. He has to plot with Telemachus to find the best way of defeating the suitors, and does it with Athena’s help.

Odysseus shoots an arrow, killing Antinous, which makes the other suitors angry. Eurymachus rallies the suitors, trying to make them all fight Odysseus at once, but Odysseus shoots him. Telemachus tries to aid Odysseus, and Odysseus tells him to run and get help. Athena aids them, and the suitors, realizing Odysseus has the help of a god, try to escape, but fail.

With the suitors defeated, Odysseus will likely go find his wife next.
I think Odysseus could have shown a bit more mercy towards the suitors, instead of killing them all even after they surrender. But, I think his revenge was justified because the suitors were trying to steal his wife and dishonor him.

I can connect with how sometimes a thirst for revenge can overcome other emotions such as forgiveness, sometimes, when I’m angry, it takes a while before I can cool off.
Antinous, Eurymachus, and the other suitors hinder Odysseus by trying to kill him, and Telemachus along with Athena help him.

Book 23

After spending years on the journey back to Ithaca, Odysseus has finally returned home. The battle with the suitors is over, and the great hall is filled with blood. Odysseus is finally reunited with Penelope.
With the aid of some gods, and setbacks caused by others, Odysseus’ journey has finally come to an end and Odysseus has returned home. He also wants revenge on all the suitors that tried to take his wife and dishonor his family.
Odysseus and Penelope are together again, and Odysseus asks Penelope about the bed he once made, with one of the bedposts being a live olive tree. The two rejoice in being together again, and share their stories of what happened when they were away. The townspeople are angry at Odysseus for killing the young suitors, but Athena is able to make peace.
Next, Odysseus will probably live to an old age with Penelope.
I think Odysseus should have immediately been happy to be with Penelope, instead of asking of the tree first. But, I think them getting back together was a nice end to The Odyssey.
I can connect Odysseus and Penelope’s reuniting with me reuniting with my friends after a long break. We often share stories of what we did during break, and catch up with each other.
Athena helps Odysseus, creating peace again, after the townspeople try to fight him.

Hero’s Journey:
Ordinary World – (In The Iliad) Odysseus is living peacefully with his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus as the King of Ithaca.
Call to Adventure – The Trojan War begins, and Odysseus is asked to fight for the Greeks.
Refusal of the Call – Odysseus doesn’t want to leave his wife and child, so he pretends to be insane. But, he is proved to be sane when he is tricked into turning his plow so he does not murder Telemachus.
Meeting of the Mentor – Odysseus is helped by some of the gods, namely Athena, who gives him advice and guides him during the war.
Crossing the Threshold – (In The Odyssey) After the war, Odysseus is blown off course by Poseidon, who is angry at him for winning the war.
Tests, Allies, and Enemies – Odysseus is forced to undergo many tests to get back to Ithaca. One of his tests was confronting the Cyclops Polyphemus to save his men. He is helped along the way by Athena.
Approach – Odysseus is almost home to Ithaca, aided by Aeolus, but one of his men open a bag of stormy winds from Aeolus, and he is blown all the way back to Aeolus’ island.
The Ordeal – Odysseus has to face even more life threatening challenges, such as escaping the goddess Circe, who turned his men into pigs. Odysseus also had to go through the underworld and endure the Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, facing many gods (mostly Poseidon, Helios, and Zeus), and more. Because his men ate Helios’ cows, Zeus sinks Odysseus’ ship and kills all his men. Odysseus is sent to Calypso’s island, where Calypso falls in love with him and won’t let him go.
The Reward – Hermes convinces Calypso to let Odysseus go, and Odysseus tells his story to King Alcinous. King Alcinous helps Odysseus and returns him home.
The Road Back – Odysseus’ goal was to return home, which he was close to achieving but was stopped by his wife’s suitors.
Resurrection – Odysseus, aided by Telemachus and Athena, kills all of his wife’s suitors.
Return with Elixir – Odysseus and Penelope are reunited. Athena makes peace between Odysseus and the angry townspeople who wanted to fight him for killing the suitors.

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