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Free Study Guide-The Odyssey by Homer-Free Book Notes Summary
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BOOK 15

Summary

Athena goes to Telemachus, who is staying with Menelaus, and asks him to go back home to Ithaca to look after his property. She also warns him about the suitors' plans to ambush him on his way home. Telemachus wants to leave at once, but his companion Peisistratus advises him to wait until the next day, so as not to be discourteous to their host. In the morning, Telemachus speaks to Menelaus about his departure and he allows him to go once he has been presented with glorious gifts and given his midday meal. Just before Telemachus and Peisistratus leave, an eagle carries a goose off from the farmyard, and Helen interprets this as an omen of Odysseus' long-awaited return.

When they reach Pylos, Telemachus apologizes to Peisistratus for not having time to visit his father Nestor and asks him to help him prepare for his departure. At the docks, they meet Theoclymenus, a soothsayer, who asks Telemachus to help him by giving him place on his ship. Telemachus agrees, and Theoclymenus sails with Telemachus and his men.

At this point, the scene shifts back to the swineherd's hut at Ithaca. Odysseus tells Eumaeus that he wishes to go to the city to beg and perhaps visit Odysseus' house to obtain work as a servant. Eumaeus advises against this, saying that the suitors are violent and inhospitable. After further conversation, in which Eumaeus talks of Odysseus' parents and of his own origins, they retire for the night.

Meanwhile, Telemachus' company reaches the Ithacan shore. The young man, obeying Athena's instructions, asks the men to go to the city while he himself plans to go to the herdsmen. As for Theoclymenus, Telemachus asks him to go to the suitor Eurymachus' house. At this point a hawk with a dove in its talons flies by on Telemachus' right hand. Theoclymenus interprets this as an auspicious omen, and Telemachus now instructs his friend Piraeus, who is part of his crew, to take Theoclymenus home and look after him. As the ship sails toward the city, Telemachus walks to the swineherd's dwelling.

Notes

Athena plays an important role throughout the epic. She plans all the important moves for Odysseus and Telemachus. In this Book, she persuades Odysseus' son to come home and also advises him about the details of his return to Ithaca. Telemachus is sensible enough to obey each of her instructions judiciously. Telemachus' growth in maturity and his development in heroic stature is one of the themes of the poem. He conducts himself well at Menelaus' house, and he is decisive in refusing Menelaus' offer of collecting more wealth by visiting other lands nearby. In his eagerness to embark on his ship at Pylos and get home, he decides to do so without seeing Nestor, since this would waste a lot of time. He sends the young Peisistratus instead to fix things for him.


The seer Theoclymenus asks Telemachus for protection, since he is guilty of murder. Telemachus agrees to take him on the ship. On arriving at Ithaca, Theoclymenus asks where he is to stay, and Telemachus, rather strangely, says with Eurymachus. Eurymachus is one of the suitors and a prominent enemy. This response conveys the depressed and defeated mood of Telemachus. When Theoclymenus interprets the hawk as a favorable omen, Telemachus changes his mind and sends him to his friend Piraeus' house instead. Theoclymenus' task is to forecast events by augury and vision, but the reader suspects that, in some other version, he might have done more. He may have played a more prominent part in letting Penelope know of her husband's presence or in driving the suitors to their destruction. The element of the supernatural which he represents adds something to the story, but it is not fully exploited.

Odysseus continues to exhibit one of his major characteristics, namely, curiosity. He wishes to know about his father and mother and later patiently hears Eumaeus' long story about his childhood and ill-fated journey to Ithaca. Odysseus is eloquent when he consoles Eumaeus by saying that Zeus has given the swineherd good as well as evil. The brave-hearted hero shares a warm relationship with the swineherd, and it is this tenderness that makes him especially admirable. It humanizes the god-like Odysseus.

This Book builds the suspense about the imminent reunion between Odysseus and Telemachus. While the father is conversing with the swineherd, the son is nearing the Ithacan shore. The Book ends with Telemachus having reached Eumaeus' house, leaving the reader curious to know how the long-awaited reunion will finally take place.

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