Homer, Odyssey, Books 8, 9, 10

Book 8--Songs of Demodokos, the athletic games celebrating Odysseus' arrival, and Nausicaa's farewell 

1)  How does Athena serve Odysseus at dawn, and where have we seen this theme before, perhaps used with other characters?

2)  Demodokos' first song clearly is intended to refer to an epic Homer's audience knew.  What is its relationship in plot/action to the events in the Iliad and Odyssey?  Where would you go to find it today?

3)  The first song also is a "type scene," a larger chunk of oral-formulaic verse generally reproduced with key structural features intact every time.  Compare it with Telemakhos and Menelaos in V: 116-30.  What are the key elements in this type scene

4)  The games parallel those in Iliad XXIII for the funeral of Patroclus.  How do they establish the nature of the Phaeakians, and create Odysseus' peculiar talents and temper?  Especially, why does "Seareach" taunt the hero this way, and how does Odysseus respond? (Fitzgerald's "Seareach" is Euryalus in the Greek--remember the name when we get to Aeneid.  This is a "type character" found in "type scenes" common to epics such as Beowulf where the courtier who taunts/tests the hero is named "Unferth" (lit. "un-faith").  In the Aeneid, Euryalus is also given a thematically appropriate role.)  

5)  Demodokos' second song seems another typical bit of epic divine apparatus.  But does it have any thematic relevance to a man in Odysseus' position?

6)  In ll. 397-407, you see the ball-dance return.  Compare it with Book 5.  You will see its complete significance on the Shield of Achilles (Iliad XVIII: 688-708).  How might this fit together with the deeper thematic undercurrents of Books 6-8?

7)  When Seareach pays Odysseus compensation for his insult, how does his behavior establish a rule for behavior in such a delicate situation, and how does Odysseus receive his offer?  Some of the suitors will offer similar compensation--remember and compare the situation and Odysseus' response.

8)  Nausicaa's farewell (VIII: 488-500) brings to a close the important theme which opened Book 6.  How do you interpret the emotional content of this brief interlude?

9)  Demodokos' third song derives from another epic parallel to the Iliad.  How do you account for the differences between the two plots?  What do you learn here that the Iliad concealed from you?  For Deiphobos' role, consult Book IV, Menelaos' story.

10)  The song's end brings the poet to another extended reverse simile.  With what are Odysseus tears compared?  Which characters would occupy those roles were they to be acted out in this epic?

Book 9--Odysseus' tales to the Phaiakian court: the Kikones, Lotus-Eaters, and the Kyklopes (Polyphemus, Poseidon's one-eyed son).

1)  Do you see any change in Odysseus' character in the tales he  is narrating, when compared to those in the primary narrator's  voice? 

2)  How would you describe the attack on the Kikones by Odysseus'  men?  What kind of society does Odysseus represent?

3)  How did Odysseus' men respond to his orders in the raid on the Kikones, and how would you compare them to Odysseus?

4)  How might you use the Kikones, Lotus‑Eaters, and the Kyklopes  as types of civilization?   How do the ways in which they differ from Odysseus and his men  tell you about the things Odysseus values most in his culture?

5)  According to Odysseus, what do the Kyklopes lack as a people when compared with his own idea of proper human culture? 

6)  Why might the Phaiakians have reason to anticipate a tale about the Kyklopes with more than a little dread and enthusiasm?

7)  Why did Odysseus bring the wine?  Why did he enter the cave of Polyphemos, and how did the crew advise him?  Compare this evidence with the attack on the Kikones?  Why the difference?

8)  What reasoning guides Odysseus' strategy in dealing with Polyphemos while in the cave?

9)  Think of Odysseus as a tale-teller at a feast, a bard like Demodokos.  How does Odysseus use the horrific details of his encounter with Polyphemos? 

10)  G.E. Dimock (1956) points out that Odysseus' name puns on the Greek for "to hate," which also means, by extension, "to give pain" and "to receive pain" (odyssathai, L. odisse).  The epic's strongest textual support for this punning reading of the hero's name occurs in Book XIX: 474-81 when the story of his naming is told.  In the Polyphemos episode, he also gives out a false name which sounds like "Outis," the Homeric Greek that, in English, would sound like "Noman."  How does his behavior with Polyphemos fit the name he conceals and the name he reveals?

11)  What does Odysseus shout as the ship pulls away from the island of the Kyklopes, and why does he do this?  What are its consequences, and for how long have we been prepared for them? 

Book 10--Odysseus' tales in the Phaiakian court: Aiolus, king of the winds (twice!), the Laistrygonian cannibals, and Kirke the witch and transformer of men into animals

1)  What is Aiolos' function and what gift does he give Odysseus? 

2) What is unusual about Aiolos' family?

3)  Why does the crew seek to know what gift Odysseus has brought aboard, and how might this relate to the plot of The Iliad?  How does it develop your sense of the crew's character?

4)  How does Aiolos respond to Odysseus on his second encounter with the King, and why?

5)  What kind of culture do the Laistrygonians represent?

6)  What strategic decision does Odysseus make when he first sees the smoke from Kirke's fire, and how does the crew react to the news of what he's found?

7)  In what sense might we interpret Kirke's transformation of  men into swine other than as a mere "marvel" thrown in to  entertain the audience?  How might men be turned into swine by  their encounter with a beautiful woman?

8)  What role does Hermes play in Odysseus' encounter with Kirke?

9)  What does Odysseus demand of Kirke when she offers to share her bed with him, and to what theme does this event refer?

10)  After the enchantment on the crew is reversed, the poet says "wild regret and longing pierced them through" (10: 442--Loeb edition = "they wept and wailed").  Why would their return to human form affect them this way?

11)  When Eurylokhos argues that the crew should not heed Odysseus' command to return to Kirke's house, how does Odysseus respond?  What kind of strains does this suggest in the way the poet intends us to interpret Odysseus' actions?

12)  What does Kirke offer the crew and Odysseus, and what are the consequences of this arrangement?  What ends it?

13)  What must Odysseus do in order to find his way home, and what must he seek there?  What are the rules for this unusual encounter,

14)  What happens to Elpenor, and why do you suppose the poet has introduced this event at this time?