Odyssey Funmaries #16: Eumaeus (Books XIII-XVI)

By TAD SMITH

First of all, my apologies to the millions of followers who were anxiously waiting with bated breath on Saturday for OF #16.  As I mentioned to Jerry,  I ran into a bit of a perfect storm this weekend.  Octogenerians, my 5-week old nephew, a hot air balloon race, 2 hours of traffic, a 1929 Model A, a parade, my parents’ dial-up modem, and a bourbon tasting all contributed to my tardiness.  Luckily, I only had to cover 67 books in this post!  So, with that being said, I’ll attempt to quickly (in bullet point no less!) touch on the major points of books 13-16, and then spend a few words on Eumaeus, one of the more intriguing characters that we’ve come across so far in The Odyssey.

Book XIII

  • Odysseus (finally!) finishes telling Alkinoos et al. of all that he has gone through in his attempts to return to his homeland of Ithaca.
  • Having been hooked up with some sweet new tripods and cauldrons, not too mention a nice long nap, O. is whisked back to Ithaca by the Phaiakians, and dumped on his native shore.
  • Upon returning from their delivery run, the Phaiakians’ ship is turned to stone by Poseidon.  Seriously, we get it Poseidon.  You’re pissed.  Just let it go…
  • Odysseus awakens on the beach, unfamiliar with the island from which he has been away from for so long.
  • Athena (the ultimate spoiler) appears, disguised as a shepherd.
  • O. tries to conceal his true identity, which prompts A. to reveal hers.
  • O. asks A. what she thought about this season of Lost.  A. promplty tells him how the show will end.
  • A. catches O. up to speed regarding Telemachus’ journey and the suitors’ tomfoolery.
  • A. disguises O. as a beggar, and sends him to see Eumaeus, his old friend and swineherd.

Odysseus in disguise.

Book XIV

  • Odysseus arrives at Eumaeus’ hut, and is almost torn to shreds by Eumaeus’ dogs.
  • E. invites O. in, feeds him, and offers him shelter.
  • E. extols all the virtues of his master, as O. listens in disguise.
  • O. predicts that O. will soon return to Ithaca.
  • E. is skeptical, as he has heard many men make the very same claims.  Most of the time, these men are beggars looking for charity in exchange for a promising word on O.
  • In order to further conceal his true identity, O. tells E. a fabricated story about his experiences with O. during the Trojan War.  O. *shockingly* uses this story as another opportunity to let any and everyone listening know how awesome O. is.

Book XV

  • Athena hightails it to Sparta, and hints to Telemachus that it’s probably time to head back to Ithaca.  She warns him of the suitors’ ambush, and instructs him to visit Eumaeus.
  • T. leaves Sparta with a wine cup, a winebowl, a robe, and a sweet t-shirt.  But not before everyone witnesses an eagle soaring through the air with a goose in its clutches, which obviously means Odysseus is back.
  • T. picks up a hitchhiker named Theoklymenos, who apparently happens to be a prophet and an augur.  Convenient, no?
  • Meanwhile, back at Eumaeus’ hut, Odysseus tests E. hospitality by offering to leave, and no longer be a burden.  E. scoffs at this idea, and proceeds to tell O. the his life story.
  • E. is a prince.  Who’d thunk it?
  • T. reaches Ithaca, where he leaves Theoklymenos with Piraeus, a spearman.  Before they leave T., a hawk flies by with a dove in it’s grip.  If only they had an augur available to tell them what this sign meant……

Book XVI

  • Telemachus arrives at Eumaeus’ hut to find E. talking with his father, still in disguise.
  • E. leaves to tell Penelope that T. has returned.
  • Athena meets O. outside, where she removes his beggar’s disguise.
  • O. re-enters the hut, revealing his true identity to his son, T.
  • Hugs and weeping abound.
  • Reunited, O. & T. devise a plan to defeat the suitors.  O. will come to the palace disguised as a beggar while T. hides all of the weapons from the suitors.  Then they will take up the hidden weapons and kill the suitors.
  • Hilarity ensues.

O MY SWINEHERD!

It is in Book XIV that we are introduced to Eumaeus.  He’s a character that, frankly, after my first reading, I sort of expected to fade back into the background of the story.  But Eumaeus has some staying power that we haven’t really seen so far in the Odyssey (at least for someone mortal or not named Odysseus or Telemachus).  If we were casting “The Odyssey,” Eumaeus would be played by the revered, veteran actor whose performance sticks with you even as a minor part.  Think Charlton Heston as the player king in Hamlet.

On multiple occasions, Homer addresses Eumaeus in the second person.  He is the only character addressed in such a way.  It’s a bit curious, and may subconsciously play a part in why I like Eumaeus so much.  Homer’s choice to address him as “you, Eumaeus” subtly makes his character more real.  Couple that with my (and Ben’s) newfound disillusion with Odysseus, and it’s easier to relate to Eumaeus.

It’s hard not to develop an affinity for Eumaeus as he proves to be somewhat of an anchor throughout Odysseus’ long-awaited homecoming.  Not only that, but his woodland hut is ground zero for all the planning and scheming on how to facilitate this homecoming.  He’s a god-fearing, cynical, loyal, humble, swineherd who waits year after year for his master’s return.  As you may have guessed, Eumaeus had to be a Cubs’ fan.

null

Eumaeus, maybe this is the year…..

Follow-Up Questions

  1. Will there be an Eumaeus in Ulysses?
  2. Will he or she be as likable?
  3. What’s up with all the disguises and concealment?
  4. Is there an augur union?
  5. Does anybody else miss Andre Dawson?

Tomorrow is Bloomsday!!!

Hot air balloon races be damned!!!

Jump on the bandwagon!!!

 

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One Response

  1. A fat, bloody goat sausage to all those who funmarized 4 books!

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