The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Athena flies to Lacedaemon and tells Telemachus to come back to Ithaca. She warns him that some of the suitors will try to ambush and kill him on his way home, and tells him to avoid all the islands. The next morning, Menelaus arranges for Telemachus to leave for home with Pisistratus. When Telemachus mentions Odysseus in his good-byes, an eagle with a goose in its claws flies by: a good omen. At Pylos, Telemachus loads his gifts into his ship and sails to Ithaca; he takes along Theoclymenus, a prophet's son who killed a man in Argos and begs for hospitality.
Athena orchestrates the meeting of father and son by commanding Telemachus to return home. She manipulates Telemachus more directly than she does Odysseus (she tends to help Odysseus with his own plans, but not give him orders). Meanwhile, she also thwarts the plans of the impious, dishonorable suitors, who want to do to Telemachus what Aigisthus did to Agamemnon. And Telemachus continues to practice hospitality.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Glory and Honor Theme Icon
Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, Odysseus decides to test Eumaeus one more time. He tells Eumaeus that he plans to leave the next morning and try his luck begging at the palace, but Eumaeus urges him to stay until Telemachus returns. In response to Odysseus-as-beggar's questions, he tells him that king Laertes lives grieving for Odysseus and for Odysseus's mother. Odysseus then asks Eumaeus to tell his story and the swineherd gladly agrees, reflecting on the pleasure of remembered sorrows.
Eumaeus proves the extent of his hospitality by asking the strange beggar to stay in his home for as long as need be. Eumaeus confirms the sad fate of Odysseus's family: Odysseus most likely wants to hear the sad facts repeated because the grief inspires him to take action. And Eumaeus himself agrees that remembered sorrows can offer some pleasure.
Themes
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Memory and Grief Theme Icon
Eumaeus says that his father was lord of two cities on the island Syrie. A Phoenician crew landed one day on the island and one of the men seduced a Phoenician nurse from his father's household. She left with them, and she brought the king's child with her: that child was the swineherd. Eventually the ship landed in Ithaca and Laertes bought the infant. Here Eumaeus's story ends.
Eumaeus's story illustrates the wild vacillations of fate in the ancient world. Though Eumaeus was born royal, his chance abduction transformed him into a servant. Heredity does not necessarily determine one's fate; the events of one's life and the actions of the gods can erase any sort of status in a moment. Justice, in this world, does not mean that each person gets what he deserves: chance is part of this justice.
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
Piety, Customs, and Justice Theme Icon
Glory and Honor Theme Icon
The next morning, Telemachus arrives safely and secretly in Ithaca. He directs the ship to continue on to the city while he goes to Eumaeus farm. As he leaves the ship, they all see a hawk with a dove in its claws. Theoclymenus interprets this omen to mean good things for Odysseus and his descendants.
Telemachus's decision to go see Eumaeus seems likely to have been orchestrated by Athena, and excitement builds as father and son will finally meet. Meanwhile, the gods seem to favor coming events…
Themes
Fate, the Gods, and Free Will Theme Icon
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