The Odyssey: Books 21-24

By: Alissa Coyle

Book 21

Penelope decides to get out Odysseus' bow out of the storeroom and announces that she will marry the suitor that can string the bow and then shoot the arrow through a line of 12 axes.


"Here is my lord Odysseus' hunting bow. Bend and string it if you can. Who sends an arrow through iron ax-helve sockets, twelve in line? I join my life with his, and leave this place, my home, my rich and beautiful bridal house, forever to be remembered, though I dream it only." (Shorter Version; page 782-783)


Telemachus sets up the 12 axes and then tries his own hand at the bow, but fails in attempt to string it.


The suitors then try to do it on their own, but all fail to do it.


In the meantime, Odysseus went outside with Eumaeus and Philoetius. Odysseus affirmed himself that they were loyal while he was gone and then decides to reveal his identity to them.


While one of the suitors is struggling with stringing the bow, Antinous suggests that they take a break until the next day so that they have time to go and sacrifice to Apollo, the god of archery, before they try again.


Odysseus comes into the room, still disguised as a beggar, and asks for the bow. All of the suitors start complaining because they fear that he will be successful.


Antinous starts complaining to Odysseus and saying that "the wine has gone to his head" and that all he will do is bring disaster.


Telemachus takes control and orders one of the suitors to give Odysseus the bow.


Odysseus takes the bow and strings it easily. He then shoots the arrow through all 12 of the axes very easily.

Book 22

This book is the climax of the whole story. This is where you see a bunch of the characteristics about Odysseus and who he truly is.


Odysseus starts out by shooting arrows at Antinous right in his throat. The suitors were confused at first as to why a stranger just shot one of the suitors.


Odysseus then decides to reveal himself.


The suitors start running around looking for weapons and Odysseus starts accusing them of being disloyal to his maids and trying to marry his wife.


The suitors don't quite believe that it's Odysseus because he has been gone so long and just appeared so randomly.


Eurymachus starts blaming all of the suitor's actions on Antinous' commands.


"Eurymachus tries to calm Odysseus down, insisting that Antinous was the only bad apple among them, but Odysseus announces that he will spare non of them. Eurymachus then charges Odysseus, but he is cut down by another arrow." (Sparknotes)


The suitors tried telling Odysseus that they would give him gifts if they would just let all of them go, but Odysseus doesn't care and Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Philoetius all help Odysseus start attacking all of the suitors.


Athena comes, still disguised as a mentor, and helps them defeat the suitors. By the end of the battle, all of the suitors are killed.


A little later, Odysseus brings all of the disloyal maids into the hall (where the battles was held) and makes them clean up all of the dead bodies and disaster. After they are done cleaning up, Telemachus hangs all of them.

Book 23

After all of the disaster from the battle had all been cleaned up and everything, Eurycleia goes upstairs to Penelope who had slept through the whole battle, and told her about all that had happened and about how Odysseus had revealed himself.


Penelope went downstairs and was in disbelief when she saw Odysseus.


Telemachus was kind of mad at Penelope for not greeting him in a more loving way since he had been gone for such a long time.


"Telemachus rebukes her for not greeting Odysseus more lovingly after his long absence, but Odysseus has other problems to worry about. He has just killed all of the noble young men of Ithaca--their parents will surely be greatly distressed." (Sparknotes)


Odysseus tells Telemachus and the servants to stage a fake wedding feast so that nobody suspects the big battle or that anything like it happened.


Odysseus is made handsome by Athena and he tells Eurycleia to prepare a couch for him to sleep on.


Penelope tests Odysseus by telling Eurycleia to take their marriage bed out of their room, but Odysseus strikes up right away and tells them that their bed isn't able to be removed really.


Odysseus passes Penelope's test and they embrace. Athena delays the sunset so that the couple can spend more time together.


The next day, Odysseus and Telemachus leave to go to Laertes' house.

Book 24

When Odysseus goes to see his father, he pretends to be a traveler who entertained Odysseus a couple years ago.


When Laertes starts to cry, Odysseus reveals himself, knowing that his father was loyal. He proves his identity by the scar on his leg and telling stories from his childhood.


Odysseus, Laertes, and Telemachus eat lunch together.


Athena makes Laertes look younger considering that he had aged out of grief for his Odysseus and his wife.


Later, the news spreads around Ithaca about the battle and so the parents of the suitors come together and plan how they are going get revenge. One of the older prophets tells them at the meeting that the suitors had gotten what they deserved, but Antinous' father argues and encourages that the parents should go to Odysseus and get revenge.


So, all of the parents of the suitors come marching down to Laertes' farm to get revenge. But, in the meantime, Athena, disguised as a mentor, helps out the people on Odysseus' side and decides to bring a stop before it got really bad, although Antinous' father was the only one killed.


"Athena makes the Ithacans forget the massacre of their children and recognize Odysseus as king. Peace is thus restored." (Sparknotes)