The Odyssey Books 21-24 Project

By: Zach Forret

The Suitors are Tested with Odysseus's Bow

Penelope finally decides that she is going to remarry, but she proposes a contest for all of the suitors. She brings out Odysseus's special hunting bow. Whoever can string his bow and shoot an arrow through twelve ax handles at one time will be the winner and the one that Penelope will marry. The only problem is that none of the suitors can work the bow.

Odysseus (Still In Disguise) Visits Philoetius and Eumaeus

While the suitors struggle with the bow, Odysseus speaks with the cowherd Philoetius and the swineherd Eumaeus. He explains to them that they were the only men who really missed them and he needs their help when they get revenge on the Suitors. Odysseus promises them both cattle and homes if they help him kill the suitors. To prove himself he showed his scar to the men. "And the men gazed at it, scanned it, knew it well, broke into tears and threw their arms around their master—lost in affection, kissing his head and shoulders, and so Odysseus kissed their heads and hands." (Homer pg. 356, Fagles)

Odysseus Tests out the Bow Himself and They Prepare for the Ambush

After Odysseus finishes speaking with the swineherd and cowherd, he makes his way back to the hall. He has told the two men to lock himself and the suitors inside the hall when he picks up the bow. Back in the hall, Penelope allows the beggar (Odysseus) to test out the bow. Anti isn't too happy with this, but Odysseus proceeds. He strings his bow and shoots an arrow perfectly through all twelve ax handles. With Telemachus having removed all the suitors' weapons from the hall and locking them away in a storage building, he straps on his armor.
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Revenge Upon the Suitors

Odysseus comes out of his beggar disguise and nods to Telemachus, the sign to ready his spear. It is time for the whole village to get their revenge upon the suitors. "But Odysseus aimed and shot Antinous square in the throat and the point went stabbing clean through the soft neck and out— and off to the side he pitched, the cup dropped from his grasp as the shaft sank home, and the man’s life-blood came spurting out his nostrils— thick red jets." (Homer pg. 364, Fagles) After Anti falls, the suitors began running around looking for their weapons and yelling at Odysseus. Odysseus accuses them of trying to marry his wife and treating the maids disrespectfully, but the suitors still don't believe it's Odysseus.

Eurymachus tries to blame all of the suitors' actions on Anti and he tells Odysseus that him and the suitors will give him gifts if he spares them. Odysseus won't have any of it and continues on his killing spree. Telemachus, Eumaeus, and Philoetius begin to help Odysseus. Athena, disguised as Mentor, also joins the fight and turns the momentum in their favor. Finally the battle is over.

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The Aftermath

The goatherd Melanthius tries to bring the suitors weapons, but Eumaeus and Philoetius hang him alive. Odysseus gathers the disloyal maids and forces them to clean up the bodies in the hall. After they are through, Telemachus hangs the suitors and one is fed to the dogs.

Eurycleia Tells Penelope That Odysseus has Returned

At first, Penelope believes that the gods are playing a trick on her and Telemachus scolds her for thinking so. Penelope explains to Telemachus that her and Odysseus share secret signs so she decides to test him.

Penelope and Odysseus Meet

Odysseus is made handsome by Athena and he is sent to meet Penelope. When they meet, Penelope tells Eurycleia to bring their marriage bed in for Odysseus to sleep on- this is meant to test him. Odysseus gets upset by this because he built the bed around an olive tree that had been growing there. Because of this you can't move the bed, and to move it, someone would have to saw the bedpost from the tree.

Odysseus passes Penelope's test and they embrace for the night. Odysseus makes plans to visit Laertes, his father, and to seek revenge upon the suitors' families.

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Odysseus Reunites with His father

The ghosts of the suitors began to travel towards the Underworld, but with the help of Hermes. Then Odysseus, disguised as a traveler, goes to visit his father. When they began to talk, Laertes starts to cry. "The heart of Odysseus was touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father; then he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him, saying, “I am he, father, about whom you are asking." (Homer pg. 157, EBook) Odysseus proves himself to his father by showing him the scar and going through childhood memories. Laertes, Odysseus, and Telemachus begin to feast when a battle erupts between them and the suitors' families. As if they didn't get enough revenge, Laertes ends up killing Anti's father, Eupithes. Before anything gets out of hand, Zeus orders Athena to stop the fight and they all return home.
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