The Odyssey Books 7-12

Book 7 Summary

  • Odysseus goes into the town, and Athene protects him with a thick mist so that people won't see him.
  • Athene disguises herself as a young girl, and Odysseus asks her where the palace is. She promises to show him if he won't look at anyone or ask questions, because the Phaeacians aren't welcoming to visitors.
  • Athene shows him the palace and tells him the background of Nausicaa's family before leaving.
  • The palace is grand, well-decorated and very rich. There are a lot of servants.
  • People in the palace are pouring libations, and the mist only wears off once Odysseus clutches Arete's knees. He begs supplication from her and sits in the ash by the hearth.
  • One of the elders tells Alcinous to be hospitable to his guest, and Odysseus is given the second-finest seat at the table, next to the King. They give him food and drink.
  • Odysseus says that he has suffered a lot and asks to be taken home. 
  • Arete recognises that he is wearing clothes that she has made, and asks where he got them. He tells her his story from landing at Ogygia to meeting Nausicaa. He also defends Nausicaa's judgement and modesty.
  • They all go to sleep for the night.
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Book 7 Quotes

Xenia: "Alcinous, it is unseemly and unlike your royal ways to let a stranger sit in the ashes at the hearth"

Kleos: "A kind of radiance, like that of the sun or moon, played upon the high-roofed halls of the great King"

Narrative techniques (dramatic irony): "I'm a stranger here from a distant land and don't know a single soul in the city or the country around"

Dolos: "In the past they have always shown themselves to us without disguise when we have offered them their sumptuous sacrifices"

Gods: "In the past they have always shown themselves to us without disguise when we have offered them their sumptuous sacrifices"

Women: "I wish that a man like you, like-minded with myself, could have my daughter and remain here as my son-in-law"

The power of fate: "After which he must suffer whatever Destiny and the relentless Fate spun for him with the first thread of life when he came from his mother's womb"

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Book 8 Summary

  • Alcinous calls an assembly at his palace. The princes of the land and the men chosen to row Odysseus home all attend. Demodocus, the blind bard, tells the story of Odysseus and Achilles' quarrel, causing Odysseus to cover his head with his cloak and cry. 
  • Alcinous notices and stops the bard so the Phaeacians can hold games. Laodamas asks Odysseus to join in the games, but he refuses. Euryalus insults Odysseus, which leads Odysseus to pick up the biggest discus and throw it further than any of the Phaeacians ever could. Athene calls it out.
  • Odysseus challenges any Phaeacian except Laodamas to games, but Alcinous tells the dancers to dance to diffuse the situation. Demodocus tells the story of Ares and Aphrodite. 
  • Alcinous suggests that himself and the 12 other Princes give Odysseus gifts, and that Euryalus apologises personally. Euryalus gives Odysseus a fine sword, so they make peace.
  • Odysseus is bathed by Arete's maids and it is she who gives him Alcinous' gifts. Nausicaa asks if he will remember her when he returns home and he says he will honour her as a Goddess. 
  • Odysseus cuts some meat for Demodocus at Alcinous' table, and asks him to sing the tale of the wooden horse. He does and Odysseus starts crying again.
  • Alcinous stops the bard and asks Odysseus who he is and where he comes from. He also recalls the prophecy that the founder of his line, Nausithous gave that one day a ship would be dashed and the city surrounded by mountains for taking travellers home. 
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Book 8 Quotes

The power of fate: "The God may do it, or may let things be. It is for him to decide as he pleases"

Gods: "The God may do it, or may let things be. It is for him to decide as he pleases"

Women: "Arete brought out from the inner chamber a fine chest for their guest, in which she packed the splendid gifts"

Narrative techniques (retardation): The songs sung by Demodocus, and the games themselves

Kleos: "None of the Phaeacians will make as good a throw, let alone a better"

Heroes: "None of the Phaeacians will make as good a throw, let alone a better"

Dolos: "Do not, for some crafty reason, withhold the answers to the questions I may ask"

Nostos: "There has never been a time when anyone who has come to my house has had to complain of being kept here for lack of escort"

Xenia: "To any man with the slightest claim to common sense, a guest and suppliant is as close as a brother"

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Book 9 Summary

  • Odysseus tells them who he is, and that he first went to Ismarus after leaving Troy. He sacked the city and then wanted to leave but his men refused and so some were killed. 
  • After enduring a gale sent by Zeus they end up in the land of the Lotus Eaters, and Odysseus has to force some of his men to return when they are addicted to the lotus fruit.
  • Next they moor on an goat island near the island of the Cyclopes. They stay there a while and then Odysseus takes some wine and some of his men to the island of the Cyclopes, where they wait in Polyphemus' cave, lighting a fire and eating cheese.
  • When he returns, they hide and he seals the cave with a rock. He milks his sheep gently. When he spots them, Odysseus asks him to remember Zeus and the rights of suppliants, but Polyphemus laughs and says the Cyclopes don't care for Gods. 
  • Odysseus lies about where his ship is, and Polyphemus eats two of Odysseus' men, then goes to sleep. The next day he eats two more men, takes his flocks out and seals the cave.
  • Odysseus and four men chosen by lots cut off a part of Polyphemus staff, sharpen, and harden it in fire. Polyphemus returns, milks his ewes, and eats two men. Odysseus gives him some wine. Polyphemus asks his name, and he says he is called Nobody.
  • Polyphemus drinks until he falls asleep. Then Odysseus and his men blind him with the burning stake. The other Cyclopes laugh when he says Nobody has blinded him. 
  • Odysseus and his men escape under sheep, and from the ship he taunts Polyphemus, who throws rocks at them, and curses Odysseus by Poseidon.
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Book 9 Quotes

Xenia: "Remember your duty to the Gods; we are your suppliants, and Zeus is the champion of suppliants and guests"

Kleos: "For myself I chose a full-grown ram who was the pick of the whole flock"

Heroes: "For myself I chose a full-grown ram who was the pick of the whole flock"

Narrative techniques (dramatic irony): "If only you could feel as I do and find a voice to tell me where he's hiding from my fury"

Dolos: "If only you could feel as I do and find a voice to tell me where he's hiding from my fury"

Odysseus as a leader: "I had an instant foreboding that we were going to find ourselves face to face with some barbarous being of colossal strength and ferocity"

Gods: "We Cyclopes care nothing for Zeus with his aegis, nor for the rest of the blessed Gods, since we are much stronger than they are"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Dashed their heads against the floor as though they had been puppies"

Power of fate: "He warned me that a man called Odysseus would rob me of my sight"

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Book 10 Summary

  • Odysseus and his crew arrive at Aeolia. Aeolus is hospitable and after a month they leave, with a bag of wind given to Odysseus as a gift.
  • After ten days of sailing they can see Ithaca, and Odysseus falls asleep at the wheel because he hasn't let anyone else steer. The men think his bag is full of gold and are jealous, so they open it, and the winds blow them back to Aeolia, where Aeolus refuses to give them xenia.
  • Next they arrive at the land of the Laestrygonians. Odysseus is the only one not to moor his ship in the harbour, and, when all of the others are killed and eaten by Antiphates and his men, Odysseus' ship is the only one to survive.
  • They land on Aeaea, Circe's island, and remain on the shore for days in grief. Odysseus kills a huge stag and they eat that, then send a party to see who lives on the island.
  • Circe invites them in, feeds them, and turns them into pigs. Eurylochus didn't go in (thinking it was a trap), and runs back to say the men are dead. Odysseus sets out to kill Circe.
  • Hermes gives him a plant called moly and tells him what to do. When Odysseus eats Circe's food, he is unaffected, and threatens her. She begs him to sleep with her rather than kill her.
  • She shows him xenia, and a magic ointment restores his friends at his demand. Odysseus brings the other men (and a reluctant Eurylochus) to the palace. They stay for a year.
  • Circe tells Odysseus to visit Hades next, and as he leaves Elpenor falls from the roof and dies, unnoticed.
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Book 10 Quotes

Xenia: "It is not right for me to entertain and equip a man detested by the blessed Gods"

Women: "She will shrink from you in terror and invite you to her bed"

Supernatural: "I will tell you how she works her black magic"

Kleos: "I am sure you are Odysseus, that resourceful man (...) whom the Giant-killer with the golden wand always told me to expect here on his way from Troy"

Heroes:"I tied the monster's feet together, and slinging him round my neck, I made for the ship"

Odysseus as a leader: "But even this time I did not lead them all safely away" // "My ship was safe. But that was the end of all the rest"

Gods: "But the Gods, after all, can do anything"

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Book 11 Summary

  • Odysseus and his men reach Hades. Odysseus digs a trench and into it they pour libations to the dead and sacrifice the goats that Circe gave them. Odysseus sees Elpenor and his mother among other souls, but won't let anyone drink before Teiresias.
  • Elpenor begs Odysseus to return to Aeaea and perform burial rites, to which he agrees.
  • Teiresias prophesies that they may reach Ithaca after suffering if they do not eat the cattle of the Sun God, otherwise Odysseus will return alone, and die of old age peacefully.
  • His mother tells him that his father is suffering, and that she died of grief for Odysseus. Odysseus tries to hold her but can't. Next he sees the wives and daughters of heroes.
  • Arete asks the men to be generous to him and Alcinous asks if he saw any of his dead friends.
  • Odysseus says how he met Agamemnon, who warned him against women, and Achilles, whose son Odysseus knew was famous (whereas Agamemnon's son he did not). Ajax wouldn't speak to him, keeping his grudge against Odysseus even in death.
  • Odysseus sees the tortures of Tityus, Tantalus, and Sisyphus, and then the wraith of Heracles recognises him and equates his labours with the sufferings of Odysseus.
  • Finally Odysseus and his men flee because tens of thousands of shades appear around them and Odysseus becomes afraid that Persephone might send the vision of a monster to him.
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Book 11 Quotes

Kleos: "One look was enough to tell Heracles who I was"

Heroes: "So you too are working out some such miserable doom as I endured"

Narrative techniques (juxtaposition/pathos): "I would rather work the soil as a serf on hire to some landless impoverished peasant than be King of all these lifeless dead"

The power of fate: "But if you hurt them, then I predict that your ship and company will be destroyed"

Women: "Never be too trustful even of your wife, nor show her all that is in your mind (...) not that your wife, Odysseus, will ever murder you"

Narrative techniques (pathos/simile): "Three times, like a shadow or a dream, she slipped through my hands and left me pierced by an even sharper pain"

Gods: "My Lord Odysseus, you seek a happy way home. But a God is going to make your journey hard"

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Book 12 Summary

  • The men return to Aeaea and bury Elpenor. Circe welcomes them back and shows them xenia. She takes Odysseus aside and tells him what to do when he meets the Sirens, the Wandering Rocks, Scylla and Charybdis, and Thrinacie (the last part repeats Teiresias).
  • The next day they sail and Odysseus says that Circe instructed him to listen to the Sirens, although this is untrue. He puts beeswax in his men's ears and they tie him to the mast.
  • Odysseus doesn't tell his men about Scylla and Charybdis. He (against Circe's advice) puts on his armour and tries to defend his men against Scylla, but six of them are eaten.
  • Odysseus tells his men not to land on Thrinacie, and tells them the prophecy.
  • Elpenor says they should land there so they can eat and rest because it is getting dark. The rest of the men agree and Odysseus is forced to let them. He makes them all swear an oath not to kill any of the flocks.
  • Zeus blocks them in with a storm and, after a month the supplies have run out, and Odysseus goes to pray to all of the Gods to let them escape. They put him to sleep, and the men (led by Eurylochus) sacrifice and cook some of the cattle. 
  • Odysseus wakes up and is furious. Hyperion tells Zeus what has happened and, when the men set sail after another week he destroys the ship with a thunderbolt. Everyone but Odysseus drowns as he lashes himself to some driftwood. He ends up dangling from the fig tree above Charybdis and then washes up on Ogygia.
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Book 12 Quotes

Kleos: "Other men die once; you will now die twice"

Heroes: "Other men die once; you will now die twice"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Shrieking and stretching out their hands to me in their last desperate throes"

Gods: "So it was to ruin me that you lulled me into that cruel sleep"

Nostos: "There was no homecoming for them: the God saw to that"

Justice and revenge: "There was no homecoming for them: the God saw to that"

Supernatural: "The hides began to crawl about; the meat, roast and raw, bellowed on the spits; and a sound as of lowing cattle could be heard"

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