THE ODYSSEY Readalong bks 16-18

Welcome back to the Odyssey Readalong. Hey, for those of you who aren’t joining us, there is an audio version of it read by, wait for it…Ian McKellen! If you are more likely to listen than to read, then you might want to check it out.

Things have really picked up this week now that Odysseus and Telemachus are back in Ithaca, and everyone isn’t just sitting around talking. I assume the reason for the steady insertion of recaps is that this oral history wasn’t told aloud in one fell swoop, so this is the ancient version of “Last Time in the Odyssey…”

Book 16: Father and Son

Telemachus arrives at the swineherd’s hut, and is greeted warmly. He is super nice to Odysseus even though the latter is disguised as an old, smelly beggar. Telemachus sends the swineherd to Penelope to tell her he’s back secretly, but says not to tell Laertes yet, but rather the nurse. After he leaves, Odysseus goes outside for a chat with Athena, who “stroked him with her golden wand” to reveal him in all his heroic glory, and when he appears before Telemachus, T says, whoa, you must be a god. And then O: Nope, just your dad. They they cry a lot, and loudly, then plot revenge against those suitors, then finish thusly:

When they’d put aside desire for food and drink
they remembered bed and took the gift of sleep. (532-533)

Book 17: Stranger at the Gates

After a goatherd talks some smack to him, Odysseus enters his own house still disguised as a feeble beggar. The suitors give him a hard time, he starts to beg from them, and Antinous continues to distinguish himself as the biggest jerk of them all by throwing a footstool at the poor old man. Even all the jerky other suitors note that this is too harsh. Penelope says she wants to see the beggar in case he has news of her husband, but he responds via messenger that he’ll see her later when it’s safer (and presumably darker.)

Book 18: The Beggar King of Ithaca


Another beggar comes round and yells at Odysseus to step off. One of the suitors thinks it would be good fun to see the beggars go a few rounds, so calls them out. When Odysseus peels off his rags to reveal strapping muscles, the other guy, Irus, becomes sore afraid. Odysseus wonders whether to kill him or just give him a glancing blow, and decides on the latter, yet then punches him so hard it breaks his jaw and causes blood to spurt everywhere. Odysseus’ version of pulling a punch is pretty harsh. Then he goes inside, and the suitors are nice to him again, he tells Penelope’s maids he’ll take care of the lights, one of them talks smack to him (she’s the one sleeping with that dog Antinous) at which point Ulysses says, “You wait, you bitch” and no, that’s not dialog from The Wire, but from the Fagles translation.

Eurymachus, the secondary jerk, gets mad at the beggar and throws a stool, then Amphimous and Telemachus calm them down and

they drank the heady wine to their hearts’ content
and went their ways to bed, each suitor to his house (482-483)

This week’s reading really flew for me, and I enjoyed it on its own. What did everyone else think?

Previous Posts:

Odyssey readalong schedule link

Week one books 1-3: link

Week two books 4-6: link

Week three books 7-9: link

Week four books 10-12: link

Week five books 13-15: link

One Response to “THE ODYSSEY Readalong bks 16-18”

  1. V Says:

    In Book 18, Fitzgerald used slut instead of bitch. And don’t forget Argos the dog, dying on the dung heap. Getting the stage set for a reckoning!