A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

By Irene J. F. De Jong | Go to book overview

BOOK FOURTEEN

Book 14 contains the remainder of the thirty-fifth day and the evening; cf. Appendix A. It begins the account of Odysseus' meeting with Eumaeus, which will be continued in Book 15. The plot function of this stay was indicated by Athena in 13.411–13: Odysseus is to question the swineherd about 'everything', i.e., the situation in the palace, and wait there until the arrival of Telemachus. But, as will be clear from its length, the meeting between 'the stranger' and the swineherd brings much more. Apart from thematic and structural functions (see below), the main function of the Eumaeus episode is to create a foil for the ensuing encounter between Odysseus and the Suitors and disloyal servants: here we have an Ithacan who all these years has remained loyal to Odysseus and who treats 'the beggar' well.

Odysseus' meeting with Eumaeus is an instance of the *'delayed recognition' story-pattern: Odysseus does not reveal his true identity until Book 21. He has been instructed by Athena to remain incognito; cf. 13.397–403n. A hint as to why Odysseus keeps his identity hidden from his swineherd for so long, despite the latter's obvious loyalty, is given in 16.458–9 (he might not be able to keep the good news of Odysseus' return to himself and tell Penelope). We find the following elements: (i) Eumaeus spontaneously starts talking about 'absent' Odysseus in the presence of Odysseus himself (37–47); (ii) he is tested by Odysseus (459–522; 15.304–46; and 21.191–205); (iii) Odysseus tells him two lying tales (192–359 and 468–503); and (iv–vii) finally reveals himself (21.188–244). The meeting with his loyal servant offers Odysseus a chance to rehearse his role as beggar. The narratees may enjoy the many instances of dramatic irony (cf. 36, 37–47, 96–108, 144–7, 174–84, 415, 438nn.).

Odysseus' incognito conversation with Eumaeus forms an anticipatory

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