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Filling-In the Blanks for The Odyssey

Book I:  Assigned

Books II-IV:

Encouraged by the goddess (Book II), Telemakhos calls an assembly of the people of Ithaka and assails the suitors for their unlawful occupancy of his house; he announces that he is off to find news of his father. The suitors realize that this us is longer a timid boy but a resolute and dangerous man; when they find out that he has actually left, they decide to set and ambush for him at sea and kill him on his way back. At Pylos (Book III) Telemakhos meets old Nestor and hears from him how Agamemnon was killed by his own wife when he came home from Troy and how Menelaos, blown by adverse winds as far as Egypt, came home in the seventh year after Troy’s fall. Accompanied by Nestor’s son Peisistratos, Telemakhos goes to Sparta (Book IV) where he is welcomed by Menelaos and Helen and told by Menelaos that, when last heard of, Odysseus was on the island of Kalypso, without ship or crew, longing to return home.

Book V:  Assigned

Books VI-XI:

The god Poseidon wrecks his boat, and Odysseus eventually crawls ashore naked and battered, on the island of Skeria, home of the Phaiakian. Here he meets the daughter of the king Alkinoos, Nausikaa (Book VI), who had come down to the shore with her retinue of girls to wash clothes. She is charmed by him and sends him off to the palace where he is hospitably entertained (Book VII). The next day, at a banquet in the hall (book VIII), Odysseus, moved to tears by a minstrel’s tales of Troy, is challenged to reveal his identity. He does so (Book IX) as he tells the Phaiakans (and us) the whole story of his wanderings since he left Troy (Book IX-XIII).

Book XII: Assigned

Books XIII-XX:

The Phaiakans take Odysseus home to Ithaka (Book XIII); Poseidon, with the consent of Zeus, punishes them for helping his enemy. Odysseus meets the goddess Athena, and they plan a stealthy approach to his house in disguise: if he goes home in his own person the suitors may kill him. She transforms him into an aged, ragged beggar, and he goes to his swineherd Eumaios for hospitality (Book XIV). He tells his generous host a tall tale of wanderings in Egypt and the story of Odysseus at Troy. Meanwhile, Telemakhos returns from Sparta (Book XV), avoiding the suitors’ ambush. While Eumaios tells Odysseus how he was kidnapped as a child and sold to Odysseus’ father as a slave, Telemakhos makes his way to the swineherd’s hut. Without letting Eumaios know the truth, Odysseus reaveals his identity to his son (Book XVI); together they plot the overthrow of the suitors.

Odysseus and Telemakhos make their separate ways to the palace (Book XVII). As Odysseus comes into the palace yard Argos, his dog, on the point of death from old age, recognizes his master. Odysseus goes begging bread from the suitors; Antinoos, the most violent of them, throws a stool at him. Odysseus is challenged by a real beggar, Iros (Book XVIII), but beats him handily in a fight and wins the exclusive right to beg at the palace. Another prominent suitor, Eurymakhos, insults Odysseus and throws a stool at him. Later that night (Book XIX) Penelope send for Odysseus to see if the beggar has any news; he tells her of meeting Odysseus on the nearby mainland and assures her he will soon return. The old nurse Eurykleia, told to wash his feet before he goes to bed, recognizes him by a scar on his leg, but he silences her.

Penelope decides to announce for the next day an archery contest that will decide which of the suitors may claim her hand. The suitors feast and revel (Book XX); one more of them, Kteisppous, throws something at Odysseus, a cow’s hoof this time. They all start to laugh hysterically; the tension is mounting. The archery contest is set up (Book XXI).

Books XXI & XXII: Assigned


When Penelope is told the news she cannot believe it (Book XXIII); she test Odysseus’ knowledge of a detail in their bedroom (the fact that the bed could not be moved since it was carved out of a standing olive tree) and accepts him as her husband.

But trouble is brewing in Ithaka. As Odysseus goes off to the country to see his father, Laertes, and the ghosts of the suitors go to the land of the dead (Book XXIV) to be interrogated by Agamemnon and others, the relatives of the suitors gather to attack Odysseus and his family. But their attack is thwarted by the goddess Athena, and the two sides make peace.

Page last updated: August 14, 2013