The Odyssey Books 1-3 Summary

     Book one begins with the author, Homer, asking the Muse, the goddess of poetry to bless the epic poem that follows. This invocation also previews the story that follows and grabs the audience's attention, so they will want to hear the tale. This poem recounts the story of Odysseus, a king and hero, a man who fought in the Trojan War and won. After his victory, he wants to return home with his men to Ithaca, but he faces a difficult journey. Before he left for war, he had a son with his wife Penelope whom they named Telemachus. The war took ten years, so his son became a young man while his father was away. Then during the time that they waited for his father to return (which ultimately took another ten years), suitors invaded the palace and requested that Penelope choose a new husband. They believed Odysseus must have died, and they wanted a new king of Ithaca. Penelope held out hope of her husband's return and wanted to remain faithful. Telemachus also wanted the suitors to leave his mother alone, but he was too young and powerless to get rid of them.

     The gods played a large part in mortals lives during this time, so Odysseus has some gods who help him and some who hurt him throughout his journey. Poseidon, god of the sea, is against Odysseus. He constantly steers his boat off course in an effort to keep him from arriving home. Athena is on his side. She tries to assist him in his journey and his son Telemachus in finding out information about his father.

     In book two Telemachus speaks to the suitors about leaving his house. They express their frustration with Penelope for not choosing a new husband. Telemachus tells them that he plans to set out in search of information about his father. His journey will take no more than a year. He tells the suitors that if he learns of his father's death, he will return home, hold a funeral, and have his mother choose a new husband. Athena encourages Telemachus to go on this journey, and he asks her to watch over him as he does. She sets him off with a brisk wind to move him along.

     In book three Telemachus lands at Pylos and meets King Nestor who welcomes him. Telemachus explains that he has come from Ithaca in search of information regarding his father Odysseus. Nestor tells Telemachus the little information that he heard about the war and how some people set off with Odysseus for home, but he didn't hear anything after that. Telemachus mentions his frustration with the suitors. Nestor tells him not to lose hope because he knows Athena is on Odysseus's side, and he thinks he will make it home. Nestor then suggests that Telemachus visit Menelaus for more information. The next day Nestor's son, Peisistratus led Telemachus on chariots to the citadel of Pylos on their way to see Menelaus.

     This poem would have begun as an oral piece of literature passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. It follows the format of an epic as it focuses on a hero who takes a journey and faces many challenges along the way. This hero usually has some sort of important role or supernatural powers, but he also has flaws. His tale serves as a way to teach and inspire those people who hear it.

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