Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
Nausicaa reaches the home of her father at the same time Odysseus leaves the grove to go to the city. Athena casts a deep mist about him and aids him in finding Alcinous' palace. On arrival, he admires the splendor of the place and finally goes through the hall and casts his hands around the knees of the queen, Arete. He pleads for help in getting home; Alcinous raises him from the floor and offers him food and wine. He agrees to aid Odysseus, but also wonders aloud whether this hero is really a god in disguise. Odysseus says that he is not and is in fact troubled by the real gods. After eating and drinking, Odysseus is left alone with Arete and Alcinous. Arete asks the long-suffering hero how he has come to be wearing clothes which she herself has stitched. In answer, he relates the story of his passage from Ogygia and his encounter with Nausicaa. Alcinous offers his daughter's hand in marriage to Odysseus if he so desires but is also ready to arrange for his passage home in a fast-sailing ship. Odysseus rejoices at his good fortune and prays to Zeus. They all retire for the night in comfortable beds.
Athena again aids Odysseus, this time in helping him reach Alcinous' palace. Odysseus himself shows his resourcefulness by winning the favor of the Phaecian royal family to the extent that Nausicaa is offered to him in marriage. Phaecia is an ideal land, yet it is not real in the same sense as Ithaca. The seasons allow crops to be gathered all the year round; the palace servants are made by the god Hephaestus from metal; the Phaecians rarely mingle with other peoples and are consciously aware and proud of being favored by the gods. The wild wonders which Odysseus will relate of his travels will seem less improbable here than they would in Ithaca.
Both Alcinous and Arete are gracious, clever, and observant. Alcinous wonders whether Odysseus is a god in disguise, come to create trouble, and Arete is quick to notice that the famous hero is wearing clothing woven by her. Both king and queen are intelligent and worldly, and it seems right that Odysseus should be sent to Ithaca by such civilized people. The splendor and prosperity of the Phaecian palace provide a striking contrast to Odysseus' own palace in Ithaca, which is being wasted and misused by the suitors. The contrast justifies the need for the cruel punishment of Penelope's wooers.