Odysseus is the hero of Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, but this champion would not have made his nostos if it were not for the minor characters; for without these minor characters, the story would not be whole. Eumaeus is a man worthy of note, for it was his unending hospitality (or xenia) and unending, pure love for Odysseus and his family, that had allowed Odysseus to finally reunite with his stranger son, his love, Penelope, and exact revenge on the arrogant suitors who have occupied his palace for too many years. The wife of the epic hero is not to be discarded either, for it was Penelope who allowed Odysseus enough time to return home, through her cunning and sly nature.
When Eumaeus is first introduced in episode fourteen, he is noted to be a favourite character of Homer, and is addressed directly, as if being spoken to by the poet. It is in this book and the ones directly after that the plot begins to elevate into the climactic final chapters, and without Eumaeus this would not have occurred. Nothing but a lowly swineherd, he is the first to meet the epic hero upon his return to Ithaca and invites the disguised Odysseus into his home, giving him shelter, food and succour. It was this act that allowed the poem to progress, for if Eumaeus had not obeyed the laws of Zeus, the patron god of hospitality (among other things) and xenia, Odysseus would not have met with the stranger that is his son. When Telemachus had returned home, he was instructed by Athene to visit Eumaeus before announcing his return to his mother. In addition to this, the son of Odysseus was...
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...h every one of these twelve axes, with that man I will go…’ (Pg. 278) with complete knowledge that her husband has been the only one known to achieve such a heroic act. She waits with an enduring heart for a husband that may never come home.
Odysseus, a crucial and unforgettable hero, one that will be spoken of for thousands of years. This could not have happened without the assistance of the minor characters, for these are the nerves of the story, without them, there is no reality in an otherwise unbelievable poem. Eumaeus’ incessant xenia gave Odysseus succour and allowed him to finally meet the son he had not known, and be reunited with his forlorn wife. The cunning Penelope was eternally enamoured with her husband, and is was these calculating and guileful acts that allowed Odysseus to exact well needed revenge on those that had wronged him.
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