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Book 14

The Odyssey – Book 14 Eumaeus’ Hut (Context)


·        Odysseus arrives at the swineherd's home in the forest, he is nearly attacked by the dogs.

·        Luckily, swineherd Eumaeus shows up just in time and welcomes him into his hut and offers him what little food and comfort he has.

·        While serving his guest, Eumaeus talks all about the history of the land—King Odysseus's leaving to fight in Troy, the Suitors' uncouth takeover of Odysseus's home, Penelope's staunch loyalty despite her suffering, and Telemachus’ helplessness against the Suitors.

·        Still disguised as a beggar, Odysseus tries to tell Eumaeus that Odysseus is not dead and will come back.

·        The swineherd rolls his eyes, and changes the subject.

·        Odysseus makes up an elaborate story about being a commoner from Crete, who coincidentally has suffered many of the same trials that Odysseus did.

·        In his made-up story, he that he's heard Odysseus had just left an island when the beggar arrived. Odysseus is going to head home just as soon as he consults an oracle.

·        Eumaeus isn't convinced but it's pretty clear that the beggar's story has planted a seed of hope.

·        He brings the beggar more food, making a big deal about treating his guest as Odysseus would've wished. Beggar Odysseus is touched.

·        After dinner, Odysseus wants to beg for a cloak so he can sleep, but tells a witty story instead.

·        Ah, but this is the kind of story that carries a subtle message, in this case, "Give me a cloak please."

·        Eumaeus, who is one sharp swineherd, gets the message and gives the beggar a fine heavy cloak. He tells him to stay at the hut until Telemachus returns and can give him passage wherever he wishes.

What is good about Eumaeus’ use of Xenia?

·        Welcomes Odysseus to his hut

·        Doesn’t ask any questions at the beginning

·        Offers Odysseus food and drink

·        Asks questions after he has eaten

·        Doesn’t discriminate against Odysseus because he’s a beggar – Xenia is universal

·        Slaughters his best hog for Odysseus

·        Respectful of Zeus Xenios

·        Accommodates Odysseus for the night

·        Entertainment through stories and conversation

·        Gives Odysseus his best seat (which is his mattress)



What are the elements of truth in Odysseus’ lying tale to Eumaeus?

1.      Enjoyed fighting and strategy

2.      Fought at troy with Idomeneus

3.      Idomeneus was a real person – King of Crete

4.      Sacking Egyptian farms – Ismarus in disguise

5.      Spent 7 years with Calypso – same time Menelaus spent in Egypt

6.      Begged to King’s son for help – Nausicaa story in disguise

7.      Phoenicians are Phaeacians in disguise

8.      Shipwrecked and only survivor

9.      Double crossed by his men

10.  Extraordinary time spent at sea

11.  Oracle of Zeus – Prophet Teiresias

Eumaeus as a Hero


Not Heroic

Of noble birth

No divine patronage/parentage

Niche skill – practical/swineherd

Not doomed to a tragic death

Fights with Odysseus and Telemachus against the Suitors (22)

No journey/quest

Understands concept of Xenia – pious and respectful of the gods

Main aim not militaristic – to protect Odysseus’ oikos

Homers speaks directly to him – values him as a Homeric hero

No prophecy surrounding him


Tragic backstory

Does not actively seek kleos or time