Myth Project Sample

Myth Project Sample                                                              Odysseus’ Reunion with Telemachus

            In Book 13 of The Odyssey, Odysseus finally returns to his home of Ithaca.  Because he has been warned by prophets and goddesses that the situation back at home may be uncertain, he decides to return at first in disguise.  In the guise of an old beggar, he first meets Eumaus, one of the few (as it turns out) remaining loyal servants.  Of course, being a good Greek, Eumaus treats the beggar with appropriate hospitality.  Soon after, Eumaus introduces the beggar to Telemachus (who has now returned from his year-long trip that Athena had recommended).  Telemachus, too, treats the beggar (really his father!) with respect and hospitality.  After taking time to talk with Eumaus and Telemachus about the situation on Ithaca, Odysseus decides it is time to reveal his true identity to his son.  With the help of Athena, Odysseus resumes his former look and stature.  When he first confronts Telemachus as himself, Telemachus is terrified: he believes or fears the man in front of him is one of the gods.  Odysseus tells Telemachus he is his long-awaited Father, but Telemachus remains unbelieving.  Telemachus tells Odysseus that this must be some trick of the gods, designed to "twist the knife in me" (Book 16, line 196).  But Odysseus remains insistent.  He says to Telemachus, "No other Odysseus will ever come, for he and I are one, the same; his bitter fortune and wanderings are mine.  Twenty years gone, and I am back again on my own island" (Book 16, lines 204-208).  Finally, Telemachus believes that the man before him is, indeed, his own Father.  The two fall into each other’s arms and weep for joy.  Then Telemachus and Odysseus begin their plan about how to return to his own palace, deal with the suitors, and re-unite with Penelope.  Telemachus informs his Father of the difficulty of forcing the suitors out; he says that only two against so many will be an impossible battle.  But Odysseus says that he has Athena on his side.  They decide that Odysseus will return to the palace once again in disguise.  He instructs both Telemachus and Eumaus not to tell anyone of his return – not even Penelope.  Odysseus needs to ascertain the situation for himself and make a decision on how to proceed.  This episode ends with Odysseus returning back to his own home after 20 years (!), not in triumph but as a poor old beggar.  It takes several books for Homer to tell the tale of how Odysseus and Telemachus (with the aid of Athena and even Penelope) get rid of the suitors and bring the long-separated husband and wife finally together again.  But that story is part of another presentation.  The reunion scene between Telemachus and Odysseus is one of the most emotionally powerful and beautiful scenes of the entire epic.  It brings together perfectly the twin themes of The Odyssey: the journey Home and the coming to adulthood.  Father and son are re-united, the first step toward reunion with Penelope and restoring their family.


Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Anchor Book, 1963.

"Study Guide for Homer’s Odyssey."  Temple Classics. 11 February 2012.