Eumaeus: Homeric Parallel

In the course of Book 13 of The Odyssey Odysseus returns alone to Ithaca. He is in serious danger of suffering Agamemnon's fate (i.e., of being murdered on arrival) if he enters his house and announces his identity. He has a long consultation with Athena in which he gets news of his beleaguered house and of his son Telemachus's enterprise in searching for news of him on the mainland. Athena disguises Odysseus as an old man and counsels him to seek the dwelling of the swineherd Eumaeus, who "Of all Odysseus' field hands . . . cared most for the estate" (14:3-4; Fitzgerald, p. 259). In Book 14 Eumaeus receives the incognito Odysseus with a ready offer of hospitality and with sensible kindness and honesty. Book 15 is divided between a description of how Telemachus avoids the ambush the suitors have set for him as he returns to Ithaca and the development of the relationship between Odysseus and Eumaeus. In Book 16 Telemachus comes to Eumaeus's hut in search of news of his mother; Odysseus tests Telemachus's filial commitment and then reveals himself. Reunited, father and son plan an approach to their besieged house.

(from Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses" [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], p. 534. The first numbers following quotes from The Odyssey [for example, 1:115] refer to book and line numbers in the Greek text; English translations, unless otherwise noted, are from The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald [New York: Doubleday, 1961])