Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Homer’s Odyssey: Book 14

The disguised Odysseus climbs the path to his swineherd’s cabin. The guy is industrious and loyal. The man’s dogs threaten Odysseus, but he drops to the ground and the swineherd calls them off. The guy is in sad shape while the suitors gorge themselves on the animals he raises. Yet hospitality rules in this shelter, and Odysseus gets the prime brush and twigs to sit on.

The swineherd, Eumaeus, says, “It’s wrong, my friend, to send any stranger packing — / even one who arrives in worse shape than you. / Every stranger and beggar comes from Zeus” (14.64-66). The master has become the beggar. Eumaeus waxes nostalgic for the days of justice when Odysseus was in charge. A modest meal is followed by confirmation that Penelope grieves for her husband’s absence, though the swineherd believes Odysseus is gone for good. Odysseus swears that Odysseus is actually on his way: “this very month — just as the old moon dies / and the new moon rises into life — Odysseus will return! / He will come home and take revenge on any man / who offends his wedded wife and princely son!” (14.188-191).

Asked for his story, Odysseus seems spontaneously to come up with a fiction, somewhat related to the Trojan War, and with elements of truth (such as the nautical difficulty), but in which Odysseus has a cameo appearance. Eumaeus is moved by the miseries of the tale, but still doesn’t believe he’ll ever see Odysseus again. He provides more meager courtesies for the night, saying that Telemachus will be kind, and goes outside to sleep among and guard the pigs.

Odyssey: Book 15
Odyssey Index