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“The Odyssey” Study Guide Part 1: Books 1-12
*Complete the questions (including the predictions) to each book of “The Odyssey”
as we venture through this epic story!
Book 1:
What did Poseidon have against Odysseus?
Odysseus blinded his son, a Cyclops.
Why did the goddess Athena want Zeus to send Hermes to Calypso?
Athena wanted Zeus to send Hermes with an order for Calypso to let Odysseus go.
What problems did Odysseus’ absence cause for his wife and son?
Suitors pressured Penelope to marry them and squandered Odysseus’ wealth.
Why did Telemachus go on a voyage?
Athena, disguised as Mentes, suggested he seek information about his father.
“Long years ago, when she had just been touched by loveliness, Laertes purchased her.” Do you think
Laertes’ wife was jealous?
Yes, Laertes was faithful to his wife, and careful not to hurt or anger her; other Greek husbands took on
Prediction: Zeus mentioned that Agamemnon had been murdered by Aegisthus. Why do you suppose
Agamemnon was killed?
(any “Prediction” answer is acceptable)
Book 2:
According to Antinous, why was Penelope to blame for the messy situation in Odysseus’ house?
Penelope had tricked the suitors by promising to marry one when she finished her weaving – then
unraveling her work each night.
Who was Halitherses, and what prediction did he make?
He was an old Ithacan seer (prophet) who predicted that Odysseus would return and kill the suitors.
Athena disguised as Mentor told the suitors, “I am not incensed by all the suitor’s plots and
violence…Instead my wrath indicts the rest of you, who sit in silence.” What was she saying?
Those who failed to defend Odysseus’ goods and family were worse than the plotters.
Why didn’t Eurycleia want Telemachus to leave?
She worried that the trip by sea would be dangerous and the suitors would plot his death.
Prediction: Will Telemachus’ voyage be successful?
Book 3:
Who killed Agamemnon and how was that murder avenged?
His wife’s lover killed him, and was in turn killed by Agamemnon’s son, Orestes.
What did Nestor know about Odysseus’ whereabouts?
He knew only that Odysseus had not returned home.
(“The Odyssey” Study Guide Part 1, page 2)
Why did Nestor advise Telemachus to let Nestor’s sons “guide (him) into sunlit Lacedaemon”?
Nestor though Menelaus might know about Odysseus.
What sort of sacrifice did Nestor oversee before sending his son off with Telemachus to Sparta?
Nestor oversaw the sacrifice of a heifer (cow) whose horns had been dipped in gold.
Prediction: Will Telemachus follow in Orestes’ footsteps?
Book 4:
What did Menelaus tell Telemachus about the wooden horse?
Odysseus had come up with a plan for the Greeks to get into the city of Troy by hiding in a wooden horse.
Why didn’t Menelaus go right home after the Trojan War?
The gods had caused a wind to blow him to Egypt.
What did Menelaus reveal about Odysseus’ whereabouts?
Odysseus was kept on an island by Calypso.
“Athena sent that phantom to the house of the divine Odysseus.” Explain who Athena sent where – and
The spirit of Penelope’s sister appeared to tell her not to worry about Telemachus because he would
return safely.
Prediction: Will the suitors attack Telemachus?
Book 5:
How did Calypso help Odysseus leave the island – and why?
She was ordered by Zeus to release Odysseus, so she helped him build a boat/raft.
“Goddess, I know you’ve something else in mind – something beyond my being free to leave.” What was
probably Odysseus’ concern (through his tone of voice) as he answered Calypso?
He was probably suspicious of her motives in helping him; confused
Why did Odysseus’ boat sink?
Angry Poseidon wanted to keep him from getting home.
Why didn’t Odysseus drown?
Athena and a Sea Nymph, Ino (the “White sea Goddess”) helped him stay afloat and get to shore with a
magic “veil”.
Prediction: How will Odysseus be treated by the Phaeacians?
Book 6:
Why did Nausicaa go to the riverbank?
Athena had given her the idea of washing her family’s clothes.
“…terrified, they scattered on the shore, on here, on there.” Who? Why?
Nausicaa’s handmaidens were frightened by the sight of naked, dirty, salty Odysseus.
(“The Odyssey” Study Guide Part 1, page 3)
“Would that my husband were a man like him.” What was Nausicaa thinking?
She wished she could have a husband like Odysseus.
What did Nausicaa instruct Odysseus to do – and why?
She told him to go to her mother for help – but to walk with her handmaids instead of riding with her, so
that the townfolk wouldn’t “talk” (gossip).
Prediction: Will the Phaeacians help Odysseus?
Book 7:
For what skills were Phaeacian men and women known?
They were known as skilled sailors.
How was Odysseus treated when he reached the palace?
The Phaeacians treated him kindly, offering him food.
“So profound is her good sense that – for those men and women she esteems – she acts as judge in feuds
and bickerings.” Who was “she”?
The wise & generous woman was Nausicaa’s mother, Queen Arete.
Why did Arete ask Odysseus about his cloak?
She recognized the cloak which Nausicaa had given him as one she, herself, had made.
Prediction: Do you think Alcinous will press Odysseus further to marry his daughter?
Book 8:
Briefly describe the three stories sung by Demodocus:
*the fate of the Greeks after the Trojan War
*the adulterous love (affair) of Ares & Aphrodite
*the Trojan horse in which the Greeks hid
Cite the passage where Euryalus taunted Odysseus.
“In truth, stranger, you hardly seem like one well used to sport (more like the captain of a merchant
crew.” **”You do NOT look like an athlete!**
List the contests held by the Phaeacians:
Footrace, discus toss, boxing, jumping, wrestling
At which event did Odysseus excel?
Discus toss
Prediction: Will Odysseus tell the truth about who he is and where he has been?
(“The Odyssey” Study Guide Part 1, page 4)
Book 9:
Briefly describe the dangers faced by Odysseus’ men in their travels – and how they fared, in each case:
Angry men defending their
Several of Odysseus’ men
property & women
were killed
Gave the men drug-like fruit
They had to be dragged to the
Polyphemus imprisoned the
safety of the ship
men in his cave
6 were eaten; the rest escaped
by ship
Why did Odysseus and his men go into the Cyclops’ cave?
They saw his food & wanted to see if he would welcome them.
“This is the gift I give to you, my guest.” Why didn’t Odysseus ever receive that gift – and why wouldn’t
he have appreciated it if he had?
The gift was that the Cyclops would eat him last. Odysseus escaped by hiding under one of Polyphemus’s
rams – since he escaped he did not receive the gift.
Why didn’t the other Cyclops help Polyphemus when he cried out after being blinded by Odysseus?
He cried out that “Nobody” was hurting him; since “Nobody” is the name that wily Odysseus had given
Prediction: Will Poseidon ever get the chip off his shoulder and stop tormenting Odysseus?
Book 10:
What gift – and instructions – did Aelous give Odysseus?
A bag of wind and instructions not to open it.
How did Odysseus and his men end up back in Aeolia?
The men greedily opened the bag, releasing a hurricane that blew him back to Aeolia, and angering the
king of winds by their disobedience.
How did the Laestrygonians treat Odysseus and his men?
These cannibal giants ate several men.
“It’s root was black; its flower was white as milk. It’s moly for the gods.” Who gave Odysseus that gift
and what was it for?
Hermes gave Odysseus the magical plant to protect him from Circe’s spell, keeping him from being turned
into a pig.
Prediction: Why will Odysseus return to the island where Circe lives?
Book 11:
Who were the first three people Odysseus met in the Underworld/House of Hades?
1) Elpenor, 2) his own mother, 3) the seer Tiresias
“It was lament (= mourning/weeping) for you – your gentleness and wisdom… -- that robbed me of the
honey-sweet of life.” What did Odysseus’s mother mean?
She died of grief when he didn’t return after the war.
(“The Odyssey” Study Guide Part 1, page 5)
What did Tiresias predict?
He predicted that Odysseus would get home – but not before undergoing more trials.
List three Greeks in the Underworld who had fought alongside of Odysseus in the Trojan War:
Prediction: Odysseus’ mother describes her husband as lying sorrowfully, in rags. Will Odysseus ever see
him again?
Book 12:
Why did Odysseus put wax in the crew’s ears?
The wax would keep them from being lured by the sirens’ song.
What danger did Odysseus face after passing the Sirens?
He had to pass by the Monster Scylla and the Whirlpool Charybdis.
How did Odysseus’ men get into trouble on the island of the sun god? How many survived?
They disobeyed and ate the sun god’s cattle; all died in the shipwreck, except Odysseus.
“For nine days I was dragged; and on the tenth the gods cast me upon Ogygia’s coast.” Who did Odysseus
meet there?
Prediction: What new problems will Odysseus have on his trip to Ithaca?
Additional Notes: