The Hero’s Journey is never an easy one. This particular journey, as detailed in Homer’s The Odyssey, is one of struggle, loss, heartache, pain, growth and triumph. It is comprised of many steps that Odysseus has to overcome and battle through in order to achieve his final goal of reaching his home and his loved ones. From the Call to Adventure to the Freedom or Gift of living, Odysseus conquered them all. The story begins in the middle of the story, as many of the oral Greek traditions did, with the Journey of Telemachus to find his father.
Although Telemachus has not yet met his father, it is almost as if they are journeying together, where the end of both of their journeys results in being reunited. Telemachus journeys from being a boy to becoming a man, while out in the sea Odysseus is battling Poseidon to return to the home that wife that he loves and the home he has left behind. The first step in any hero’s journey is the Call to Adventure, or the seperation from the pack. For Odysseus this call happened while he was on Calypso’s Island. Up on Olympus Athena had convinced Zeus of her case and Hermes was dispatched to free Odysseus from Calypso’s grasp.
Odysseus was settled here for quite some time and had no way of escape until Calypso was forced by the gods to let him go. This is where his journey begins. At first Odysseus is very skeptical of this freedom and thinks that it is a trick by Calypso, which is the denial stage that follows the call to adventure. This stage seperates Odysseus once agaian from what has become familiar to him. He is called to journey alone once again to gain what it is that he has wanted for so long. For Telemachus his call came due to the perils he was facing in his own home with suitors competing for his mother’s love.
They started to eat him out of house and home and began to disrespect his mother. Before this Telemachus had stayed quiet, and had not taken action. Telemachus got summoned to branch out from his mother and his home to venture out on a journey of his own. It was now his time to become a man. In every journey the hero also has a mentor. In this story Athena, the gray-eyed goddess of wisdom, has taken on this role for both Odysseus and Telemachus. Athena was by Odysseus’ side as a guide for much of the beginning of his Journey.
Athena also is a guide to Odysseus when he’s not even aware of her, with her pleas to Zeus on Mount Olympus. When Odysseus was trapped on Calypso’s island it was Athena who was pleading with the gods for him to be allowed to leave that place. Athena acts as a source of inspiration and the object of many pleas throughout this epic. While in Ithaca Athena took the guise of the old man Mentes. It was under this guise that Athena went to Telemachus and made him realize that it was his time to start his journey. Athena/Mentes gathered men for Telemachus to journey with and even accompanied him upon his journey.
Athena/Mentes acted as a guide for Telemachus prodding him in every situation on how to step up and be a man. The First threshold is the beginning of the pro-active part of the hero’s journey. This is the first of the trials, usually less tiring or arduous than the others. Odysseus began his journey when leaving Calypso’s island. He conquered his skepticism and denial and realized that it was time for him to leave, for him to finally try to get to his home. As he hits the open sea, Poseidon who has not forgotten his grudge for Odysseus due to events past spots him.
Poseidon unleashes his rage unto Odysseus and manipulates the sea almost to the point of drowning Odysseus. So Odysseus survives and this begins his true journey home where his drive and will are going to have to conquer the tests that Poseidon has set before him to get home. Telemachus also begins his journey by setting off to sea. Inspired by Athena and with her by his side Telemachus sets sail to begin the search for his father. Never having been to sea before Telemachus was not prepared at all for what was to come, but knew his duty.
Thus beginning the true heroes journey for the father and son. Challenges and Tests are a thing that every hero has to face. With numerous foes, allies, trials, and tribulations the hero journeys through a series of tests before he can proceed. For Odysseus the first of these trials is when Poseidon realizes his presence in the open waters and begins to release his wrath upon him once again. Odysseus being nearly drowned is saved once again by the aid of the gray-eyed Athena when she helps him to land on the island of Scheria, home of the Phaecians.
The Phaecians will become the Allies that Odysseus needs to help him get through this journey. During his time with them he tells them of his past journey’s in which he survived many other tests and trials. The run in with the son of Poseidon, the Cyclops, an island of cannibals, his outwitting of Circe, his journey to the land of the dead, the monsters and gods that were battled against and the account of such adventures drives the Phaecians to help Odysseus on the rest of his way home. For Telemachus the challenges are not so grand or spectacular, but challenges to the young boy all the same.
Telemachus must travel for knowledge. Searching for anyone that might have a clue as to where his father is and what might have happened. After a series of challenges the hero must then enter the abyss, this is where his greatest challenges lie. Odysseus finally gets back to Ithaca safely but it is not the same as when he left it. This time Odysseus takes on the guise of an old beggar, in which he can safely observe his enemy before having to strike. He meets his swineherd Euameus who does not recognize him but treats him with great hospitality.
Odysseus soon finds that suitors ravage his home, his son is nearly a man, and nearly the whole isle has lost hope of him being alive. Odysseus must control his urge to run straight to his home to see the woman he loves. This is the point at which Telemachus and Odysseus’ journeys merge. Telemachus has just come home ready to face the news that his father will never be seen again. He is coming home Athena advises him to go to see Euameus, where he will meet his father for the first time. Here Telemachus and Odysseus devise a plan to regain control of the house that Odysseus built with his own hands, thus they enter the abyss together.
So together Odysseus and Telemachus go to their home and begin their plan to take on the suitors. Odysseus, still disguised as the beggar, goes with Telemachus back into his household and observes the suitors while devising a plan in his head. During this period Odysseus is able to sort out the loyal from those who are deserving of punishment. Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, has devised a contest for the suitors that whomsoever can string Odysseus’ bow and shoot an arrow straight through the circular section of lined up axes will win her love.
She did so knowing that this was impossible for any man but her husband, Odysseus. She was right, and the tournament ensued while the men tried to string the bow, but they could not. Then Odysseus as the old beggar pushed for a try, as he completed the test he remained disguised as an old beggar until he killed the first suitor. Then Telemachus and Odysseus faced the suitors together. This completed the “Abyss” or “final challenge” for both Odysseus and Telemachus. Now is the time for the reward, and the return back to his ordinary life.
Both Odysseus and Telemachus receive order in their lives once again. Odysseus gets his land back, and his wife, son, and time with his father. Telemachus gets to meet his father, and also gets the peace he has been striving for. Odysseus and Telemachus go to see Laertes, Odysseus’ father, on an old farm. Some of the family of the suitors came to seek revenge, making it seem as if the journey were not over. But when Laertes kills Eupithes it marks the end to the journey because for the first time Odysseus is safe from any foes.
Odysseus grew and learned a lot about himself and the world around him throughout his journey. When the journey began Odysseus was very proud and overzealous, and this is what got him in trouble. Likened to some heroes Odysseus really did bring this ordeal onto himself. In the beginning of Odysseus’ ordeal, around the time of the Trojan Horse, Odysseus challenges the importance of the gods in his actions, and also kills the Cyclops son of Poseidon in the name of Odysseus. His pride was a large part in the dilemma he got himself into. Although always cunning, his emotions and pride always got the best of him.
Over the course of the journey Odysseus learned a lot about when and where that pride was welcomed. He stopped using his name to make a point, and started to be more prudent in his affairs. By the time that he reached Ithaca he knew enough not to run back to his castle proclaiming everyone should be dead in his name, which would have been the end of him. Over the course of the journey Odysseus became wise and prudent, which helped him in the end to reap his rewards. For Telemachus the change was less of an inner struggle. Telemachus, through this journey, has become a man.
When the story began Telemachus was a little boy with no figure in his life to really guide him stuck in a bad situation. Over the course of the journey Telemachus had to make due in many situations where respected elders surrounded him. In normal father to son relationships it is your father who teaches you and forces you to become a man. Somehow in this story, although Odysseus was not directly in Telemachus’ life, Odysseus did teach Telemachus how to be a man. It was Odysseus’ absence and hope of his return that was the driving force for Telemachus, and which made him eventually grow into manhood.
The hero is the man who fights for what he loves. A hero is someone who rises above circumstance to take back what is his or hers. A hero is a man who was favored by the gods. All of these qualities and more can be found in both Odysseus and Telemachus. Odysseus and Telemachus both showed many manifestations of a hero throughout the Odyssey. It was a journey of change and growth for both men. Out of this journey they returned with much wisdom and personal gain. Odysseus and Telemachus have truly walked the path of the hero’s journey.