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The Wine Red Sea:  Journeys of Odysseus
© Copyright 2014 - 2018 by Peter J Ponzio

Nausicaa, Book VI

Athena arrived on the island of Scheria, where Alcinous ruled as king.  Disguised as a young maiden, Athena appeared to Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous and chided her for sleeping when she should be washing her clothes and looking her finest to attract a suitable mate. Nausicaa and her friends journey to the river to wash their clothes, and made a picnic near the river's edge.  The girls then play a game of ball and then began dancing.  During their game of ball, one of the girls tossed the ball into the river, waking Odysseus. Odysseus, upon waking, uttered these words: “Man of misery, whose land have I lit on now?/What are they here-violent, savage, lawless?/or friendly to strangers, god-fearing men?” (VI, 131-133).  Odysseus, covering himself with a olive branch, stepped from the river into the clearing where the girls were playing games.  Only Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous remained to talk to the stranger.  Odysseus, man of many stratagems, addressed her as follows: Here I am at your mercy, princess- are you a goddess or a mortal? If one of the gods who rules the skies up there, you're Artemis to life, the daughter of mighty Zeus-I see her now-just look at your build, your bearing, your lithe flowing grace. . . (VI, 163-167) Odysseus asks Nausicaa to be compassionate towards him, and that the gods grant her with her wishes:  “No finer, greater gift in the world than that. . . /when man and woman possess their home, two minds,/two hearts that work as one” (VI, 200-202).  Of course, Odysseus, while speaking to Nausicaa, is also speaking of his anticipated return to Ithaca and his wife, Penelope. Nausicaa agrees to lead Odysseus to her father's court, and addresses her companions who have come back to inquire about Odysseus:  “But here's an unlucky wandered strayed our way/and we must tend to him well.  Every stranger and beggar/comes from Zeus, and whatever scrap we give him/he'll be glad to get” (VI, 226- 229).  Nausicaa, in agreeing to help Odysseus, complies with the requirements of the host/guest relationship that will play out in the Odyssey.  In every case but one, good hosts and guests are rewarded; bad hosts and guests punished. Odysseus, in preparation for the journey to the city, bathed in the river.  While bathing, Athena “made him taller to all eyes,/his build more massive now, and down from his brow/she ran his curls like thick hyacinth clusters/ full of blooms” (VI, 253-256).  The effect was not lost on Nausicaa:  “At first he was appalling, I must say-/now he seems like a god who rules the skies up there!/Ah, if only a man like that were called my husband,/lived right here, pleased to stay forever. . . “ (Vi, 268-271).
Odysseus and Nausicaa