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

Odysseus and Penelope Reunited, Book XXIII

Eurycleia made her way to the Queen’s chambers, looking forward to tell the good news of Odysseus’ return to her mistress: Penelope, child, wake up and see for yourself with your own eyes, all you dreamed of, all your days! He’s here-Odysseus-he’s come home, at long last! He’s killed the suitors, swaggering young brutes who plagued his house, wolfed the cattle down, rode roughshod over his son! (XXIII 5-10) Penelope listened, thinking that the old nurse had gone mad.  The queen upbraided the nurse for waking her from a sound sleep, the best she’d had since Odysseus left for Troy.  The old nurse was undeterred by the talk of her mistress, telling Penelope that Odysseus was none other than the old beggar who was mocked by the suitors.  Eurycleia then told her mistress that Telemachus was aware of his father’s return, and helped make the plans to destroy the suitors. Crying in joy, Penelope hugged her maidservant, and asked that she be given the whole story, how Odysseus killed the entire army of suitors with so little help.  But the nurse was unable to provide details, since she, and all the other maidens, were away in their rooms.  The nurse then asked Penelope to follow her down into the great hall, where Odysseus waited.  Penelope was till not convinced, however.  She insisted that it could not be Odysseus - it must be a god who avenged the crimes of the suitors.  No, it could not be Odysseus; he was lost forever. The old nurse would have none of Penelope’s rationalizations.  As proof that the man was indeed Odysseus, and not some god, Eurycleia told Penelope that he carried the scar on his leg from his brush with the boar on Parnassus.  Still, Penelope insisted that a god can do as he wishes.  Nevertheless, Penelope and the old nurse went down to the hall to see Telemachus. Penelope made her way into the hall, uncertain of how to greet the man who claimed to be Odysseus.  Should she rush to him and welcome him, or should she test him to see who he really was?  She made her way to the end of the hall and sat down, “radiant in the firelight” (XXIII 102), and looked at Odysseus.  At first, she thought it was her husband, but then, looking closer, he appeared to be a beggar in rags.   Odysseus and Penelope