What can Hermes do with his wand in Book Five of The Odyssey?

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jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Book V of The Odyssey, Zeus deputizes Hermes to tell the nymph Calypso to release Odysseus from her island and let him return home. Hermes, one of Zeus's sons, is the messenger who is, according to Zeus, "sent on all our missions" (line 33 in the Robert Fagles translation). 

Hermes quickly straps on his "supple sandals" (line 48) and "seized the wand that enchants the eyes of men/whenever Hermes wants, or wakes us up from sleep" (lines 51-52). In other words, Hermes's wand can cast spells or wake people. With the wand in hand, Hermes descends to the sea and skims its waves like a bird. He is able to quickly arrive at Calypso's island, though it is "worlds apart" (line 60), and reach her cave. Though Calypso tries to resist, Hermes tells her to "release [Odysseus] at once, just so. Steer clear of the rage of Zeus!" (line 162). Calypso ultimately obeys Hermes and Zeus.

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urthona | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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With his herald's wand (later known as a caduceus), Hermes guided travelers and led the souls of the dead down to Hades (the underworld). His wand could also provide wealth by turning everything it touched into gold.

In Book V, Homer tells us that, with his wand, Hermes "seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases" (Samuel Butler translation), or "mazes the eyes of those mortals whose eyes he would maze, or wakes again the sleepers" (Richmond Lattimore translation), or "enchants the eyes of men whenever Hermes wants, or wakes us up from sleep" (Robert Fagles translation).

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