Describe Odysseus' Grandfather Autolycus from Book 19 of "The Odyssey".

Expert Answers
troutmiller eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Autolycus was known as the most accomplished thief in the whole world.  He also helped Odysseus' parents name him.  He told them to

"name the child 'Ulysses,' or the child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother's family on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a present and will send him on his way rejoicing."

That was when Odysseus went to Parnassus and received the scar that Euryclea recognizes him by.  He went there to receive a present from his thief of a grandfather.

the following site is the only place I could find the reading online.  Look at 3/4 down the page of Book 19 for the explanation of his grandfather.

julie_feng | Student

Autolycus is the father of Odysseus's mother Anticleia. His other child is Polymede, who gives birth to the famous Jason of the Argonauts. He is himself the son of the Olympian messenger god Hermes and a mortal named Chione. (Note: This makes Odysseus's great-grandfather a god.) 

In Homer, Odysseus's nurse (and later housekeeper) Eurycleia puts the baby Odysseus on Autolycus's knee and asks him to name him. She tries to prompt him to name him "the one that is prayed for," but the cynical and sardonic Autolycus instead names him Odysseus, meaning "the one who is hated/wroth against." He says that he does to to commemorate his own bad luck in life, but the name ends up being prophetic as Odysseus actually is hated/wroth against by gods when he is an adult. 

Because Hermes is also the god of trickery and thieves, Autolycus is an accomplished trickster and thief. He has a lot of the same abilities as his divine father, including skill with music.