What are the three disguises the goddess Athena uses to help Telemachus in Books 1 and 2 of The Odyssey?
Odysseus has not returned from the Trojan war. He has been gone twenty years now, and his wife Penelope and son Telemachus still believe he will return. They are slowly beginning to think that maybe he has perished. Men have come to Penelope's house trying to woo her and gain control of Odysseus' kingdom. Athena sees this happening, so she gets permission from Zeus, and is allowed to go to Telemachus to give him some advice. The gods have been watching out for Odysseus and know that he is still alive.
Athena is the goddess of wisdom, courage and justice, so she is the perfect one to advice Telemachus. She first comes to him in the disguise of Mentes, one of Odysseus' old friends. She tells Telemachus that he needs to make the men leave the kingdom and leave his mother. Athena tells him that Odysseus is still very likely alive and will return to Ithaca. She advises Telemachus that he must make the journey to Pylos and Sparta to ask for news concerning his father. Telemachus does as Athena says. Although Athena is disguised, Telemachus believes that it is a god coming to help him, he has all the confidence that all will be well, because he now believes that he has the gods on his side.
The next disguise that Athena uses is that of Mentor, another old friend of Odysseus. She goes to Telemachus before he leaves for Pylos and Sparta. She gives him encouragement about his trip. She tells him that the trip will be fruitful. She then sets out of town in the third disguise, this one as Telemachus himself. She goes and finds the most loyal crew to man his ship. This way she knows that he will be safe and his crew will be loyal to him. Telemachus sets out on his journey, feeling confident and knowing the gods are on his side and watching out for him, the way they are watching out for his father.