Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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What are some similes in Book 5 of Homer's Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles?

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There are several similes in Book 5 of The Odyssey. In line 14 of Book 5, Athena says that Odysseus was "as kindly as a father to his children" as a leader of Ithaca. Later, as Odysseus is in a storm, his craft is tossed about in the following way: "Pell-mell the rollers tossed her along down-current/wild as the north wind tossing thistle along the fields/at high harvest" (lines 360-362). In this simile, the way in which the waves are tossing Odysseus's boat is compared to the way in which grain is tossed in the wind. When Ino spies Odysseus in the waves, "she broke from the waves like a shearwater on the wing" (line 371), or like a bird in flight. Poseidon sends a wave towards Odysseus that is "hard as a windstorm blasting piles of dry parched chaff" (line 405). In this simile, the waves that toss Odysseus are again compared to a windstorm blowing about grain. The waves are so powerful that they make Odysseus seem as light as a handful of grain.

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Early in Odyssey 5, Hermes, as he flies off to Calypso's island, is compared to a bird skimming the ocean in search of fish.

Later in the same book, after Odysseus builds his raft and sets out from Calypso's island, he floats along for over two weeks before he finally sees the land of Phaeacia, which is compared to a shield resting on top of the sea.

After Poseidon raises the storm and knocks Odysseus from his raft, the sea goddess Leukothea emerges from the sea "like a sea mew" (A.S. Kline's translation), gives Odysseus her veil to help keep him afloat, and then she dives into the sea "like a sea mew." Note: a sea mew is another name for a sea gull.

Several lines later, Poseidon sends a massive wave that smashes Odysseus' raft "Like a strong wind catching a pile of dry straw, scattering the stalks here and there". Odysseus still manages to straddle one of the remaining timbers "like a horseman".

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