Book 6 Summary and Analysis
Nausikaa: princess of the Phaeaceans who greets Odysseus on Scheria
Alcinoös: king of the Phaeaceans
Arete: queen of the Phaeaceans
While Odysseus sleeps peacefully out in the wilderness of Scheria, Athene appears to Nausikaa, princess of the Phaeaceans and daughter of King Alcinoös, in a dream vision. Disguised as one of Nausikaa’s young friends, Athene suggests that Nausikaa be a dutiful daughter and potential wife, and go to wash the palace laundry. Upon awakening, Nausikaa requests a mule-drawn cart from her father, who allows her to bring the wash down to the river with some of her attendants.
The princess travels to the river, and there she and her maidservants wash the laundry and leave it out to dry in the sun. They next begin dancing and passing a ball to one another. During their game, the girls let out a tremendous cry that awakens Odysseus, who has been slumbering nearby. Hiding his private parts with some stray foliage, Odysseus appears before the young ladies. Startled by his entrance and bedraggled appearance, the girls flee in all directions. However, Nausikaa stands her ground and converses with Odysseus.
Odysseus, deciding that it would be better for him to supplicate Nausikaa from a distance rather than approach her and grasp her knees, begs her for her aid. Nausikaa grants his request, allows him to bathe and anoint himself, and then lends him some clothing. He now has the appearance of a god, thanks to some help from Athene, and Nausikaa’s entourage is impressed. They feed the famished adventurer and agree to take him to the city.
However, fearing that gossipers might misconstrue the situation, Nausikaa leaves Odysseus out in Alcinoös’ grove, and tells him to enter the city only after the girls have had sufficient time to reach the palace themselves. Alone in the orchard, Odysseus prays to Athene to help his supplication before the Phaeaceans succeed.
Discussion and Analysis
Book VI contains an element which, although not scarce in the Odyssey, is certainly very rare in most epic poems: comedy. The comic element is unmistakable in these scenes. Odysseus’ embarrassment when making his approach to the girls and right before bathing, as well as the girls’ terrified reactions to his nakedness, cannot help but elicit a lighter mood in the poem’s action, which until now had centered solely on the horrible problems faced by Odysseus and his family.
Even the epic similes, so solemn and...
(The entire section is 645 words.)