Book 8 Summary and Analysis
Demodocus: the blind bard who entertains Odysseus and the Phaeaceans
Laodamas: the son of Alcinoös and one of the greatest athletes of Scheria
Euryalus: a Phaeacean athlete who insults Odysseus
The next morning, Alcinoös orders a grand feast to be held in Odysseus’ honor. Disguised as Alcinoös’ herald, Pontonoös, Athene summons the mighty men of Scheria, including the twelve kings who reside on the island, to come to the feast. Alcinoös orders that a ship and companions be readied to speed Odysseus on his way. After his orders have been fulfilled, the Phaeacean king continues to entertain Odysseus.
The feast continues, and the assembled guests are entertained by the blind bard, Demodocus, renowned throughout Scheria as a singer gifted by the Muses. Demodocus sings of a quarrel which had broken out late in the war between Odysseus and Achilles. When hearing the song, Odysseus weeps secretly, detected by no one but Alcinoös.
Alcinoös then leads Odysseus and the Phaeaceans outside so that his guest can witness the athletic prowess of the youth of Scheria. After several contests have been performed, Laodamas, Alcinoös’ son, suggests that Odysseus take part in the games. Odysseus politely declines, but another athlete, Euryalus, insults Odysseus for declining. He suggests that Odysseus has led a life concerned solely with avarice and gain on the high seas, and that the attributes of manliness and sportsmanship are lacking in Odysseus. Sorely angered, Odysseus takes up a discus and hurls it much further than any other athlete had done in that day’s competition. Provoked to fiery bitterness, Odysseus then rebukes Euryalus and challenges every athlete present to meet him in any competition whatsoever.
Alcinoös wisely steps forward and cools Odysseus, apologizing for Euryalus and offering Odysseus gifts from all the Phaeacean lords to console him in his homesick sorrow. He then commands Laodamas and the other Phaeacean dancers to perform for Odysseus.
While the Phaeaceans dance, Demodocus accompanies them by singing a tale of the gods. Helius, god of the sun, had informed Hephaestus, the lame god of blacksmiths, of his wife Aphrodite’s unfaithfulness. It seems that the war god, Ares, had been making love to the goddess behind her husband’s back. Infuriated, Hephaestus retired to his smithy and created a durable net that was...
(The entire section is 1015 words.)