Eumaios Well Stay

Blowing steadily, a heaven sent wind from the lips of Athena carried Telemakhe's ship swiftly to her home shores. Early in the morning she rode the ship's rails, so as to see first light bathe the green hills and rocky mountains of Ithaka. She directed the crew to let her off at a small cove some distance from town.

"Go on to town yourselves, I'll meet you later. And thanks so much for pitching in on this trip, I won't forget it," she told them.

To Theoklymenos she said, "I wish I could offer you a place to stay at my own hall. If things were different, you might have found it an entertaining place to visit. However, my father keeps himself locked away working on his textile arts and the place is over-run with over-ambitious suitors. I suggest knocking on Eurymakhos' door. He's the prince everyone is dazzled with at the moment, though he also seeks my unwilling hand."

"Your help has already been more than sufficient. Follow your best instincts and all should turn out right," said Theoklymenos giving Telemakhe a firm and friendly handshake.

Telemakhe tied on her sandals, picked up her spear and disembarked. On the beach she waved her crew goodbye. She then turned inland and toward the home of family friend and retainer, Eumaios, the swineherd. On such a beautiful morning, the hike was an easy one where she could enjoy the blossoming of red poppies and the song of warblers.

At Eumaios' doorstep she was happily greeted by all of his dogs. "Whoa guys, you keep that licking up and none of me will be left to see Uncle Eumie," said Telemakhe giving each of them a pat. Looking in the hut door she could see Eumaios preparing breakfast with an older woman helping him. The woman had a worn look about her, as if she were hundreds of years old. The dogs' fawning grunts and whines served in place of a knock or bell to catch Eumaios' attention.

Crash! Eumaios dropped the bowl and jug he held in his hands. "Telemakhe! By all that's divine, you've made it back," cried the old man, tears instantly streaming down his face. He leapt as if a much younger man to Telemakhe's side and embraced her. "We were all so worried, it's good to see you home safe and sound."

"You needn't have worried about me. I was always a tough little girl," said Telemakhe laughing with pleasure at this homecoming.

"Come sit down and have breakfast," said Eumaios shuffling swiftly to the fire and scooping up fat pork sausages and baked apple rings onto a plate for her, "I have a guest hailing from Krete joining us. Her timing has proven good since she seeks your protection on Ithaka."

"You know, this is just about the worst time for me to entertain. And it is driving me bonkers being so ill prepared to follow through on the laws of hospitality. Protection! I can hardly protect myself. I am young and without proper training in arms. Dad is an artist, not a fighter. Mother is who knows where. For the last several years my home has been infested with rich, ill-mannered suitors who have invited themselves into its courts at my family's expense. They all expect to take me in marriage, they all expect to rule Ithaka.

"Eumaios, if you will see to this stranger, I will happily send wine and bread for her care. I shall also send along a warm winter cloak, tunic, sandals and a broadsword as my gifts to her. I am afraid that the castle is a dangerous place to be with those drunken scoundrels about."

The stranger looked surprised, "Have you no friends or family to put rout to such ruffians? Has there been an oracle to ward your people off from helping you in this dilemma?"

"I am my mother's only child, she was her father's only child. So, I don't really have family in abundance. My friends have been kind enough to help me recently on a journey for news of my mother, but I suppose I am my father's daughter in that I hesitate to ask that they lay down their lives for me. As to the people of Ithaka, my mother ruled them so well, that I don't think they understand the threat," Telemakhe replied.

She turned to Eumaios and asked, "We've got to tell Dad and Granpa I'm back, but quietly, so as not to stir up the suitors before I am ready. They must have been even more worried than yourself as to my whereabouts and safety. Could you take a message to them?"

"I think that's a very wise move, girlie. I'll be off immediately," said Eumaios. He then tied on his sandals, picked up a cane and called two of his dogs to him. With a smile he saluted both Telemakhe and the stranger before heading down the path to Odysseus' castle.

Telemakhe turned to speak with the stranger, asking after her name and business, when the stranger left the hut herself and walked out to the gate. Telemakhe shrugged and began restoking the fire, so that Eumaios would still have some burning embers when he returned.

In only a few moments the stranger was back. Yet it was not the stranger who had left. This woman was tall and radiant, glowing brighter than the burning logs. Her athletic frame was like that of Artemis or perhaps even Athena perself. Her eyes flashed as brightly as those of any youth and had a divinely compelling look about them.

The woman held out her hands in a gesture of defenselessness. "I have something to tell you, Telemakhe. I can only hope that you will believe me when I say that I am your mother, Odysseus."

Odysseus & Telemakhe
The Dynamikos Duo.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps