Telemachus in The Odyssey: The Son of the Missing King
Telemachus in The Odyssey played a small but crucial role in Homer’s Classic. The Homeric classic plays the son of our missing hero, Odysseus, and strongly believes in his father’s survival. His resolution and loyalty to his father run deep enough to journey far and wide to find his whereabouts.
Who Is Telemachus in The Odyssey?
The events that led to the departure of the King of Ithaca occurred when Telemachus was but a few months old, and thus his loyalty to his father stems from his deep devotion to his mother and her stories of the hero. To further delve into the details of Telemachus and Odysseus, their relationship, and their journey in The Odyssey, we must briefly go over Homer’s Greek classic.
The Odyssey picks up right after The Iliad. The war is over, and Odysseus and his men set sail towards their home, Ithaca. Our hero rounds up his men, dividing them into ships, and sets sail towards their long-awaited journey home. Their problems arise after arriving on the island of the Cicones, where they raid the town, forcing its people into hiding.
The stubborn nature of his men is made apparent in this scene; instead of following their king’s command to leave, they decided to bask in the land a night more. The Cicones return with reinforcements and reclaim their town; they kill a few of Odysseus’ men and force them to the seas.
Their actions towards the Cicones have flagged the gods and made them aware of our hero’s actions. The Ithacan party arrives in Djerba next, where the lotus fruit tempts Odysseus and his men. They escape unscathed and head to the island of the Cyclops’ where Odysseus garners Poseidon’s ire. The god of sea’s rage is made apparent when he goes out of his way to prolong and hamper Odysseus’ journey home. They head to the land of Aeolus next where Odysseus is gifted with a bag of wind. The Greek hero nearly reaches Ithaca when one of his men opens the bag Aeolus had given Odysseus, mistaking it for gold. The winds bring them back to Aeolus, who sends them away.
They arrive in the land of the Laistrygonians next, where 11 of Odysseus’ ships are destroyed. They were hunted like animals and killed. The next island they explore is Circe’s, the goddess that turns Odysseus’ men into swine. The Ithacan king saves his men with the help of Hermes and eventually becomes Circe’s lover. The men live in luxury for a year before they set sail again.
Odysseus, advised by Circe, travels to the underworld to journey home safely. He encounters numerous souls but seeks Tiresias, who advises him to travel to the island of Helios. They were forbidden to touch the golden cattle.
Odysseus and his men travel to the island of the sun god. The men starve and slaughter Helios’ cattle while their king looks for a temple. In anger, Helios demands Zeus punish the mortals that have touched his precious animals. Zeus sends a thunderbolt to their ship as soon as they set sail, drowning the Greek men. Odysseus, the sole survivor, swims to the land of Calypso, where he is imprisoned for years. Odysseus finally returns home with the help of Phaecians and Athena.
While all of this is happening to Odysseus, his wife and son face a battle of their own; Penelope’s suitors. Penelope and Telemachus hold on to the hope of their loved one’s return, yet are slowly losing hope with each passing year. Because the throne of Ithaca has been left empty for quite some time, Penelope decides to entertain various suitors in hopes of delaying her return to her homeland, where her father plans to marry her off once again.
The suitors eat their food and drink their wine, having no regard or respect towards the house of Odysseus. Telemachus and the suitors’ relationship is sour, with Odysseus’ son detesting their presence in his home. Their unpleasant relationship is further seen as the suitors’ plan to ambush and kill the Ithacan prince.
Once Telemachus and Odysseus meet, they hatch a plan to massacre all the suitors vying for Penelope’s hand in marriage. They disguise themselves as the king and visit the palace. The father of Telemachus meets Penelope as a beggar and tickles the Queen’s curiosity. She announces a bow competition, marrying the winner straight away.
Still dressed as a beggar, Odysseus wins the contest and points his bow towards the suitors right away. Odysseus and Telemachus then proceed to murder the suitors and disguise their massacre as a wedding. The suitors’ families eventually find out about their loved ones’ deaths and attempt to take revenge. Athena as Odysseus’ family guardian stops this, and Odysseus can reclaim his family and throne, ending the Greek classic.
Telemachus in The Odyssey
Telemachus in The Odyssey is shown to be courageous and strong-willed. He is portrayed to have a good heart, caring for his mother and land. So when his mother’s suitors start disrespecting Penelope and their land, he faces a big obstacle. The suitors drink and eat them out of the palace, wasting precious resources meant for the people of Ithaca. Despite Telemachus’ courage and innate talent, he lacks the confidence and ability to oppose them fully.
Telemachus’ self-doubt, insecurities, and lack of experience are emphasized as the significant suitors of his mother disregard him. He had used his power to hold a meeting of the Ithacan elders, impressing them with his actions, yet as he faced his opposition, the young prince was not taken seriously. This sort of event paves the way for his maturation in his journey to find his father, Odysseus.
Telemachus Role in The Odyssey
Odysseus’ son portrays your classic “coming of age” story. On the brink of manhood, the young prince of Ithaca goes through various obstacles that make him question who he is, his power, and his insecurities in life. The danger of his relationship with his mother’s suitors poses a significant threat to his well-being as the suitors prefer him dead than alive.
His devotion to his mother is seen as he asserts his power by calling an assembly of Ithaca’s leaders. He speaks with determination and reverie, impressing some of the Ithacan elders. Still, to their dismay, the suitors’ lack of respect for Telemachus and his mother leads them nowhere. Athena senses the danger of what he’s done and disguises herself as a mentor, guiding the young prince away from Ithaca on a journey to find Odysseus.
Athena leads Telemachus to Odysseus’ friends, Nestor and Menelaus; in doing so, the goddess has broadened the young man’s horizons, giving him the chance to explore the outside world and associate himself with important political figures in the play. Because of this, Telemachus grows to become a fine man, learning how to behave amongst the Greek elites. Nestor teaches Telemachus how to gain respect, loyalty, and devotion amongst his people, while Menelaus reinforces his beliefs of his father’s whereabouts.
But the young prince’s role doesn’t end there. His existence symbolizes faith. From the very beginning, we see Telemachus’ strong belief in his father. He believes in the gods’ support to guide him on his journey to his father, save him and keep him alive as the suitors plot his demise, and lastly, faith that his father is still alive.
As Telemachus and Odysseus meet, we see the plot: the downfall of the suitors. His role here is nothing but necessary; the father he has only known in legends has finally come before him, and the first thing they think of? It is to plot a massacre against a handful of people. He stands with his father against the tirade of suitors and, hand in hand kills them all.
Now that we’ve talked about The Odyssey, Telemachus, his role, and what he symbolized in Homer’s Greek classic, let us go over the critical points of this article.
- Telemachus is Odysseus son
- Odysseus left to join the Trojan war when Telemachus was only a few weeks old.
- In Odysseus’ absence, Penelope garners several suitors who neither respect her, her house, or her son.
- Telemachus uses his power to call all the elders of Ithaca to discuss the issue of their Queen’s suitors.
- Disrespectful in all states, the suitors do not listen to Telemachus, and their conversation bears no fruition.
- Athena, sensing danger brewing, guides Telemachus on a journey to locate Odysseus.
- Telemachus, in his journey, transitions into a man as he learns how to act amongst the political figures in Greece.
- Telemachus represents faith as his belief in the gods, and his father leads him far.
- Telemachus is one of the very first coming of age stories in canonical literature.
- Telemachus’ devotion to his mother, father, and land is fitting for a King, and in so, Athena hones his innate potential, bringing out the king he was meant to be and preparing him for the future.
In conclusion, Telemachus in The Odyssey represents familial bond and royal responsibilities; he goes far and beyond for his father, mother, and land. He travels the seas to locate Odysseus despite the lack of evidence of his survival yet is not dismayed by negative news. He also represents faith in both religion and family.
He believes strongly in the gods, mainly Athena, to protect him on his journey and guide him to the right path. Because of this, he grew into his character, solidifying his already present capabilities as he learned from Menelaus and Nestor.