Trickeryis common in Greek mythology.
Especially among Gods and Goddesses. They use theirpower of trickery to trick and deceive humans, to fulfill their wishes. An importantfigure in Greek mythology is Metis.
She is the Goddess of wisdom andintelligence. Interestingly enough, Odysseus has been blessed with wisdom andintelligence, which gives him the ability to trick and deceive humans. Odysseusrepresents the idea of metis. The ancient Greeks admired metis: intelligence.
However,an important question to ask is: What skills does Odysseus possess that makehim the archetypal trickster in The Odyssey? Odysseus uses skills such asdisguise, storytelling and trickery, which makes it possible to recognize himas an archetypal trickster. Being a trickster is what characterizes Odysseus. AsOxford Dictionary defines a trickster: A trickster deceives and cheats people.
(Oxford Dictionary, 2017) Tricking is theability to deceive and trick people by using skills and intelligence. Thisdefinition can be applied to Odysseus. Odysseus went by the epithet”resourceful man”, given to him by Homer. Homer used these phrases or names todescribe a quality of his characters. Chris Northcott writes in his book “So only a brilliant ruler or a wise general who can use the highlyintelligent for espionage is sure of great success” (Northcott, 2015, s. 242 MI5: At War 1909-1918). This quote can be used to describe theimportance of intelligence and wisdom in terms of achieving success. Odysseusis capable of achieving success through his intelligence.
He uses intelligenceas a way to trick humans. This is what makes it possible to call him anarchetypal trickster. This essay will focus on three different skills thatOdysseus uses: firstly, trickery in terms of fooling the Cyclops into gettingdrunk, secondly disguising himself as a beggar to get past the suitors, lastlyusing storytelling as a way to get the Phaeacians to help him reach home. Odysseus offers the cyclops wine. “Here, Cyclops, have some wine to wash downthat meal of human flesh…” (Homer, The Odyssey , s.
119).He does this by showing hospitality, also known as xenia, which the Greeks adored. However, Odysseus uses this act ofgesture to stab a drunk Cyclops in the eye with a pole. Odysseus combines xeniawith his tricking, as he is certain it is going to work.
Since an act ofgesture and hospitality is received greatly by the Greeks. Along withhospitality a lot of planning is also put into getting rid of the Cyclops.Odysseus could have easily decided to kill the Cyclops, but he would be takingthe risk of losing his men. His physical strength might not have been enough tokill the cyclops, but his mental strength surely is. This is important tounderstand because a Homeric hero like Odysseus, needs to act wisely, as hiscircumstances require it.
Homer shows the audience through this episode, thatphysical strength is not always what defines a Homeric hero. Mental strengthcan be equally significant in defeating your enemy. Odysseus uses the Cyclops’stupidity against himself.
“It’ Nobody’streachery, not violence, that is doing me to death”. (Homer, The Odyssey , 2003, s. 120)The Cyclops is too caught up with handling his own drunkenness, that he doesnot recognize there is no way Odysseus’ name could possibly be “Nobody”. Anotherthing is that the Cyclops is considered a savage. This is a trick played on astupid person, by an intelligent person. It results in the defeat of thesavage. Odysseus’ defeat of the Cyclops shows that sometimes, intelligenceworks better than muscles. Homer has given several parallels between charactersin this book, such as the parallels between Athena and Odysseus.
Athena isOdysseus’ mentor, and she represents wisdom. Wisdom is a gift handed over toOdysseus. Homer has given the Homeric hero a chance to show his wisdom, throughhis trickery. Another piece of supporting evidence which shows Odysseus’ skillsof trickery, is this passage: “My name isNobody” (Homer, The Odyssey , 2003, s.
119). As the Cyclopscalls out for help, he is unable to receiveany help, because Odysseus told him his name was “Nobody” earlier. Odysseusplays it clever by hiding his identity to the Cyclops. However, the importanceof this passage is that Odysseus is well aware of the fact that he cannot killthe Cyclops, due to his men being stuck. Therefore, he turns it around bytaking advantage of the Cyclops’ stupidity. Along with this there lies an ironyin the word “Nobody”.
Odysseus is not a “Nobody”. He is indeed somebody. He isa significant hero in Greek mythology. The Greek word for nobody is outis,which is interesting because it has a similar sound to metis, which meanswisdom, skill and craft.
(Heitman, 2005, s. 5 ) Mentor is a wordderived from the word metis. Athena is Odysseus’ mentor. She is herself theGoddess of wisdom.
And this gift of wisdom has been handed over to him. It isdue to his intelligence and wisdom that he is able to trick and deceive others.Therefore, the irony of the name “Nobody” can be spotted through this passage.
In reality he is somebody. He has received metis (wisdom), from the twogoddesses: Metis and Athena. They are both Goddesses of intelligence and wisdom.Throughout The Odyssey disguise plays a huge part inwhy Odysseus returns home to Ithica. Disguise is not only used by Odysseus.
Athena, the goddess, used disguise in The Odyssey to approach Telemachus as hisfather’s old friend. Since Gods and Goddesses hold the power of disguise, andare able to trick and deceive humans, it suggests that Odysseus is quitepowerful in terms of his trickery. Odysseus is not a God, but is blessed withthe same powers as the Gods and Goddesses. This gift of his makes himcomparable and equal to the Gods.
Odysseus dresses up as a beggar to get the approvalof the Suitors. “Your health, my ancientfriend!” he said. “You are having a hard time now; but here’s to yourhappiness” (Homer, The Odyssey , 2003, s.
242). Odysseus isable to receive the approval of the suitors, after he defeats one of them. Throughdisguise, Odysseus is able to make the suitors do as he wishes. This is the artof disguise and trickery. As Odysseus’ long tale about not being able to returnto Ithica goes on for about 4 chapters, it makes the reader wonder what hismotive with the tale was.
At the end of the tale, Alcinous says, “I feel assured that you will reach yourhome without any further wanderings from your course, though you have sufferedmuch” (Homer, The Odyssey , 2003, s. 168). Odysseus is ableto win over the Phaeacians. They sympathize with him by helping him reach home.Once again, Odysseus makes use of his gift, by making people do what he wishes.This might not have been done by deceiving anyone, but he still tricked thePhaeacians into helping him get home to Ithica. Another important factor isOdysseus’ ability to make others appreciate the art behind his tales.
If he hadnot been able to make them exciting and full of emotions, perhaps this wouldhave never won over the Phaeacians. Even though the Phaeacians already hadDemodocus the poet, to perform songs, Odysseus seems to stand out. His talesrevolve around him. He is the poet of his own tales, and he successfully makesuse of lies in his storytelling. He certainly exaggerates “Odysseus you are one of those men, whose spirit never flags and whosebody never tires” (Homer, The Odyssey , s. 164).He exaggerates by complimenting himself through his tale.
This makes him appearimportant in terms of a hero, and strong minded. Homer portrays trickery and wisdom as importantfactors in the Odyssey. Homer makes it quite apparent that factors such asbeing mentally strong are as equally important in terms of being considered ahero, as being physically strong is. As the thesis states: Odysseus uses skillssuch as disguise, storytelling, and trickery, which makes it possible torecognize him as a trickster. These are all skills Odysseus possesses thatmakes it possible to call him a trickster.
Even more importantly, without thesefactors Odysseus perhaps would have not been able to return home, due to thecomplications and events that required for him to use his intelligence andwisdom. Odysseus is a great example of a character who characterizes the ideaof being a trickster. Therefore, it is important to recognize that Odysseusneeds to be wise and intelligent, in order for him to trick and deceive others.