The Odyssey

Guest-Host Relationships in Homer's Odyssey

Odysseus' disastrous encounter with the Laistrygones is a useful reference point for analyzing the nature of guest-host relationships in The Odyssey. When it is compared with his arrivals at the lands of the Phaiakians and the hands of the Cyclopes, a fuller picture of Odysseus and the customs of his time emerges; in addition, this reveals some of Homer's more adroit storytelling techniques. To regard The Odyssey as the tale of one man's wanderings, as many do, is to ignore half its importance; it is also the story of his stops between wanderings.

Initially, all proceeds well when Odysseus sends three men to learn the nature of the Laistrygones: the land, with its smooth roads, seems orderly - this, coupled with the placid harbor that greeted their arrival at Lamos, leads the reader to believe that this is a peaceful place - and the first person the posse meets is receptive and informative. This information, relayed mutedly by Homer, is reassuring: after their troubles with the Cyclopes and six days of sailing, it seems the voyagers will finally find rest. The positive (by now, more perceptive readers might call it ominous) signs continue - a glorious king's home awaits the sailors - until the shocking moment...

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