The story of The Odyssey was greatly influence by the Greek gods. Throughout the book, the gods influence characters, greatly having an effect on the outcome of those characters. In the story, Telemakhos, son of Odysseus, is one of those dynamic characters, morphing from a distraught boy to a hero of great proportions. Although there are many gods, it was mainly Athena who had a part in his transformation. His change is constant and occurs during the entirety of the story, however, there are a few key times when Athens presence really pushes him closer to being that ideal Greek hero. These few times include when Athena first visits him in his fathers hall in book I, when he is next visited by Athena during his journey in the house of Menelaus in book XV, then finally when she appears in the house of Odysseus in books XXI and XXII.
Initially we meet Telemakhos sitting in his father’s great hall, gloomy and depressed over his father’s absence. This causes him to not immediately see a man at the door, Mentes, who is disguised, but is actually Athena. They begin to talk about his father, and Telemakhos is clearly in anguish, but has so far done nothing, having lost hope as seen in lines 206 and 207. Athena then makes it clear in lines 320 through 338 that he must go and look for new about his father and to firs throw out the suitors. Up until this point Telemakhos had been simply a distraught boy, however, Athena’s first message causes him to leap into action, not only giving hima goal, but hope too.
He now has started his change with the help of a goddess, beginning to show signs of bravery when he stand sup to the suitors and delivers a strong speech, “Telemakhos’ brave speaking stunned them so.” Telemakhos already has this inside of him though, all that was needed was Athena’s push to help. Now being motivated, he also displays great loyalty, not only to the gods, but to his father. After all these years all it takes is a message to re-kindle the fire to look for his father. Additionally, he believes he was in the presence of a god, not simply Mentes, so he has great loyalty to what the gods tell him as well as a loyalty to his father. All three of these attributes are the beginning of his transformation into an ideal Greek hero, that hero being someone that is loyal and brave.
As the story continues to play out, Telemakhos begins his quest for news about his father and after some time, Athena intervenes again. In lines 16 and 17 of book XV, Athena speaks to him, saying, “The brave thing now, Telemakhos, would be to end this journey far from home.” By this point, he has grown from a young man to now an honored brave man, beginning to be more and more like a hero. He has now been searching for his father a long time and although he has been brave in his voyage, he knows that the trip will be fruitless. The trip he embarked on was originally to find his father, however now it is only a way of denying the fact that he is gone, the trip being the last thing that can keep the hope alive of his father returning home. Athena now comes and tells him that he must return home though, to give up on his journey.
To be able to do this Telemakhos must be very brave, knowing that he is giving up the last hope for his father, and to do that is to be more brave than he could be facing any ordeal on his journey. However, he also must be very loyal to the gods, to just accept what they say and do that is being very loyal. Now at this point, he knows that his trip will be fruitless, but he must be brave and loyal to do what Athena tells him to do, even though he knows he already must. Now, Telemakhos already knows what he must do, and he must be brave and loyal to do so, however it takes the influence of Athena to once again bring that out. He is now even closer to being a Greek hero, now being both loyal to his father, and the gods, but also proving his bravery in two ways.
Telemakhos’ transformation is complete when he fights alongside his father in his own great hall. As of now, Telemakhos has returned home with his father, and they are both now in their house, but the suitors continue to feast on their food and drink. At first, in book XXI, he stands up to the suitors to protect his disguised father. Now, he has finally stood up to his longtime enemy, showing courage and loyalty to his father. However, it is when Athena once again steps in when Telemakhos becomes a hero.
Soon after defending his father, his father shows his true identity and begins to fight with the suitors. Now, as they fight and are outnumbered, Odysseus begins to falter, and it is then that Athena yells at him, “Where is your valor, where is the iron hand that fought at troy for Helen.” This is almost a taunt, and Telemakhos answers it, stepping up and fighting like a man alongside his father. By now, Telemakhos is a full blown hero, defending his own great hall alongside his father, even when his own father faltered. However it took Athena’s taunt to push him over that final cliff, even when he already had it inside of him, as he always did.
Overall, Athena’s role is very important, but so is Telemakhos himself. Telemakhos has always had it inside of him to be the Greek hero he ends up as, however the gods influence is what is needed to change him from that boy full of anguish to a hero that defends his own hall. He was at one time that child, but after meeting Athena for the first time and his journey, he became a man, but didn’t become a hero until he did what another could not in a time of need. He changed from that child to a Greek hero who is loyal, brave courageous, and strong because of those few times when the gods intervened.
Courtney from Study Moose