Acting on Athena's advice, Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, seeks out his slave Eumaeus. Without recognising his true identity, Eumaeus tells the beggar that he has lost "the best of masters", and offers him food and wine in exchange for his stories. Eumaeus tells Odysseus that his son Telemachus has travelled to Pylos, and that the Suitors have planned to ambush him on his return.
Odysseus concocts another fictitious backstory: he is the illegitimate son of a wealthy Cretan who grew up to be a respected military leader. He fought in the Trojan War and survived, then sailed to Egypt, where his men flew into a frenzy and laid waste to everything they saw. He surrendered to the Egyptian king, and was later taken to Phoenicia, where he was tricked into boarding a ship to be sold into slavery. The ship sank in a storm, and he clung to the wrecked mast for nine days. His story continues, island by island. In each place he has built a good reputation, only to be tricked, abused and stripped of his possessions.
Athena visits Telemachus in Pylos, and warns him of the Suitors' ambush, offering assurance that she will protect him from them. Telemachus narrowly escapes back to Ithaca, and rushes to Eumaeus' house, where the swineherd and the beggar are still talking. Athena commands Odysseus to reveal his true identity to his son. They weep and embrace.
Odysseus returns, in disguise, to his house. The Suitors mock and insult him. Unrecognised, he speaks with Penelope, and tells her that he met Odysseus in Crete. Penelope's servant Eurycleia washes the old beggar's feet, and recognises Odysseus' hunting scar, but Athena intervenes so that Penelope cannot hear what she is trying to say. Eurycleia is sworn to secrecy. Another beggar shouts abuse at Odysseus, and Odysseus is goaded into fighting with him. Odysseus breaks the man's skull with a single blow.
Penelope orders the Suitors to work harder for her affections, and demands that they compete for her in an archery tournament. The disguised Odysseus tells her that before the tournament is over, her husband will return and win it. Odysseus sleeps fitfully in a cloister of the palace, brooding over how he should exact his revenge.
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