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What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero?

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In mythology, heroes were considered to be any man who fights and defeats monsters. To become a hero, heroes in mythology had to go through a hero’s journey which would then make them a hero that everyone knows. In The Odyssey by Homer, a narration of The Odyssey reveals that Odysseus is a hero in this story. The definition of hero has changed throughout history but the meaning from the past and present are still very similar. The modern idea of a superhero is some type of person with super powers or superhuman qualities but not all heroes are like that. There are also heroes in mythology who do not have superpowers but due to their actions, they are considered heroes. An example of a modern hero that is similar to Odysseus is Captain America from the 2014 movie The Winter Soldier because of his actions which led to beating the villains of the story and because he fought in a war making him a veteran. Captain America is a famous hero in the Marvel Universe due to his heroism in World War II and because of his heroic actions which in the end, defeat the villain Thanos. As a hero, some of Odysseus’ actions were controversial but in the end, we can see that his intentions were pure hearted showing heroic traits along the way. At first, Odysseus does not show heroism which stops him from making it back home but as time progresses, it is through his heroic traits that he is able to make it back home. Throughout the book, it is due to Odysseus’ actions and his hero’s journey that makes him similar to Captain America which makes him heroic or hero-like in this story.

It is very clear that every renown hero goes through a hero’s journey to become the hero they are today just like Odysseus. In the Odyssey, Oydsseus lives peacefully at his home with his family, but is then called out to the Trojan War. He fights in the trojan war for 10 years and afterwards, he departs on a journey back to his home. Odysseus and his crew fight off many monsters such as the cicones and lotus eaters. Odysseus and his men then travel to the one-eyed giant’s cave in which they fight him off to survive:

I chopped off a fathom’s length,

rolled it to comrades, told them to plane it down,

and they made the club smooth as I bent and shaved

the tip to a stabbing point. I turned it over

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the blazing fire to char it good and hard,

then hid it well, buried deep under the dung… (9.363-368)

Through Odysseus’ smart tactics and careful planning, he was able to escape the cave in which he then travels to Aiolis’ land which he then gets the Bag of Winds. He almost reaches his homelands but then his men open up the bag which blows their ship to the island of the laestrygonians. He barely survives their attacks and reaches Circe’s Island. Along the way, there were many companions who helped Odysseus and his men to reach these Islands such as gods, goddesses and kings. When Odysseus reaches Circe’s Island, half of his men is turned into pigs. As the hero we know, Odysseus seeks out to fight Circe but with the help of Hermes, “Look, here is a potent drug. Take it to Circe’s halls its power alone will shield you from the fatal day” (10.318-319). Odysseus would have definitely died there along with his men if it were not for Hermes. After one year, Odysseus leaves to the Underworld. Odysseus goes through a mini hero’s journey in the middle of his main journey. From Circe’s Island to the Underworld and back, Odysseus and his crew go through a second hero’s journey. Similar to Hermes, Athena is another god who helps Odysseus in his journey. During this time, Athena decides to also help Odysseus reach his home. She assists Odysseus immensely throughout his journey due to the fact that she favors him. Athena is the goddess of war and wisdom and since Odysseus fought on the Greek side of the war, she decides to help him get home. In Odysseus homelands, Athena aids Odysseus travel home by telling Telemachus how to find his father, “I have some good advice, if only you will accept it. Fit out a ship with twenty oars, the best in sight, sail in quest of news of your long-lost father” (1.321). Odysseus and his men is then confronted by Zeus for killing Helios’ cattle which kills all of his men. He floats on the vast ocean on a wooden plank to Circe’s Island which he is trapped on for many more years. Finally, he gets help from Hermes to free him and he reaches home in which he sees many suitors trying to win over his wife and marry her. He kills all of them and which finishes his hero’s journey after 20 years. Through this long journey that Odysseus goes through, we can see how this hero’s journey that include fighting monsters and traveling to the underworld makes Odysseus a great hero in mythological times.

Although Odysseus was a hero in mythological times, he is still comparable to other modern time heroes such as Captain America. To become a hero, a necessary component is to defeat villains or protagonists of the story. In the movie, The Civil War, Captain America must fight the antagonist Bucky which is a good old friend of his who has been taken over by the evil group known as Hydra. In the end, Captain America destroys Hydra but is also able to convert his friend back into his normal state. He shows compassion for the antagonist and is able to break the mind control they have over him in order to save his friend. Odysseus also fights off many monsters in his Hero’s Journey making him very similar to Captain America who had to fight many protagonists such as Red Skull or Bucky which is why they are considered a hero. Also similar to Captain America, Odysseus shows compassion and care for his crew like how Captain America does so to Bucky, “But I brought them back, back to the hollow ships, and I streaming tears- I forced them, hauled them under the rowing benches, lashed them fast and shout out commands to my other, steady comrades” (9.110-113). Odysseus shows many traits and characteristics of compassion and selflessness similar to Captain America who is a well known Hero. Captain America is also known to be a hero because of his heroic spirit. From the movie, The Winter Soldier, Captain America meets Peggy Carter seventy years later and tells her that “for as long as I can remember, I just wanted to do what was right”. This defining characteristic of heroic spirit makes Captain America the leader and hero that he is known for. Odysseus is similar in which he has a great leadership prowess that allowed him to lead his crew out of many life and death situations. However, some people may say how Odysseus is actually a villain in this story instead of a hero

Although Odysseus shows heroic qualities due to his actions and beliefs, some may say that he is actually closer to a villain than a hero. They would argue that Odysseus is actually a villain because of his lack of care for his crew and how he exploits them which leads them to their deaths. After his crew kill Helios cattle, they depart to sea but Zeus destroys his ship leaving Odysseus hanging onto a piece of plywood in the vast ocean, “But I held on, dead set… waiting for her to vomit my mast and keel back up again” (12.471-472). His whole crew died due to these many events but in reality, this is actually not his fault. Odysseus had warned his crew to not eat the sheep because it was the sun gods but they do it anyways and then zeus decides to kill them. Another argument is that Odysseus is a monster for killing the suitors who did not have weapons, “With that he trained a stabbing arrow on Antinous” (22.8). The suitors were living off of his wealth and his land trying to seduce his wife to marry them. Odysseus killed them to stop them from trying to seduce his wife and take his land. Even though some may say that due to these actions, Odysseus is actually he evil-doer of the story, we see that he is in the right when he does these things.

Ultimately, it is clear that Odysseus is a hero due to his heroic actions and beliefs. Through Odysseus’ hero’s journey and his heroic spirit, Odysseus proves that he is a hero in this story. He fights monsters and antagonists while showing heroic traits which make him heroic-like just like Captain America. Captain America shows heroism and heroic spirit which allows him to lead others and prove that he is a hero. These heroic qualities that Odysseus and Captain America possess set a precedent for future heroic characters in literature.

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What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero? (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-makes-odysseus-the-epic-hero/
“What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero?” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/what-makes-odysseus-the-epic-hero/
What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-makes-odysseus-the-epic-hero/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
What Makes Odysseus The Epic Hero? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/what-makes-odysseus-the-epic-hero/
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