Odysseus’s Craft in Phaiakia
Odysseus’s Craft in Phaiakia
Just like a sculpture, Odysseus is chiseled and defined, and one could get lost within the intricacies of his mind. But how does he take a situation, and make it so refined, that he may observe, plan, and contrive? How does he use this cunning to manipulate, and for himself thus provide? All whilst distressed and merely trying to survive? On a whole this might be hard to deduce, so let us disregard the goddesses that he managed to seduce. However, one must be mentioned, because it gives context in the lead up for the question. Furthermore, go past the majority of his trials, and towards one of the last. One that required cunning, yet not might. One that required stealth, but not terror or fright. One in which his feet need not be light. Up until this moment Odysseus had already traveled and endured hardships for many years, and this enabled him to introspect, and revel in his mind’s yields, and also to learn of crocodile tears. All of this led to one of his most humble deceptions, hidden behind his crafty guise, vailed with this, his own disguise. But how did he get to this point?
In brief summation, he fought many years, and upon victory, left with cheers. Cheers and praises to the gods, but still they were displeased and saw to it he be lost. Thus, leaving troy he dealt with numerous trials, including monsters, gods, and supernatural phenomenon. After the loss of much and many, he landed flat down on his tail. In the land of Kalypso, who he bedded, and both had cause to wail. Each night Odysseus wailed with lamentation, sad he was deprived of his people and his nation. However, all was not bad. He was treated well, and of this he could be glad. After seven years of this he was granted departure, the ocean swelled to meet him, and the wind began to prosper. With the gods’ graces he created a raft, and landed in Phaiakia, in which he created one of his most humble deceptions, crafted articulately, yet subtly, almost escaping one’s perception. So, in this instance, how did he manage to convert the event into one that made him gain much? How did he do so?
In Phaiakia, Odysseus uses his cunning to manipulate the kings into providing him a vast amount of riches and free passage home using four progressive steps, which shall be designated as pity, honor, credibility, and expansion.The base step, and predominant one, one that is used very strongly at the initiation then subtly intertwined throughout the rest, is that of Pity. In order to set the stage and avoid deliberation, first pity must be presented as a primary goal of Odysseus. After arrival in Phaiakia and meeting the daughter of the head king, he prays to “Atrytone child of Zeus of the aegis,” and pleads that he may “come, as one loved and pitied, among the Phaiakians,” (VI; 324-327) and thus his preliminary goal is ironed out. He then proceeds to meet the king and his wife, and upon supplication of her, askes that “conveyance be given quickly to [his] country, since long now from [his] people [he] suffers hardships” (VII; 151-152) which enables him to set the stage amongst the Phaiakians as one who wishes to be pitied. Then, once the king asks of who he is, he starts a purposeful episode of self-pity in which he describes himself in comparison to others, stating “whoever it is of people you know who wear the greatest burden of misery, such are the ones whom I would equal for pain endured,” and that he could “tell of still more troubles that are all [his] and by the will of the gods [he] suffered,” (VII; 211-214) which further lowers himself in status by evoking more of an emotional, pitiable though about him in the mind of the Phaiakian king.
However, this begs the question that as one so crafty and ever devious, why would he wish to belittle himself? Odysseus plans to ask the Phaiakians for much, and the importance of the pity step is that it allows him to be emotionally attached to by the king, and this serves to strengthen the entirety of his manipulation. By setting a lower starting point and allowing himself to be able to build upon it, he not only is able to show what kind of a man he is, but he is able to do so in a humbler way, which makes it so the Phaiakian king can both be attached to Odysseus during his trouble and through his later redemption. Furthermore, by starting off at a low point and initiating humbly, generosity is encouraged easier, and this generosity will be strived for at a later point in his scheme. After establishing this pity, he then goes on to counter his degradation with a display of strength.This ties into his gaining of Honor, which he does through showing his physical prowess. After songs and feasting, and the gathering of lesser kings, Alkinoos, the predominant leader, called for competitive games to follow. This was initially frowned upon by Odysseus, but once challenged he was able to see how this could help him win glory, and thus build upon his lower stature of one pitiable and gain honor. Choosing the competition of discus which he knew he could win by a far shot, Odysseus “laid hold of a discus that was a bigger and thicker one, heavier not by a little than the one the Phaiakians had used for their sport,” and “let this fly from his ponderous hand,” (VIII; 186-189) managing to make it land far out past the lighter discus thrown by the native men. The materialistic benefit of this was that, after a short deliberation, Alkinoos decided that they should give him “a gift of friendship, as is becoming,” (VIII; 389) which roughly amounted to 12 talents of gold, because of how highly he now regarded Odysseus, after once seeing him as one purely to be pitied and now as one strong and to be honored. However, the more important aspect of what transpired was how he was perceived after this because of his craftiness, which is shown through his choice of sport. Furthermore, this choice of sport was not merely a coincidence, but one calculated by Odysseus.
Knowing he was stronger than the more laid-back dancing men of Phaiakia, he would none-the-less far outperform the men in a strength contest, and even more so in one that required both strength and calculative though. So, Odysseus decided to perform in the discus event. Now, why did he choose a discus that far outweighed those the Phaiakians used? If he were to use one of the same disks, his strength would be shown, but not in such a surprising manner, and Odysseus knew this. So, using his calculative hand, and calculative mind, he let loose a feat of sport so extraordinary and amazing he gained twelve talents of gold and heaps of honor.Next, Odysseus sets up his credibility through a crafty ploy of using another’s status in the community. He uses the credibility of Demodokus, “prized among the people.” (VIII;472) This well-known singer among the Phaiakians is well versed in the stories surrounding the Trojan war, and this is a war in which the feats of Odysseus stand out above many others.
So, resourceful Odysseus notices this and in order to gain favor of the bard, enabling him to make a favorable song request, he essentially bribes Demodokus by offering him “a piece from the loin of [a] pig with most of the meat left on, and edged with rich fat,” (VIII; 475-476) and then by addressing the man as one he prizes above all the other mortals present. The craftiest part of this event is that Odysseus then requests in the third person for Demodokus to sing of his most proud and honorable moment, his grandest achievement. He asks Demodokus to “sing [to them of] the wooden hors the stratagem great Odysseus filled once with men,” (VIII; 492-494) which allowed the Trojan war to be won. And so, the highly prized bard sings, of the famous Odysseus who crafted the wooden horse, and “endured the grimmest fighting that ever he had,” (VIII; 519-520) and won it there, in Ilion. Because Odysseus gained the favor of the bard through gift and praise, the bard was more inclined to sing of his request, and this is why the crafty Odysseus did so. Furthermore, knowing how highly respected and trusted this bard was among the Phaiakians, he knew the word of this man was worth much more than his own so, by manipulating the bard into singing of him in his shining moment, he manipulated the entire crowd into seeing the side of his character that he wished them to, through piggybacking on the bard’s credibility.
The most devious and grand aspect of this manipulation was in the execution of it, and how Odysseus managed to instill this though, respect, and acknowledgement about him, all while remaining unknown to the crowd. By referring to himself in the third person and asking another to speak for him without the knowledge of him being there, Odysseus avoids bragging about himself, and manipulates another person to do so in his stead, who is much more credible and much more trusted by the people.This then leads on towards his Expansion stage, which is much briefer than those aforementioned; however, it is also the most powerful. In this stage, he has already built upon himself through craftiness and manipulation, and because of this he may brag freely, with the confidence he will not be reproached. Now, he may begin to glorify himself and tie together his qualities and status, finalizing his buildup from one pitied to one to be held in the highest regard. He proclaims, “I am Odysseus son of Laertes, known before all men for the study of crafty designs, and my fame goes up to the heavens,” (IX; 19-20) and mentions how he was desired by both the goddess Kalypso and the goddess Circe to be their individual husband. (IX; 29-30) The importance of him stating this about himself and bragging as the final step of his process in manipulation of the kings is that he is much more easily accepted, and he is also guaranteed to be known before all, all present that is. Because he was just mentioned in the room by the bard as one who devised the winning strategy for the Trojan war, his statement about being known before all for the study of crafty designs is made to be true inside of that room. Furthermore, after hearing songs about the feats of Odysseus, his fame is made present in the mind of each person contained in the room.
So, because he made this statement afterwards, what may not have been true beforehand is able to be stated as a fact afterward, and the kings are indirectly forced to agree. Furthermore, adding that he was desired by two goddesses after bragging with what was manipulated into the minds of the others, his credibility is not doubted, and the men agree with his brag, and see Odysseus in an even grander light. This grander light upon Odysseus then leads to the king Alkinoos guaranteeing the safe passage of Odysseus along with all of his new, gifted possessions. (XI; 4-5)The first step of pity set the base for all the rest to follow and build upon, and highlights the extremities that Odysseus is willing to pass through in order to devise a grand manipulation. This step also cements an emotional connection between Alkinoos and the character of Odysseus, which makes him much more likely to be generous towards Odysseus. Then, Odysseus takes this base and builds honor atop of it, through displaying his prowess in an extraordinary fashion, of which he was much devising choosing the competition he did so with. Because of this, he was viewed in an honorable light by Alkinoos, who already had a connection with Odysseus, and this inspired Alkinoos to ask the lesser kings to donate 12 talents of gold to him, converting him from a beggar to a rich man. Third, Odysseus built upon his own credibility using the well-respected, admired singer, Demodokus. He did so by first manipulating Demodokus to like him, and then by having the bard sing of Odysseus’ grandest, most proud accomplishments, making himself known to all in his most favorable light through another person, whilst keeping it hidden who he is and speaking in the third person.
Lastly, Odysseus ties this all together, by starting his expansion stage, and bragging about himself before all, making himself appear bigger than life, and forcing himself to be respected for who he has been portrayed as. This then leads the king to promise beyond all doubt he will be conveyed safe passage home, because of who he is. Thus, through his craft in using the four steps of pity, honor, credibility, and expansion, Odysseus effectively used his cunning to manipulate the kings of Phaiakia into providing him with vast amounts of riches, and a safe passage home.
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