Book 6 – In which Odysseus Ruins a Perfectly Good Game of Football and has a Bath.
Once she was sure that Odysseus had washed up safely on the shores of Scherie, Athene paid a visit to Nausicaa, the beautiful daughter of Alcinous, King of the Phaeacians. Disguised as one of her closest friends, Dymas, the daughter of a ship’s captain. Teasing her that’s she’s far too lazy and slovenly to ever be married, she persuades Nausicaa to ask her father for a wagon to take all her dirty and disheveled clothes, and those of the household down to the washing pools.
So with a loaded mule-drawn wagon, Nausicaa set off, with her maids on foot behind. After washing the clothes, they spread them out to dry in the sun. They bathed and had some lunch, then started playing football (I’ll come clean, the book says they play with a ball, but as today it’s the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley, and I’ll be there, football it is!) and singing
football chants (Ok, I’ve gone too far. Fair enough).
At halftime they loaded up the wagon with the clean dry linen. Athene wanted Odysseus to wake up and see the beautiful princess who would be his escort to the Phaeacian city. As Nausicaa took a defensive shot to kick the ball out of play, Athene intervened and caused the ball to drop into the eddying current right in her own goal. The women’s shrieks woke Odysseus and he crept out from under the bushes where he’d slept, covering his manhood with a leafy bough. The women turned to each other for comfort afraid of this fierce sight before them.
Odysseus begged Nausicaa for mercy and pleaded his case. Abandoning the match, she called to her maids to help Odysseus wash, and to provide him with food and clean clothes. Then she agreed to accompany him to the city. Concerned that the local sailors would gossip if her party was seen to pass by with a strange man in tow, she advised Odysseus to wait in a sacred wood until they had arrived home safely, then to ask directions to the palace, walk directly through the courtyard and into the hall to beseech the help of her kind mother who was certain to hear his plea with sympathy.
After Nausicaa left him, Odysseus prayed once more to his champion, the goddess Athene, for a safe return. She heard his prayer, yet still did not reveal herself to him – she was probably too busy bullying some poor mortal into cleaning their windows!
(I am currently camping in a field in the rain. Unless I join the circus I’ll be back on the 9th August.)