Felson, Nancy. 2023. “Multi-layered Mentoring in the Odyssey.” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25. https://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:103900172.
Part I: Athena as Mentor
In the second exchange, in Book 24 Athena asks her father (24.473–476) whether the Ithacan factions are to have “evil fighting and terrible strife, or friendship.” Zeus replies (24.478–480):
τέκνον ἐμόν, τί με ταῦτα διείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾷς;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ τοῦτον μὲν ἐβούλευσας νόον αὐτή,
ὡς ἦ τοι κείνους Ὀδυσεὺς ἀποτίσεται ἐλθών;
My child, why do you ask and question me in these matters?
For was not this your own intention, as you have counseled it,
how Odysseus should make his way back, and punish those others?
Here Zeus affirms Athena’s role as “the guiding hand of the poet”  —in charge of the nostos and tisis plots. He sees her as a cunning schemer who moves the plot along. The plans she initiates have enabled Odysseus to reach his home, despite Poseidon’s obstructions. The opposing actions of Athena and Poseidon have given structure to the Odyssey plot. The epic ends when Athena is satisfied, and Poseidon will be placated by Odysseus’ planting of the oar. 
Part II. Athena and Telemachus
After her consultation with Zeus on Olympus (1.26–95), Athena arrives in Ithaca to fill that void. Her purpose, as she told Zeus, is to make her way to Ithaca,
ὄφρα οἱ υἱὸν
μᾶλλον ἐποτρύνω καί οἱ μένος ἐν φρεσὶ θείω,
90 εἰς ἀγορὴν καλέσαντα κάρη κομόωντας Ἀχαιοὺς
πᾶσι μνηστήρεσσιν ἀπειπέμεν, οἵ τέ οἱ αἰεὶ
μῆλ᾽ ἁδινὰ σφάζουσι καὶ εἰλίποδας ἕλικας βοῦς.
πέμψω δ᾽ ἐς Σπάρτην τε καὶ ἐς Πύλον ἠμαθόεντα
νόστον πευσόμενον πατρὸς φίλου, ἤν που ἀκούσῃ,
95 ἠδ᾽ ἵνα μιν κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχῃσιν.
so that I may
stir up the son a little, and put some manly vigor (menos  ) in him
to summon into assembly the flowing-haired Achaeans
and make a statement to all the suitors, who now forever
slaughter his crowding sheep and lumbering horn-curved cattle;
and I will convey him into Sparta and to sandy Pylos
to ask after his dear father’s homecoming, if he can hear something,
and so that among people he may win a good reputation (kleos esthlon).
Athena arrives at the threshold of the courtyard in Ithaca disguised as Mentes, the leader of the Taphians (105). There the suitors are gathered. Telemachus, the first to spot her, offers hospitality. As they converse (120–323), he tells Athena/Mentes what is going on in the palace and expresses his despair over the probable death of his father. Questioned, the goddess identifies herself as Mentes, guest-friend of Laertes (187–189). She listens attentively and, point for point, addresses his concerns. For example, after she learns about the current sorry state of the palace and hears his fantasy about what would happen “were they to see him return…” (163–165), she offers her own corresponding fantasy of Odysseus’ returning:
εἰ γὰρ νῦν ἐλθὼν δόμου ἐν πρώτῃσι θύρῃσι
σταίη, ἔχων πήληκα καὶ ἀσπίδα καὶ δύο δοῦρε,
τοῖος ἐὼν οἷόν μιν ἐγὼ τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ἐνόησα …
I wish he could come now to stand in the outer doorway
of his house, wearing a helmet and carrying a shield and two spears,
the way he was the first time that ever I saw him …
Their shared image of Odysseus at the threshold picks up on Telemachus’ daydream before her arrival, when as he sat among the suitors, his heart was deep grieving with him,
ὀσσόμενος πατέρ᾽ ἐσθλὸν ἐνὶ φρεσίν, εἴ ποθεν ἐλθὼν
μνηστήρων τῶν μὲν σκέδασιν κατὰ δώματα θείη,
τιμὴν δ᾽ αὐτὸς ἔχοι καὶ δώμασιν οἷσιν ἀνάσσοι.
imagining in his mind his great father, how he might come back
and throughout the house might cause the suitors to scatter,
and hold his rightful place and be lord of his own possessions.
When he claims his father has died by an evil fate (166) and lost his day of homecoming (168), his guest assures him that “no death on the land has befallen the great Odysseus.” She attributes his long delay to captivity by savages (196–199), sparing him the mention of his father’s dalliance with the nymph Calypso. Then she predicts his imminent return:
οὔ τοι ἔτι δηρόν γε φίλης ἀπὸ πατρίδος αἴης
ἔσσεται, οὐδ᾽ εἴ πέρ τε σιδήρεα δέσματ᾽ ἔχῃσιν·
φράσσεται ὥς κε νέηται, ἐπεὶ πολυμήχανός ἐστιν.
He will not long be absent from the beloved land of his fathers.
even if the bonds that hold him are iron, but he will be thinking (phrassetai)
of a way to come back, since he is a man of many resources (polymechanos).
Telemachus, still unsure of his own identity, complains that “Nobody really knows his own father” (216: οὐ γάρ πώ τις ἑὸν γόνον αὐτὸς ἀνέγνω).  Athena/Mentes counters by highlighting his physical resemblance to his absent father (208–209). To his vehement claim that the gods have caused his father to disappear (235) and the storm winds have carried him away, out of sight, out of knowledge (241–242), she responds with empathy and wishful thinking:
τοῖος ἐὼν μνηστῆρσιν ὁμιλήσειεν Ὀδυσσεύς·
πάντες κ᾽ ὠκύμοροί τε γενοίατο πικρόγαμοί τε.
I wish that such an Odysseus would come now among the suitors.
Then all would find death was quick, and marriage a painful matter.
The more Athena/Mentes shares Telemachus’ wish for Odysseus’ return, the stronger their bond. They are becoming likeminded. The goddess is enterprising and resourceful (polymechanos), like her protegee. Using a maxim, she shifts from the optative to the indicative mood:
ἀλλ᾽ ἦ τοι μὲν ταῦτα θεῶν ἐν γούνασι κεῖται,
ἤ κεν νοστήσας ἀποτίσεται, ἦε καὶ οὐκί,
οἷσιν ἐνὶ μεγάροισι· σὲ δὲ φράζεσθαι ἄνωγα,
ὅππως κε μνηστῆρας ἀπώσεαι ἐκ μεγάροιο.
But these things are lying upon the gods’ knees:
whether he will come home to his vengeance, here in his household,
or whether he will not. Rather I will urge you to consider
some means by which you can force the suitors out of your household.
Turning to practical matters, she issues a series of orders that detail how he can thrust the suitors from the palace should his father not return (1.269–305). She proposes a set of “if-then” options that give him leeway to exercise his judgment as time moves forward. Citing the example of young Orestes exacting vengeance in Mycenae (1.298–302). She exhorts Telemachus to emulate him.
This combination of empathy and authority provides interpreters with a model for effective mentoring. To prepares a youth psychologically and practically for the tasks he will face, the mentor has to
- establish credentials (a connection to the father or patriline);
- listen to the mentee’s issues and complaints (as a way of showing respect);
- echo some of the mentee’s diction and concerns;
- not have a personal agenda that contradicts the interests of the mentee;
- reassure the mentee of his capability (often by stating “You are your father’s son”);
- exhort the mentee to act;
- offer to stand by (like Mentor in Book 2);
The model I’ve extracted is emergent. And as with Proppian functions,  not all the elements will be present in every example of mentoring. But if too many elements are missing, the mentee will not advance toward manhood and self-actualization. And he will not heed the advice offered by the mentor unless the mentor has already established rapport. 
Curiously, Nestor intuits what is already happening in Telemachus’ life, though he does not realize that Mentor is Athena:
εἰ γάρ σ᾽ ὣς ἐθέλοι φιλέειν γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
ὡς τότ᾽ Ὀδυσσῆος περικήδετο κυδαλίμοιο
220 δήμῳ ἔνι Τρώων, ὅθι πάσχομεν ἄλγε᾽ Ἀχαιοί—
οὐ γάρ πω ἴδον ὧδε θεοὺς ἀναφανδὰ φιλεῦντας,
ὡς κείνῳ ἀναφανδὰ παρίστατο Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη—
εἴ σ᾽ οὕτως ἐθέλοι φιλέειν κήδοιτό τε θυμῷ,
τῶ κέν τις κείνων γε καὶ ἐκλελάθοιτο γάμοιο.
If only gray-eyed Athena would deign to love you as in
those days she used so to take care of glorious Odysseus
in the Trojan country, where we Achaeans suffered miseries;
For I never saw the gods showing such open affection
as Pallas Athena, the way she stood beside him, openly;
if she would deign to love you as she did him, and care for you
in her heart, then some of those people might well forget about marrying.
Part III. Athena and Odysseus
In Book 13, when the Phaeacian sailors have deposited a sleeping Odysseus on the Ithacan shores, Athena, in the guise of a young shepherd, greets him (13.221–224). They are alike in so many ways. She is a shapeshifter and a liar, he a liar and a skeptic. Both are pragmatic (polykerdeos, polymechanos). They banter on the shores of Ithaca, engaging in dialogue and repartee. In response to his lie about his identity and origins, taking the shape of a beautiful and tall women, Athena gives him (and us as interpreters) the most complete and most appreciative description of his character in the entire poem:
κερδαλέος κ᾽ εἴη καὶ ἐπίκλοπος ὅς σε παρέλθοι
ἐν πάντεσσι δόλοισι, καὶ εἰ θεὸς ἀντιάσειε.
σχέτλιε, ποικιλομῆτα, δόλων ἆτ᾽, οὐκ ἄρ᾽ ἔμελλες,
οὐδ᾽ ἐν σῇ περ ἐὼν γαίῃ, λήξειν ἀπατάων
295 μύθων τε κλοπίων, οἵ τοι πεδόθεν φίλοι εἰσίν.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε, μηκέτι ταῦτα λεγώμεθα, εἰδότες ἄμφω
κέρδε᾽, ἐπεὶ σὺ μέν ἐσσι βροτῶν ὄχ᾽ ἄριστος ἁπάντων
βουλῇ καὶ μύθοισιν, ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἐν πᾶσι θεοῖσι
μήτι τε κλέομαι καὶ κέρδεσιν: οὐδὲ σύ γ᾽ ἔγνως
300 Παλλάδ᾽ Ἀθηναίην, κούρην Διός, ἥ τέ τοι αἰεὶ
ἐν πάντεσσι πόνοισι παρίσταμαι ἠδὲ φυλάσσω.
It would be a sharp one, and a stealthy one, who would ever get past you
in any contriving; even if it were a god against you.
You wretch, so devious, never weary of tricks, then you would not
even in your own country give over your ways of deceiving
and your thievish tales. They are near to you in your very nature.
But come, let us talk no more of this, for you and I both know
sharp practice, since you are far the best of all mortal
men for counsel and stories, and I among all the divinities
am famous for wit and sharpness; and yet you never recognized
Pallas Athena, daughter of Zeus, the one who is always
standing beside you and guarding you in every endeavor.
Odysseus complains of her prolonged abandonment of him and adds that it is difficult, even for a man of good understanding, to recognize her, for she assumes every shape (13.312–313). When he persists in being skeptical, she adds new descriptive terms, thereby further consolidating and even sanctioning his identity:
αἰεί τοι τοιοῦτον ἐνὶ στήθεσσι νόημα:
τῷ σε καὶ οὐ δύναμαι προλιπεῖν δύστηνον ἐόντα,
οὕνεκ᾽ ἐπητής ἐσσι καὶ ἀγχίνοος καὶ ἐχέφρων.
Always you are the same, and such is the mind within you,
and so I cannot abandon you when you are unhappy,
because you are fluent, and reason closely, and keep your head always.
Then the goddess coaches Odysseus, helping him devise his plans, and warning him to endure much grief in silence, and not to reveal his identity. She treats him as if he were a youth coming of age, and he heeds her advice. He moves, in faltering steps, toward full agency in his recovery of his wife and in his triumph over the suitors. Later, in Book 16, outside Eumaeus’ lodging, Athena suggests he not keep his identity from his son, and he complies. This, as well as his offer of his seat to Telemachus, sets the tone for his eventual success at mentoring Telemachus.
Odysseus and Euryalus
On the island of Scheria—his last stop before reaching Ithaca—Odysseus encounters two youths, of whose rudeness princess Nausicaa has forewarned him. Not knowing who he is, they see him as a stranger with no status at all. When Leodamas invites him to participate in the games, he holds back, telling the prince that his priority is to get home:
Λαοδάμα, τί με ταῦτα κελεύετε κερτομέοντες;
κήδεά μοι καὶ μᾶλλον ἐνὶ φρεσὶν ἤ περ ἄεθλοι,
ὃς πρὶν μὲν μάλα πολλὰ πάθον καὶ πολλὰ μόγησα,
νῦν δὲ μεθ’ ὑμετέρῃ ἀγορῇ νόστοιο χατίζων
ἧμαι, λισσόμενος βασιλῆά τε πάντα τε δῆμον.
Laodamas, why do you all urge me on provocatively
to do these things? Cares are more on my mind than games are,
I who before this have suffered much and had many hardships,
and sit here now in the middle of your assembly, longing
to go home, entreating your king for this, and all his people.
Euryalus then mocks the stranger, likening him to a merchant and not an athlete:
οὐ γάρ σ’ οὐδέ, ξεῖνε, δαήμονι φωτὶ ἐίσκω
160 ἄθλων, οἷά τε πολλὰ μετ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται,
ἀλλὰ τῷ, ὅς θ’ ἅμα νηὶ πολυκλήιδι θαμίζων,
ἀρχὸς ναυτάων οἵ τε πρηκτῆρες ἔασιν,
φόρτου τε μνήμων καὶ ἐπίσκοπος ᾖσιν ὁδαίων
κερδέων θ’ ἁρπαλέων· οὐδ’ ἀθλητῆρι ἔοικας.
No, stranger, for I do not see that you are like one versed
in contests, such as now are practiced much among people,
but rather to one who plies his ways in his many-locked vessel,
master over mariners who also are men of business,
a man who, careful of his cargo and grasping of profits,
goes carefully on his way. You do not resemble an athlete.
Provoked, Odysseus chides Euryalus. He calls his mind worthless and his words graceless. They spar.  His rebuke matches the youth’s insult and uses some of the same diction:
ξεῖν’, οὐ καλὸν ἔειπες· ἀτασθάλῳ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
οὕτως οὐ πάντεσσι θεοὶ χαρίεντα διδοῦσιν
ἀνδράσιν, οὔτε φυὴν οὔτ’ ἂρ φρένας οὔτ’ ἀγορητύν.
ἄλλος μὲν γάρ τ’ εἶδος ἀκιδνότερος πέλει ἀνήρ,
170 ἀλλὰ θεὸς μορφὴν ἔπεσι στέφει, οἱ δέ τ’ ἐς αὐτὸν
τερπόμενοι λεύσσουσιν· ὁ δ’ ἀσφαλέως ἀγορεύει
αἰδοῖ μειλιχίῃ, μετὰ δὲ πρέπει ἀγρομένοισιν,
ἐρχόμενον δ’ ἀνὰ ἄστυ θεὸν ὣς εἰσορόωσιν.
ἄλλος δ’ αὖ εἶδος μὲν ἀλίγκιος ἀθανάτοισιν,
175 ἀλλ’ οὔ οἱ χάρις ἀμφιπεριστέφεται ἐπέεσσιν,
ὡς καὶ σοὶ εἶδος μὲν ἀριπρεπές, οὐδέ κεν ἄλλως
οὐδὲ θεὸς τεύξειε, νόον δ’ ἀποφώλιός ἐσσι.
My friend, that was not well spoken; you seem like one a man who is reckless.
So it is that the gods do not bestow graces in all ways
on men, neither in stature nor yet in brains or eloquence;
for there is a certain kind of man, less noted for beauty,
but the god puts comeliness on his words, and they who look toward him
are filled with joy at the sight, and he speaks to them without faltering
in winning modesty, and shines among those who are gathered,
and people look on him as on a god when he walks in the city.
Another again in his appearance is like the immortals,
but upon his words there is no grace distilled, as in your case
the appearance is conspicuous, and not a god even
would make it otherwise, and yet the mind there is worthless.
The lengthy maxim—a generalization that he applies to the case in hand in the last two lines—lacks any suggestion of a pathway to improvement, or a strategy for combining good looks with intelligence and graceful words. Since Odysseus, as an outsider, has no standing with Euryalus, only a directive from the king can set the youth back on track.
In competing with the Phaeacian youths, Odysseus does not behave like a confident adult. Instead, he acts as if he is on their level, even though he belongs to an older generation. He is caught up with his own narrative role as an athletic hero, and he has some self-doubt over whether his menos (life-force) is still intact. His self-preoccupation interferes with his ability to guide a wayward youth.
… ἐγὼ δ’ οὐ νῆις ἀέθλων,
180 ὡς σύ γε μυθεῖαι, ἀλλ’ ἐν πρώτοισιν ὀίω
ἔμμεναι, ὄφρ’ ἥβῃ τε πεποίθεα χερσί τ’ ἐμῇσι.
νῦν δ’ ἔχομαι κακότητι καὶ ἄλγεσι· πολλὰ γὰρ ἔτλην
ἀνδρῶν τε πτολέμους ἀλεγεινά τε κύματα πείρων.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὥς, κακὰ πολλὰ παθών, πειρήσομ’ ἀέθλων·
185 θυμοδακὴς γὰρ μῦθος, ἐπώτρυνας δέ με εἰπών.
… I am not such a new hand
at games as you say, but always, as I think, I have been
among the best when I still had trust in youth (hebe) and hands’ strength.
Now I am held in evil condition and pain; for I had much
to suffer: the wars of men; hard crossing of the big waters.
But even so for all my troubles I will try your contests,
for your word bit in the heart, and you have stirred me by speaking.
Reflecting on his own capacities as an athlete (8.204–233), Odysseus boasts: “I am not bad in any of the contests where men strive” (214). He cites Philoctetes alone as surpassing him in archery (219). And he refuses to compare himself to men of earlier generations—Heracles or Eurytus of Oechalia—who competed against the immortals with the bow (223–229). 
Odysseus and Amphinomus (18.112–157)
Amphinomus is the most sympathetic and least reckless of Penelope’s suitors, the third ranked and said (by Athena) to be the favorite of Penelope for his good sense and discretion (16.398). Twice he opposes Antinous, persuading the other suitors not to murder Telemachus (16.400–405 and 20.240–247). Without having witnessed either of these scenes, Odysseus singles out Amphinomus as a youth with good sense and good lineage. And when he wishes the stranger future prosperity, Amphinomus uses the same formulaic, respectful address as Euryalus: pater o xeine, “father and stranger” (18.122–123).
Ζεύς τοι δοίη, ξεῖνε, καὶ ἀθάνατοι θεοὶ ἄλλοι,
ὅττι μάλιστ’ ἐθέλεις καί τοι φίλον ἔπλετο θυμῷ,
ὃς τοῦτον τὸν ἄναλτον ἀλητεύειν ἀπέπαυσας
ἐν δήμῳ· τάχα γάρ μιν ἀνάξομεν ἤπειρόνδε
εἰς Ἔχετον βασιλῆα, βροτῶν δηλήμονα πάντων.
May Zeus, stranger, and all the other immortals give you
what you want most of all and what is dear to your spirit,
for having stopped the wandering of this greedy creature
in our neighborhood. Soon we will take him across to the mainland
to Echetus, who preys on all men, and who is king there.
χαῖρε, πάτερ ὦ ξεῖνε, γένοιτό τοι ἔς περ ὀπίσσω
ὄλβος· ἀτὰρ μὲν νῦν γε κακοῖς ἔχεαι πολέεσσι.
Your health, father and stranger; may prosperous days befall you
hereafter; but now you are held in the grip of many misfortunes.
Though it ends in failure, their subsequent exchange has features of good mentoring. Odysseus begins appropriately by complimenting Amphinomus on his prudence and his lineage; then he urges him to listen to his advice:
Ἀμφίνομ᾽, ἦ μάλα μοι δοκέεις πεπνυμένος εἶναι·
τοίου γὰρ καὶ πατρός, ἐπεὶ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἄκουον,
Νῖσον Δουλιχιῆα ἐύν τ᾽ ἔμεν ἀφνειόν τε·
τοῦ σ᾽ ἔκ φασι γενέσθαι, ἐπητῇ δ᾽ ἀνδρὶ ἔοικας.
τοὔνεκά τοι ἐρέω, σὺ δὲ σύνθεο καί μευ ἄκουσον.
Amphinomus, you seem to be very prudent, being
the son of such a father, whose excellent fame I have heard of,
Nisos, that is, of Doulichion, both strong and prosperous;
they say you are his son, and you seem like a man well-spoken.
So I will tell you, and you in turn understand and listen.
Odysseus illustrates how helpless humans are and how precarious are their fortunes:
130 οὐδὲν ἀκιδνότερον γαῖα τρέφει ἀνθρώποιο,
πάντων ὅσσα τε γαῖαν ἔπι πνείει τε καὶ ἕρπει.
οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτέ φησι κακὸν πείσεσθαι ὀπίσσω,
ὄφρ᾽ ἀρετὴν παρέχωσι θεοὶ καὶ γούνατ᾽ ὀρώρῃ·
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ καὶ λυγρὰ θεοὶ μάκαρες τελέσωσι,
135 καὶ τὰ φέρει ἀεκαζόμενος τετληότι θυμῷ·
τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
οἷον ἐπ᾽ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.
Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.
For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the father of gods and men, day by day, bestows upon them.
As a negative exemplum of someone who, through reckless acts, fell into his present misfortune, he points to his fabricated personal story:
καὶ γὰρ ἐγώ ποτ᾽ ἔμελλον ἐν ἀνδράσιν ὄλβιος εἶναι,
πολλὰ δ᾽ ἀτάσθαλ᾽ ἔρεξα βίῃ καὶ κάρτεϊ εἴκων,
πατρί τ᾽ ἐμῷ πίσυνος καὶ ἐμοῖσι κασιγνήτοισι.
For I myself once promised to be a man of prosperity,
but, giving way to force and violence, did many reckless
things, because I relied on my father and brothers.
Then he explicitly draws out the lesson for his potential mentee:
τῷ μή τίς ποτε πάμπαν ἀνὴρ ἀθεμίστιος εἴη,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ γε σιγῇ δῶρα θεῶν ἔχοι, ὅττι διδοῖεν.
Therefore let no man be altogether without the sense of righteousness,
but take in silence the gifts of the gods, whatever they give him.
He applies the lesson to the current situation, repeating atasthala and generalizing to all the suitors:
οἷ᾽ ὁρόω μνηστῆρας ἀτάσθαλα μηχανόωντας,
κτήματα κείροντας καὶ ἀτιμάζοντας ἄκοιτιν.
Even so, now, I see the suitors, their reckless devisings,
how they show no respect to the wife, and despoil the possessions
Predicting that Odysseus is nearby, he warns Amphinomus to leave in time:
145 ἀνδρός, ὃν οὐκέτι φημὶ φίλων καὶ πατρίδος αἴης
δηρὸν ἀπέσσεσθαι· μάλα δὲ σχεδόν. ἀλλά σε δαίμων
οἴκαδ᾽ ὑπεξαγάγοι, μηδ᾽ ἀντιάσειας ἐκείνῳ,
ὁππότε νοστήσειε φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν·
οὐ γὰρ ἀναιμωτί γε διακρινέεσθαι ὀίω
150 μνηστῆρας καὶ κεῖνον, ἐπεί κε μέλαθρον ὑπέλθῃ.
…of a man who, I think, will not for long be far from
his country and friends. He is very close by. But I hope your destiny
takes you home, out of his way. I hope you never will face him
at the time he comes back to the beloved land of his fathers.
For I believe that, once he enters his halls, there will be
a reckoning, not without blood, between that man and the suitors.
This avuncular advice echoes the encouragement that Athena/Mentes/Mentor earlier extended to a directionless Telemachus, who was also pepnymenos (prudent) and nearly grown up. Yet Amphinomus remains in the megaron: even though “in his spirit he saw the evil,” he could not escape his doom. “Athena had bound him / fast, to be strongly killed by the hands and spear of Telemachus” (154–156).
Part IV. Odysseus and Telemachus—The Nod
Interpreters of the Odyssey—whether they are scholars or first-time readers—feel the heightened tension at the bow contest when Telemachus attempts to string his father’s bow and would have succeeded on the fourth try had Odysseus not signaled to him to stop.  The counterfactual and the presence of three adjectives describing Telemachus’ intense personal desire to string the bow mark that moment as highly dramatic. For Telemachus, stringing his father’s bow is the high point of coming of age. Therefore, as he initiates the contest for his mother’s hand, he himself volunteers to try.
καὶ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἐγὼ τοῦ τόξου πειρησαίμην
εἰ δέ κεν ἐντανύσω διοϊστεύσω τε σιδήρου,
οὔ κέ μοι ἀχνυμένῳ τάδε δώματα πότνια μήτηρ
λείποι ἅμ᾽ ἄλλῳ ἰοῦσ᾽, ὅτ᾽ ἐγὼ κατόπισθε λιποίμην
οἷός τ᾽ ἤδη πατρὸς ἀέθλια κάλ᾽ ἀνελέσθαι.
I myself am also willing to attempt the bow. Then
if I can put the string on it and shoot through the iron,
my queenly mother would not go off with another, and leave me
sorrowing here in the house, since I would still be found here
as one now able to take up his father’s glorious prizes.
He begins by setting up the axes in an orderly manner (εὐκόσμως), though he has never seen them before. Wonder overtook the onlookers (τάφος δ᾽ ἕλε πάντας ἰδόντας). Then he makes his attempt:
στῆ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐπ᾽ οὐδὸν ἰὼν καὶ τόξου πειρήτιζε.
125 τρὶς μέν μιν πελέμιξεν ἐρύσσεσθαι μενεαίνων,
τρὶς δὲ μεθῆκε βίης, ἐπιελπόμενος τό γε θυμῷ,
νευρὴν ἐντανύειν διοϊστεύσειν τε σιδήρου.
καί νύ κε δή ῥ᾽ ἐτάνυσσε βίῃ τὸ τέταρτον ἀνέλκων,
ἀλλ᾽ Ὀδυσεὺς ἀνένευε καὶ ἔσχεθεν ἱέμενόν περ.
He went then and tried the bow, standing on the threshold.
Three times he made it vibrate, straining to bend it, and three times
he gave over the effort, yet in his heart was hopeful
of hooking the string to the bow and sending a shaft through the iron.
And now, pulling the bow for the fourth time, he would have strung it,
but Odysseus stopped him, though he was eager, making a signal
with his head.
At that moment, Odysseus nods, and despite his eagerness, Telemachus desists from stringing his father’s bow. The father and the son “click,” and Telemachus’ Coming-of-Age story changes as the youth becomes his father’s helper in the larger story of Return and Revenge. By holding back, Telemachus aligns himself with his father, whose recovery of his full identity as lord of the household (anax oikou), husband, father, and king (or lead citizen) (basileus) depends on his son’s choice. Odysseus (by story logic) must be the one to string the bow and shoot the arrows through the axe heads and thereby “win” the bride-contest. He must be the one to begin the slaughter. Telemachus’ self-restraint shows that he sees the big picture and intuitively knows what to do.
Telemachus feigns incompetence:
ὢ πόποι, ἦ καὶ ἔπειτα κακός τ᾽ ἔσομαι καὶ ἄκικυς,
ἠὲ νεώτερός εἰμι καὶ οὔ πω χερσὶ πέποιθα
ἄνδρ᾽ ἀπαμύνασθαι, ὅτε τις πρότερος χαλεπήνῃ.
ἀλλ᾽ ἄγεθ᾽, οἵ περ ἐμεῖο βίῃ προφερέστεροί ἐστε,
τόξου πειρήσασθε, καὶ ἐκτελέωμεν ἄεθλον.
Shame on me. I must be then a coward and weakling,
or else I am still young, and my hands have yet no confidence
to defend myself against a man who has started a quarrel.
Come then, you who in your strength are greater than I am,
make your attempts on the bow and let us finish the contest.
At Odysseus’ first encounter with Telemachus in the swineherd’s lodge (16.156–171), Athena, in the guise of a young woman, tells him “it is time now to tell your son the story; no longer/ hide it, so that, contriving death and doom for the suitors, / you two (dual) may go to the glorious city” (168–170). To a skeptical Telemachus, the father exclaims: “No other / Odysseus than I will ever come back to you. But here I am, / and I am as you see me, … back in my own country.” They cry shrilly in a pulsing voice, more than the outcry of birds whose children have been stolen. Then Odysseus, also using the dual, informs Telemachus: “I have come to this place by the advice of Athena, / so we together can make our plans to slaughter our enemies.” Shared knowledge of his identity fortifies their bond.
Odysseus is in a unique position to seamlessly move into the role that Athena has pioneered. Due to his long absence, he and his son do not know one another; on the plus side, there is none of the overt rivalry and antagonism that typically describes the dynamic between a youth and his father. Thanks to Athena and the trip she prompted, Telemachus now reveres the father he knows he resembles. He wants to emulate him. Odysseus too has learned about mentoring from his interactions with Athena. Both the father and the son are well rehearsed for their future interactions. Odysseus, having consolidated his own identity, is prepared to mentor an equally prepared Telemachus. They become a couple, a pair, mentor and mentee.  Their bonding, begun at the swineherd’s lodge, continues to grow during the bow contest and at the slaughter. In Book 24, at the battle with the suitors’ relatives, Laertes makes the coupling of Odysseus and Telemachus official when he exclaims:
τίς νύ μοι ἡμέρη ἥδε, θεοὶ φίλοι; ἦ μάλα χαίρω·
υἱός θ᾽ υἱωνός τ᾽ ἀρετῆς πέρι δῆριν ἔχουσιν.
What day is this for me, dear gods? I rejoice very much.
My son and my son’s son are contending over their excellence.