Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, is often considered to be a hero in his own right. In The Odyssey, Telemachus shows great bravery and maturity in the face of incredible adversity. He also demonstrates wisdom beyond his years, which allows him to make crucial decisions that ultimately help his father win back his kingdom. Telemachus is truly a heroic figure, and one who deserves to be celebrated.
“Furthermore, we have not even to adventure alone, for the heroes of all time previously gone before us. ” (p. 1 A Heroes Adventure). This line from Joseph Campbell captures the essence of a hero. Odysseus may be a hero in this work, but it was Telemachus who truly experienced the journey. The term “hero” refers to someone who has accomplished anything beyond what is considered normal or routine.
Telemachus definitely gave his life for something more, he fought off Penelope’s suitors even though he was just a kid. Telemachus was also the one who had to go out and search for his long lost dad. Campbell says that “The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites de passage: separation initiation return.”
Telemachus went through all three of these stages, being separated from his dad at a young age, leaving Ithaca to go on his own journey, and finally returning back home with his dad. Telemachus is considered a hero because he completed an epic journey where as his father only completed part of one.
But there’s a second layer to this that may be even more interesting. Suppose you believe Odysseus was put in these challenges—but not by himself—and that outside forces considered him a hero? But he did not accept the gods as superior powers above and beyond himself. Now, if he doesn’t believe in or accept the gods as a higher power, then he isn’t a hero since Campbell specifically says, “A hero is one who accomplishes something greater than oneself.” If Odysseus does not consider the gods a higher power, then he has not done anything exceptional in overcoming Poseidon’s spite.
Telemachus, on the other hand, is a perfect example of a hero. Telemachus went above and beyond what was ever asked or expected of him. Telemachus’ journey begins when his mother sends him to Pylos and Sparta to search for his long lost father who supposedly died during the Trojan War.
Telemachus could have easily stopped his journey right there and let fate decide what happened to his father, but instead he decides to go out and find answers for himself. This takes an incredible amount of courage because as Telemachus sets out on his journey he knows that there are people who do not want him to succeed.
These people are known as the suitors who have taken over Odysseus’ kingdom and are trying to force Telemachus’ mother, Penelope, to marry one of them. Telemachus knows that if he goes off searching for his father it is very likely that he will never come back which would leave the kingdom completely vulnerable to the suitors. Telemachus decides to go on this journey anyway because he knows that it is the right thing to do.
Campbell also says that “a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. ” Telemachus definitely meets this criterion because he is risking his life for his father and for his kingdom. Telemachus could have easily let the suitors take over but instead he sets out on a dangerous journey in order to save his father and his kingdom.
Telemachus is definitely a hero according to Joseph Campbell’s definition and he is someone who you should look up to. Telemachus goes above and beyond what is expected of him and he does not let anything get in the way of what he knows is right. Telemachus is a true hero.
Campbell characterizes a hero by the sort of adventure he or she undertakes. “There are two sorts of achievement: one is physical, in which the protagonist performs a courageous act in battle or saves a life; and the other is spiritual, in which the protagonist learns to experience superhuman human spiritual life before returning with a message.” p. 1 (A Heroes Adventure) So this implies that Odysseus is some manner of hero, but who is the real hero? Telemachus is the actual hero. Telemachus undertakes his own journey while overcoming numerous obstacles.
When Telemachus’s father left for war, Telemachus was only an infant. Telemachus had to grow up without a father figure. Telemachus became the man of the house at a young age. Telemachus had to deal with his mother’s suitors. The suitors were men who wanted to marry Penelope, Odysseus’s wife. The suitors were also trying to take over Odysseus’s kingdom. Telemachus was not happy about this. Telemachus was afraid that the suitors would take over his inheritance. Telemachus did not want to be pushed around by the suitors. Telemachus showed strength in difficult times.
Telemachus was also not afraid to fight for what he believed in. Telemachus went on a journey to find his father. Telemachus did not know if his father was alive or dead. Telemachus went to Pylos and Sparta to find information about his father. Telemachus also went to see the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle told Telemachus that he would have to go home because his father was coming home. Telemachus did not give up even when people told him that his father was dead. Telemachus kept looking for his father. Telemachus showed strength when he did not give up on finding his father.
Telemachus also stood up for himself. Telemachus came home to find the suitors trying to take over his house. Telemachus did not like this. Telemachus told the suitors to leave his house. Telemachus also told Penelope that she did not have to marry one of the suitors. Telemachus showed that he was a brave man when he stood up to the suitors.
He went through both the physical and spiritual journeys in his search for Odysseus. He traveled on the spiritual path to manhood. Keeping his mother safe from freeloaders and somewhat maintaining a kingdom in order until the return of his father was challenging. He demonstrated that he had heart rather than brawn when confronted with one-on-one adversity; he would not be beaten badly, but he would not give up either.
Telemachus was also a hero in the physical journey. Although he had no army or weapon to really speak of, he went on his own to find his father. Taking many risks and almost dying many times, Telemachus still tried his hardest to bring his father home. It could be said that Telemachus is one of the strongest heroes because he overcame obstacles that would have broken another man. Telemachus is definitely a hero in The Odyssey by Homer.
He went both through the physical journey searching for Odysseus and the spiritual journey. He went on the spiritual journey of becoming a man. Facing the hardships of keeping his mother safe from freeloaders and somewhat of keeping a kingdom in order until the return of his father.
With juggled his period of adolescents, he showed that he had the strength not in his muscles because one on one he would get beaten badly, but in his heart to overcome his hardships to the best of his ability. Telemachus was also a hero in the physical journey.
On page 129, Campbell states yet again that Telemachus is a hero, this time explicitly stating that he went on an adventure and became a hero. “Telemachus was advised by Athena to go find his father.” That quest for your father is an enormous hero endeavor for youngsters. Finding out what your calling in life, what your nature is, and where you come from are all adventures worth having.
Telemachus went out into the world and became his own man. No longer was he just a young boy, but he was now a hero. Telemachus is one of the most heroic characters in The Odyssey because he goes off on his own journey, away from his mother and father, to find out who he is.
Telemachus is an excellent example of a hero because of his determination to find his father and become his own person. Telemachus’s heroic journey began when Athena disguised herself as Mentes and spoke to Telemachus. She told him that it was time for him to stop being a “child” and to start acting like a man (Homer 11). Telemachus had always been a timid boy, but Athena’s words inspired him to be brave.
Telemachus was also heroic because he was willing to stand up to his mother, Penelope. Penelope had always been the one in charge of the household, but Telemachus showed her that he was now the man of the house. He told her that she needed to stop crying and that she needed to go back to her room (Homer 17). Telemachus was also heroic because he was not afraid to speak his mind, even to people like Antinous, who were much more powerful than him.