Who is Nausicaa in The Odyssey?

Instructor: Liz Breazeale
Odysseus, hero of Homer's ''The Odyssey'' must make it past several obstacles before he gets back home after the Trojan War. Along the way, he manages to find some allies every now and then. One of those is Nausicaa. In this lesson, discover who this woman is and the role she plays in ''The Odyssey'', then test yourself with a quiz.

Intro to The Odyssey

The Greek poet Homer composed The Odyssey sometime during the 8th century BC. This epic poem is still studied at great length today because of its fascinating plot and style. It follows a hero, Odysseus, as he tries to make his way home after fighting for ten long years in the Trojan War. Little does he know that his journey will take him another ten years. And we're not talking about a figurative ten years, like how you might say, 'Ugh, that line was ten years long,' but an actual decade.

On this epically long journey, Odysseus crosses paths with some serious dangerous people, like the sorceress Circe and the cannibalistic Laestrygonians. But he also makes a few friends, like Nausicaa, during the last leg of his trip.

A sculpture of Odysseus

Nausicaa of the Phaeacians

Nausicaa is a princess of the Phaeacians, a group of mythological people who live on the island of Scheria. She is the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, who live in a giant palace with bronze walls surrounding it. In Greek, her name means 'burner of ships,' which, thankfully for Odysseus, she does not live up to.

In The Odyssey, Nausicaa is described as being young and very beautiful, with a resemblance to the goddess Artemis. She has several brothers and develops deep feelings for Odysseus -- but more on that later.


Something Naked This Way Comes

Nausicaa heads down to the beach one day to wash some clothes and play ball with her friends. Little does she know, Odysseus had washed up on the shore that very morning after battling Poseidon's storm for three days. He hears the princess and her friends laughing and playing, and, naked, starving, and probably pretty hairy, he stumbles to wherever they are.

Nausicaa's friends are frightened, but Nausicaa is unfazed by the wildman in front of her -- a truly admirable response to what must have been an unattractive sight. Odysseus begs Nausicaa for help, but doesn't share who he really is. Nausicaa tells Odysseus to put on some laundry -- because no one needs to see his naked body flailing everywhere -- and go see her mother for help. Like any self-respecting royal, Nausicaa doesn't want to go with Odysseus for fear of the gossip that will spread -- Princess Steps Out With Hairy Unkempt Stranger! Sources Say They're 'Just Friends'!

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