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Nausicaa is the princess of Phaeacia in Homer's
. In Greek, her name means, "burner of ships." Nausicaa is the daughter of Alcinous and Arete, the king and queen of Phaeacia. Nausicaa is described as being young and extremely attractive. Odysseus belives that she resembles Artemis, goddess of hunting, wilderness, and animals. He describes her like this:
Of a truth in Delos once I saw such a thing, a young shoot of a palm springing up beside the altar of Apollo … when I saw that, I marvelled long at heart, for never yet did such a tree spring up from the earth. And in like manner, lady, do I marvel at thee, and am amazed, and fear greatly to touch thy knees.”
Nausicaa first appears in book six of The Odyssey when Athena appears to her in a dream as one of her friends and suggests she go wash her clothes at the river. While she and her servants are playing ball, she finds Odysseus, naked and starving, shipwrecked on the beach. He scares her servants away, but he begs Nausicaa for help. She gives him food and clothing and leads him into the city. She tells him the best strategy for getting help from her parents, and she reminds him, "Never forget me, for I gave you life," meaning, that she saved his life.
Even though she is generous, Nausicaa is also modest and concerned with appearances. She does not escort Odysseus to the palace because she is worried about what people will think. She gives Odysseus her reasons for caution in this speech that might also be a kind of veiled flirtation:
"It is their ungentle speech that I shun, lest hereafter some man should taunt me, for indeed there are insolent folk in the land, and thus might some baser fellow say, shall he meet us: ‘Who is this that follows Nausicaa, a comely man and tall, a stranger? Where did she find him? He will doubtless be a husband for her. Haply she has brought from his ship some wanderer of a folk that dwell afar—for none are near us—or some god, long prayed-for, has come down from heaven in answer to her prayers, and she will have him as her husband all her days. Better so, even if she has herself gone forth and found a husband from another people; for of a truth she scorns the Phaeacians here in the land, where she has wooers many and noble!’ So will they say, and this would become a reproach to me. Yea, I would myself blame another maiden who should do such thing, and in despite of her dear father and mother, while yet they live, should consort with men before the day of open marriage.”
At first, Nausicaa seems to have a little crush on Odysseus, but later she actually ends up marrying his son Telemachus.
Nausicaa is compassionate, courteous, beautiful and smart. She is an under-developed character, but a very good one.
Atsma, Aaron. "Homer: Odyssey, Chapter 8." Theoi Greek Mythology.
Theoi E-Texts Library,
2007. Web. 12 Feb 2011.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
. Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 10 Dec 2010. Web. 17 Jan. 2011.
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