Nausicaa // or // (Greek: Ναυσικάα or Ναυσικᾶ, pronounced [na͜ʊsikâ]; also Nausicaä, Nausikaa) is a character in Homer's Odyssey. She is the daughter of King Alcinous (Αλκίνοος, Alkínoös) and Queen Arete of Phaeacia. Her name, in Greek, means "burner of ships" (ναῦς: ship; κάω: to burn).
Role in the Odyssey
In Book Six of the Odyssey, Odysseus is shipwrecked on the coast of the island of Scheria (Phaeacia in some translations). Nausicaä and her handmaidens go to the sea-shore to wash clothes. Awoken by their games, Odysseus emerges from the forest completely naked, scaring the servants away, and begs Nausicaä for aid. Nausicaä gives Odysseus some of the laundry to wear, and takes him to the edge of the town. Realizing that rumors might arise if Odysseus is seen with her, she and the servants go ahead into town. But first she advises Odysseus to go directly to Alcinous' house and make his case to Nausicaä's mother, Arete. Arete is known as wiser even than Alcinous, and Alcinous trusts her judgments. Odysseus approaches Arete, wins her approval, and is received as a guest by Alcinous.
During his stay, Odysseus recounts his adventures to Alcinous and his court. This recounting forms a substantial portion of the Odyssey. Alcinous then generously provides Odysseus with the ships that finally bring him home to Ithaca.
Nausicaä is young and very pretty; Odysseus says that she resembled a goddess, particularly Artemis. Nausicaä is known to have several brothers. According to Aristotle and Dictys of Crete, Nausicaä later married Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, and had a son named Perseptolis or Ptoliporthus.
Homer gives a literary account of love never expressed (possibly one of the earliest examples of unrequited love in literature). While she is presented as a potential love interest to Odysseus – she says to her friend that she would like her husband to be like him, and her father tells Odysseus he would let him marry her – nothing would result between the pair. Nausicaä is also a mother figure for Odysseus; she ensures Odysseus' return home, and thus says "Never forget me, for I gave you life," indicating her status as a "new mother" in Odysseus' rebirth. Interestingly, Odysseus never tells Penelope about his encounter with Nausicaä, out of all the women he met on his long journey home. Some suggest this indicates a deeper level of feeling for the girl.
The 2nd century BC grammarian Agallis attributed the invention of ball games to Nausicaä, most likely because Nausicaä was the first person in literature to be described playing with a ball. (Herodotus 1.94 attributes the invention of games including ballgames to the Lydians.)
In his 1892 lecture, "The Humor of Homer" (collected in his Selected Essays), Samuel Butler concludes that Nausicaa was the real author of the Odyssey, since the laundry scene is more realistic and plausible than many other scenes in the epic. His theory that the Odyssey was written by a woman was further developed in his 1897 book The Authoress of the Odyssey.
In 1907, the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály wrote the song "Nausikaa" to a poem by Aranka Bálint. Kodály showed great interest in Greek antiquity in his whole life: he not only studied the language thoroughly and read up on the different editions of Homer’s Iliad and Odysseus, but he also planned an opera about the latter figure since 1906. Only one song, "Nausikaa", survived from this opera plan.
William Faulkner named the cruise ship Nausikaa in his 1927 novel Mosquitoes.
Robert Graves' 1955 novel Homer's Daughter presents Nausicaa as the author of the Odyssey, which draws on experiences and influences of her own life.
The Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks wrote an opera entitled Nausicaa (libretto by Robert Graves), first performed in 1961 at the Athens Festival.
The manga and 1984 anime film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, was indirectly inspired by the character in the Odyssey. Miyazaki read a description of Nausicaa in a Japanese translation of Bernard Evslin's anthology of Greek mythology, which portrayed her as a lover of nature. Miyazaki added other embellishments to fill in the gaps from Homer.
In 2010, the band Glass Wave recorded a song entitled "Nausicaa", sung in the voice of the Phaeacian maiden.
Nausicaans are a race of tall, strong, aggressive humanoids in the Star Trek universe.
- Shipley, Joseph T. The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, p. 160
- Hamilton, Edith (1999) . Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Grand Central Publishing Hachette Book Group USA.
- Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. Second ed. With new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 581.
- Pomeroy, Sarah B. (1990). Women in Hellenistic Egypt: From Alexander to Cleopatra. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-8143-2230-1.
- Portions of this material originated as excerpts from the public-domain 1848 edition of the Classical Dictionary by John Lemprière.
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