|Micronarratives in the Odyssey|
One form of micronarrative that can be found in both the Iliad and Odyssey is called an ainos. An ainos is a special type of speech, directed especially to those who are capable of understanding it but coded so that those who are not capable will not understand the true meaning. There are three requirements for the listener to understand the ainos correctly: that person must be intellectually capable (sophos), morally capable (agathos), and emotionally capable (philos). The last requirement is particularly important: when Phoenix tells the story of Meleager in scroll 9 of the Iliad, he specifically says that he will tell it because all those who are listening are philoi. The emotional connection of the listener is often the quality tested in the telling of an ainos. That is, the teller of the story is saying: I'm going to tell a story, let's see if you can get its meaning.
In the testing of loyalty that characterizes the second half of the Odyssey, the qualty being tested is the emotional connection of being a true philos. Below are two examples: the ainos that the disguised Odysseus tells his swineherd Eumaios in Odyssey 14 and the story of her dream that Penelope tells the disguised Odysseus in Odyssey19, where she explicitly asks for an interpretation.
Another example of an ainos in the Odyssey is the story in scroll 14 that the disguised Odysseus tells his swineherd Eumaios about how Odysseus procured a cloak from him in Troy. Eumaios responds that the stranger has told an excellent ainos. How many different meanings are there in this story? Eumaios seems to get the point that the storyteller wants a cloak, but what else does the story of a ambuscade at Troy say about the one telling the story?
 Now the night came on stormy and very dark, for there was no moon. It poured without ceasing, and the wind blew strong from the West, which is a wet quarter, so Odysseus thought he would see whether Eumaios, in the excellent care he took of him, would take off his own cloak and give it him, or make one of his men give him one. "Listen to me," said he, "Eumaios and the rest of you; when I have said a prayer I will tell you something. It is the wine that makes me talk in this way; wine will make even a wise man fall to singing; it will make him laugh and dance and say many a word that he had better leave unspoken; still, as I have begun, I will go on. Would that I still had youth and strength as when we got up an ambuscade before Troy. Menelaos and Odysseus were the leaders, but I was in command also, for the other two would have it so. When we had come up to the wall of the city we crouched down beneath our armor and lay there under cover of the reeds and thick brush-wood that grew about the swamp. It came on to freeze with a North wind blowing; the snow fell small and fine like hoar frost, and our shields were coated thick with rime. The others had all got cloaks [khlainai] and shirts, and slept comfortably enough with their shields about their shoulders, but I had carelessly left my cloak [khlaina] behind me, not thinking that I should be too cold, and had gone off in nothing but my tunic and shield. When the night was two-thirds through and the stars had shifted their places, I nudged Odysseus who was close to me with my elbow, and he at once gave me his ear.
 "'Odysseus,' said I, 'this cold will be the death of me, for I have no cloak; some daimôn fooled me into setting off with nothing on but my shirt, and I do not know what to do.'
 "Odysseus, who was as crafty as he was valiant, hit upon the following plan:
 "'Keep still,' said he in a low voice, 'or the others will hear you.' Then he raised his head on his elbow.
 "'My friends,' said he, 'I have had a dream from the gods in my sleep. We are a long way from the ships; I wish some one would go down and tell Agamemnon to send us up more men at once.'
 "On this Thoas son of Andraimon threw off his cloak and set out running to the ships, whereon I took the cloak and lay in it comfortably enough till morning. Would that I still had youth and strength as I did in those days, for then some one of you swineherds would give me a cloak both out of good will and for the respect due to a brave warrior; but now people look down upon me because my clothes are shabby."
 And Eumaios answered, "Old man, you have told us an excellent ainos, and have said nothing so far but what is quite satisfactory; for the present, therefore, you shall want neither clothing nor anything else that a stranger in distress may reasonably expect, but tomorrow morning you have to shake your own old rags about your body again, for we have not many spare cloaks [khlainai] nor shirts up here, but every man has only one. When Odysseus' son comes home again he will give you both cloak [khlaina] and shirt, and send you wherever you may want to go."
 With this he got up and made a bed for Odysseus by throwing some goatskins and sheepskins on the ground in front of the fire. Here Odysseus lay down, and Eumaios covered him over with a great heavy cloak [khlaina] that he kept for a change in case of extraordinarily bad weather.
In scroll 19 of the Odyssey, Penelope is speaking with a guest in her home, the disguised Odysseus. At one point in their conversation, Penelope tells him about a dream she had. To read this as a micronarrative that has connections to the macronarrative of the Odyssey, consider the details of the dream, including the "metaphor" that explains itself. What does the dream mean? Why is Penelope telling the dream to the "stranger" and asking him to interpret it if the dream has, in effect, interpreted itself? Do you think she knows that she is speaking to her husband? And why does she say that she thinks the dream is one of the false variety? Be sure to at the surrounding context for clues in how to interpret the passage.
"Listen, then, to a dream that I have had and interpret it for me if you can. I have twenty geese about the house that eat mash out of a trough, and of which I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great eagle came swooping down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into the neck of each of them till he had killed them all. Presently he soared off into the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard; whereon I wept in my room till all my maids gathered round me, so piteously was I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese. Then he came back again, and perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me with human voice, and told me to leave off crying. "Be of good courage," he said, "daughter of Ikarios; this is nodream, but a vision of good omen that shall surely come to pass. The geese are the suitors, and I am no longer an eagle, but your own husband, who am come back to you, and who will bring these suitors to a disgraceful end." On this I woke, and when I looked out I saw my geese at the trough eating their mash as usual."
 "This dream, lady," replied Odysseus, "can admit but of one interpretation, for had not Odysseus himself told you how it shall be fulfilled? The death of the suitors is portended, and not one single one of them will escape."
 And Penelope answered, "Stranger, dreams are very curious and unaccountable things, and they do not by any means invariably come true. There are two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies proceed; the one is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come through the gate of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn mean something to those that see them. I do not think, however, that my own dream came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should be most thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say - and lay my saying to your heart - the coming dawn will usher in the ill-omened day that is to sever me from the house of Odysseus, for I am about to hold a tournament [athlos] of axes."