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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Nausicaa 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 judgment. Odysseus follows this advice, approaching Arete and winning 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 resembles 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 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 – no romantic relationship takes place 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. 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 young woman.

Later influence

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.)

An asteroid discovered in the year 1879, 192 Nausikaa, is named after her.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Beyond Good and Evil, said: "One should part from life as Odysseus parted from Nausicaa—blessing it rather than in love with it."

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.

An episode in James Joyce's Ulysses echoes the "Nausicaa" story to a degree: the character Gerty McDowell (Nausicaa's analogue) tempts Bloom.

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.

In 1915 the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski completed Métopes, Op. 29. It is a cycle of three miniature tone poems drawing on Greek mythology. Each of the three movements features a female character encountered by Odysseus on his homeward voyage. The movements are: "The Isle of the Sirens", "Calypso" and "Nausicaa".

William Faulkner named the cruise ship Nausikaa in his 1927 novel Mosquitoes.

Armenian poet, prose writer Yeghishe Charents wrote his poem "Navzike" in 1936 about longing for his Nausicaa, himself being "lost" in the political storms of the forties.

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 Nobel Prize-winning Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott's poem "Sea Grapes" alludes to Nausicaa.

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 elements based on Japanese short stories and animist tradition.

In 1991, the public aquarium Nausicaä Centre National de la Mer, one of the largest in Europe, opened in Boulogne-sur-Mer in France.

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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Nausicaa" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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