Near the beginning of Book 21, most translators have used some peculiar language to describe Penelope's unlocking of the door behind which Odysseus' bow is kept. Fagles writes (lines 54–56)

At once she loosed the thong from around its hook,
inserted the key and aiming straight and true,
shot back the bolts.

The choice to use the words "aim" and "shot" used to describe the process of unlocking a door seems to deliberately mirror the shooting of a bow. Other translations I've compared (Butler, Cowper, McCrorie, and Wilson) each contain "aim" or "shoot" (or some variation) in the passage.

As I am one of those who cannot read the original, I was wondering whether the Greek text contains these allusions to archery in this specific passage.

Most translations I've read also contain "bolt" (as in a lock mechanism). I was also wondering if there's any possible wordplay between the other meanings. From Merriam-Webster (emphasis mine):

  1. a shaft or missile designed to be shot from a crossbow or catapult, especially a short stout usually blunt-headed arrow
  2. a lighting stroke, also thunderbolt

I might be grasping at straws, but I thought there might be some kind of double- or triple-meaning between the lock, arrows, and thunderbolts. What do you think?

1 Answer 1


There's certainly other ways the original text could be translated, it doesn't really force you into an archer analogy:

αὐτίκ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἥ γ᾽ ἱμάντα θοῶς ἀπέλυσε κορώνης, ἐν δὲ κληῗδ᾽ ἧκε, θυρέων δ᾽ ἀνέκοπτεν ὀχῆας ἄντα τιτυσκομένη

The key words:

  • αὐτίκα: "forthwith, at once, in a moment,"
  • ἱμάς: "leathern strap"
  • θοόω: "quick", or "(make) sharp"
  • ἀπολύω: "loose from,"
  • κορωνός: "curved, crooked"
  • κλείς: "clavis, claudo." (this is the latin word for an old key, in French this is clef)
  • ἥκω: "to have come, be present"
  • θυρεός: "door", or "stone put against a door"
  • ἀνακόπτω:"drive back, push back,"
  • ὀχεύς: "anything used for holding"

So you could just as well translate this something like:

Suddenly, she quickly and accurately loosened the strap from the hook and brought the key to the door (i.e. put the key in the lock), pushing back the holders(bolts).

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