Date posted: December 29th 2016
Book Title: The Odyssey (continued)
These were friendly people, so Odysseus went with option two. They ate, drank, heard each other’s stories, and were best friends for as long as the visit lasted—a whole month actually. And as I mentioned, before departing, Odysseus was given a huge pot of gold for no reason.
They sailed Ithaca‑bound for nine days and nine nights, and got so close as to see the Island! They were almost home! But Poseidon was watching, and he summoned a giant storm so large that took all twelve ships back to Lipari.1
Damn it! Aeolus’ reaction was something along the lines of “What the hell man!? I thought you’d be back home by now!”. And when Odysseus told him that perhaps Poseidon had cursed him, Aeolus wanted no part in pissing off the gods and told him to get the hell out of his island.
But there was no wind that week! So Odysseus’ men had to row for six days and six nights9. They got to the stronghold of Lamus (in Corsica), and here’s where Odysseus lost most of his men. This island was inhabited by Ogres. Giant Ogres. And after a short dialogue, they started throwing rocks at the ships, destroying all but one—the one with Odysseus in it (obviously). Only 42 men survived out of 2002. They sailed off heartbroken from losing all those comrades and docked on an island not too far away where the goddess Circe lived.
They split in two groups: one went surveying the land and the other went to Circe’s house. Odysseus didn't go to Circe’s house, but the group that did was in for a ride... They encountered a bunch of wild animals as they got closer. Pigs, rams, wolves, etc. But the curious thing was that they were all super friendly. They rubbed their noses against the men, and the pigs were by no means afraid of the wolves. It was all weird but the men didn't think much of it and kept going. Once they got to Circe’s house, she lured them in with a bunch of food and drinks.3
It was a great time. Drinking and partying with a goddess—sounds great right?! But of course there was a price to pay. It turns out she had drugged them and turned them into animals. That’s right, all those loving animals the men saw on the way to Circe’s house used to be people and now they all were loving pets. Only one of Odysseus’ men escaped, and when Odysseus found about this, he decided to go and save his friends.
Alright, this will get a little confusing here, but bear with me. On the way to Circe’s house Odysseus bumped into Hermes, who is one Zeus’ sons. This is actually another common thing in Greek mythology. Gods seem to come down to visit humans very often. They disguise themselves as homeless people, or people who have already died, wanderers, traders, whatever. But people always know when it is a God speaking to them, even if they are disguised as hobos.
Anyway, Hermes told Odysseus what the deal was with Circe and gave him an herb that would prevent her poison from turning him into an animal. Hermes also said that Odysseus must attempt to kill Circe (and he emphasized on attempt, not actually doing it), because apparently that would turn her on so much, that she would ask him to sleep with her! BUT, and this is very important, he must resist the temptation, because if he sleeps with her, she would cut his dick off!4
Odysseus, of course like any of us mortals, couldn't resist the temptation to have sex with a goddess—despite the dick-chopping threat. However, she must have liked it because not only did she not cut his dick off, she returned his friends back to human shape, AND asked them to stay for an entire year eating and drinking with her.5
After a full year, they decided to go home, but Circe told Odysseus he would never make it unless he lifted the curse that Poseidon had put on him. To do so, he had to go to the house of Hades (a.k.a. hell) and talk to some dude called Teiresias.
The house of Hades
Circe had told Odysseus that the north wind would take him to the House of Hades, and once there, he saw bunch of spirits roaming around like lost children. It was all grim and ghastly. Also a little weird because they saw characters that died in the War of Troy, as well as a few people important to Odysseus’s life (including mother).
Circe had also mentioned that in order to talk to the dead, he had to spill sheep blood on the ground, and that the spirits would all rush to drink it. Only after they had drank the blood, communication was possible—but she warned him to only allow them to drink it one by one. So he did, and he talked to his mother, Achilles, Ajax, and a bunch more. But most importantly, he talked to that guy Circe told him about. This guy told Odysseus that in order to lift the curse, he had to take an oar to a place where no one has ever seen the ocean. This actually never happens in the book, but now he knew how to lift the curse (I guess), and returned to Circe’s house for further instructions.
Sirens, monsters, and the Land of the Sun
In the Strait of Messina, there were two giant monsters, called Charybdis and Scylla, guarding the waters. Actually, these two names are still there today; there are two towns near the strait called Calabria and Scilla (after Charybdis and Scylla) and the waters are, indeed, characterized by strong currents and natural whirlpools.7
Circe also said that if they made it past all of this, they would get to an island with a bunch of wild cows, but she warned them that these cows belonged to the God of the Sun, and if they harmed the cows at all, every one of his men would die, and Odysseus would be seriously delayed on his return home. You’d think that after a threat like that they would just—I don't know—leave the cows alone? Well, it wouldn't be called the Odyssey if they didn’t make every single stupid mistake possible.
So, as instructed, they sailed south and passed the sirens undistracted and unharmed by putting wax in their ears so they wouldn't hear their captivating songs.
Once past the sirens, they approached the Strait of Messina, where Charybdis and Scylla were waiting. Now, Charybdis is described as a sea monster that sucks up a bunch of water and then smashes giant waves up the cliff. And Scylla is a six‑headed monster (atop the cliff)—so they had to time their approach really well in order to not get crushed or eaten alive.
Scylla ended up snatching six of Odysseus men, but they made it through. By this time, he probably had only, like, 35 men out of the 200 (plus) he had when he left Troy. But either way, after all that stress they got to the Land of the Sun. Odysseus reminded his men about Circe’s cow threat, but obviously they didn't listen. They decided they needed a break from all that shit, and they made themselves a full-on BBQ while Odysseus slept.
They were doomed…And they knew it too! But they didn't know how (or when) their curse would come, so Odysseus and his men just sailed on the next day, knowing that they were as good as dead. They would even hear the sound of cows (mooing) out in the ocean where there were no cows, and suddenly the clouds started closing in and they were engulfed by a giant storm. During the storm, a lightning bolt hit the mast and without being able to control the ship, they started drifting back to Charybdis and Scylla8. The waves smashed the ship against the cliff and every man flew in mid‑air—getting devoured by either Charybdis or Scylla. Every man except Odysseus, who managed to grab onto a tree branch. He waited for Charybdis to close its mouth and Scylla to be distracted, then jumped onto a piece of wood and paddled away from danger... Exhausted, he floated on like a castaway and finally ended up in the Ogygian island.
And now he is all alone... Click on the Next button below to find out what happens next