Book Ten

"We next put in at the island of Aeolus. Zeus had made him Keeper of the Winds. So when I'd entertained Aeolus for a month with tales of Troy, he was kind enough to provide a steady breeze to blow us home. He even gave me an assortment of storm winds to stow on board, tied up in a leather bag.

Nine days later we were just off Ithaca, so close that people could be seen ashore going about their work. I had dozed off, exhausted by manning the sail myself the whole way. Now my men noticed the bag that Aeolus had given me.

'Why does the captain get all the booty?' they wanted to know. 'What have we got to show for our searoving?'

So they opened it and let loose a hurricane that blew us all the way back to Aeolus's island. Hangdog, I appeared once more before him and asked if he would send us home again. He kicked me right out of there.

Back at sea, six days and nights we were becalmed. Then we fetched up in the land of the Laestrygonians. There it's daylight around the clock. A shore patrol was dispatched to scout the countryside.

They came upon a husky young girl who directed them to her mother, the queen of those people. She proved to be hideous and huge as a mountain, and her husband was hot for blood. He grabbed the first man, tore him in half and chomped him down. The others made a break for it.

They came screaming back to the shore, followed by the entire clan of Laestrygonians. As the men scrambled to cast off, they were bombarded by boulders pelted from the heights. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. The Laestrygonians smashed ships and men and gorged on lumps of Greek.

I'd had the presence of mind to cut away the hawser with my sword, and I urged my men to row for their lives. We made it, the only ship to escape. Our relief was overwhelmed in grief for the comrades left behind.

When we came to Circe's island, no one was eager to go exploring, but I divided the company in two and we drew lots. My group stayed behind while the other set out under my kinsman Eurylochus to reconnoiter.

Before long they came to a stone house in the middle of a tangled wood. Strange to tell, it was surrounded by lions and wolves of extraordinary meekness. Hearing singing from within, the men saw no harm in making their presence known.

Circe came out and welcomed them inside. All but Eurylochus accepted the invitation. He had a premonition. And sure enough, after she had given them food and honeyed wine mixed with a pinch of something, she waved her wand and turned them into swine.

Eurylochus came running back to the ship and spread the alarm. I now shouldered the burden of command and set out to investigate.

Fortunately I met Hermes along the way. Zeus's herald warned me that I too would be transformed by Circe's witchery unless I followed his instructions. I was to accept the potion that she gave me, knowing that I would be protected by a godly charm -- a sprig of herb called moly that mortals dare not harvest. Then when she raised her wand I was to draw my sword.

Hermes gave me the moly, then departed. I made my way to the house in the clearing and Circe bade me enter. I downed the potion. Then just as she showed her wand, I unsheathed my sword and held it to her throat.

She fainted to the ground and clutched my knees. 'You can only be Odysseus. Hermes warned me that this day would come. Let me be your friend and lover.'

First I made her swear an oath.

Later we feasted splendidly and her servants danced attendance. But she could see that I was in no mood for levity. Divining the cause, she waved her wand once more and restored my shipmates to human form. She even sent me to summon the men from the ship, who never thought they'd see me again alive.

When many months had passed, the crew reminded me of home. Now it was my turn to take Circe's knees in supplication. The goddess was willing to let me go, but it was not as simple as that.

'You will never see your home again,' she said, 'by sailing there directly. You must detour to the land of Death, there to consult the blind prophet Tiresias. He alone can chart your course.'

Book number: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24


Aeolus (EE-oh-luss)

Laestrygonians (lees-trih-GOH-nee-unz)

Circe (SIR-see)

Eurylochus (yoo-RILL-uh-cuss)

Death "Death" is Hades, the god who rules over the dead. His kingdom is generally referred to as the Underworld, being thought of as beneath the earth. Homer makes several references in The Odyssey to the deceased traveling down to the realm of Hades and his queen, Persephone (per-SEH-fone-ee). But the land of Death to which Odysseus is about to journey would seem to be located on the earth's surface.

Hades, Ruler of the Dead. The Underworld was also called Hades, after its king

Tiresias (ty-REE-see-as)

Book number: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24