Segment of Odyssey Summary

I’ve never really been satisfied with any depictions of this in modern media. On the other hand, what do I like from modern media (excepting some mostly older Black Metal)? My point is: here’s part of Homer’s Odyssey. The chunk I have partially summarized below is from Book X. The copy of the book I have was translated by Robert Fitzgerald and its ISBN number is 0-679-72813-9. Some of the names in the book were written kind of phonetically and I have pretty much kept that below.


 

They had landed on a new island and were trying to decide whether to explore it. The men remembered the tragedies they’d already faced and their brothers-in-arms they’d already lost and began to weep. Odysseus saw they were losing time for action and counted off his Akhaians in two platoons, commanded by himself and his “godlike Eurýlokhos”. They shook lots in a soldier’s dogskin cap to decide which platoon was to go exploring inland. Thusly it happened that Odysseus and his platoon were fortunate enough to stay behind while Eurýlokhos and his twenty-two companions went further on. All wept – including those who stayed behind. The men who left found the hall of Kirkê (a smooth stone house) in an open glade. Wolves and mountain lions lay around the house, but rather than attacking they switched their tails like hounds and fawned on the men – also like hounds – as the men looked upon them in fear. When the men got to the entryway of the house, they stood and listened. They could hear the goddess Kirkê as she sang and weaved on her loom. The men said nothing for a while until Politês (“most faithful and likable of my officers”) calmed the other men, saying it was just a young weaver and that there was no need for stealth. Eurýlokhos was afraid it might be a trap, but the others cried out and were met by the occupant, who seated them on thrones and lounging chairs. She gave them food and wine, then “flew after them with her long stick and shut them in a pigsty”, at which point they had physically become pigs even though their minds remained unchanged. Eurýlokhos (remember: he stayed outside and so remained human) ran down to the ship to warn Odysseus and the platoon that had stayed behind. Odysseus, upon hearing his tale (no pun intended) requested that Eurýlokhos take him back the way he had come. The latter refused, so Odysseus went alone. Hermes met him part way through his trip inland in the form of a man so young that he barely had a mustache (it is typical for him to be described as appearing young, so this isn’t unusual at all), and warned Odysseus about what lay ahead and how to defeat Kirkê and her power. Hermes gave Odysseus a magic plant from the ground to keep his mind and senses clear of the magic (the plant is described as being a “fatigue and pain for mortals to uproot”, having a “black root and milky flower”, and being called “a molü in the language of the gods”, in case anyone is interested). Each went their separate ways; the god to his home Olympos and the godlike man straight into danger (which almost might as well have been his second home for how often he was in it). Odysseus arrived in Kirkê’s hall and was welcomed inside. Kirkê was quite surprised when her magic failed to work and invited Odysseus to bed while his sword was still against her throat (he had swung at her in retaliation to her swinging a stick at him in an attempt to turn him into a pig). He was not taken in by this pathetic display. She had turned his men into pigs under that very roof, after all, and he kept that in mind. Odysseus made her swear that she would not work any enchantment to his harm. “She swore at once, outright, as I demanded, / and after she had sworn, and bound herself, / I entered Kirkê’s flawless bed of love”. (The phrase “bound herself” refers to the oath she made.) Kirkê’s four nymph maids busied themselves in her hall, making the place look nice and bringing in savory loaves to tempt Odysseus, but he, having a heart, would neither eat nor drink as he thought of his lost men. Kirkê asked him why he still wouldn’t eat or drink even after the oath she had made. Odysseus explained that he wanted to see his men, so Kirkê opened up the sty and gave each one in turn a stroke from her staff, which turned them human again. They appeared younger, more handsome, and taller than before. They each took the hands of Odysseus and sobbed. Even Kirkê was moved by this.

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