What do you learn about Polyphemus in The Odyssey?
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Polyphemus is the name of the Cyclopes who Odysseus encounters on his adventures after the Trojan War, as he attempts to find his way home.
Odysseus lands on an island, and he and some of his men set out to explore. Polyphemus imprisons Odysseus and his men in the Cyclopes' cave. There, the monster eats some of our hero's best men. Knowing they are doomed to be eaten as well if they do not escape, Odysseus and his men get Polyphemus drunk and blind the Cyclopes with a log they have sharpened. Odysseus tells the ogre that his name is "Nobody."
Once blinded, Polyphemus ventures out to rouse help from his neighbors, bellowing that "Nobody" has blinded him. The other Cyclopses ignore Polyphemus, confused as to how "nobody" has harmed him.
Unable to see, the Cyclopes must remove the gigantic stone from the cave's entrance to let his sheep out to graze, but anticipates that Odysseus and his men may try to escape. Odysseus and his men tie themselves to the underside of the sheep within the cave. As the animals leave, the Cyclopes leans down to feel their fleece to make sure it is an animal that passes him and not one of his prisoners. He does not notice the man concealed beneath each animal. In this way, Odysseus and his men escape and flee back to their ship.
As Odysseus sails away, he torments and insults Polyphemus who is throwing boulders into the water in an attempt to drown Odysseus and his men. Odysseus is less than heroic in his behavior with Polyphemus as he identifies who he really is and boasts that he has beaten the hulking creature. Furious, the Cyclopes calls upon his father Poseidon to curse Odysseus; Poseidon does use his powers to wreak havoc on the water and elements at sea to hinder Odysseus' progress in reaching his homeland.
When Odysseus and his men land on the island of Cyclopes, they enter a huge cave which, they come to find, is inhabited by the giant, one-eyed Cyclops, Polyphemus. Polyphemus is a cannibal (the story is the oldest of cannibalism in all Greek literature) who kills and eats several of Odysseus' men. After trapping the humans inside his cave, Polyphemus tells Odysseus that he intends to eat them all. They eventually escape by blinding Polyphemus with a sharpened olive stake after they have plied him with strong wine. Polyphemus turns out to be gullible, falling prey to several of Odysseus' tricks, including his name, "No One." After the blinding, Odysseus brags to Polyphemus, revealing his true name. Polyphemus then prays to his father, Poseidon, to curse Odysseus; because of Odysseus' "hubris" by identifying himself, Poseidon is able to prolong the Greek's voyage home. Polyphemus is presented as a cruel, slow-witted, cannibalistic giant--one of Odysseus' simpler foes that he encounters during his long ordeal.
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