What is Charybdis' role in the "Odyssey?"

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ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charybdis in Greek mythology is a female monster.  There she lay under rocks across from Scylla and sucked in and spewed out huge amounts of water, creating a whirlpool. When sailors try to sail between them either they are killed in the whirlpool, or the ships try to sail away from Chaybdis,  and Scylla eats the men with her many heads.  Circe tells him that “he will find the other rock lie lower, but they are so close together that there is not more than a bow-shot between them. A large fig tree in full leaf grows upon it, and under it lies the sucking whirlpool of Charybdis. Three times in the day does she vomit forth her waters, and three times she sucks them down again; see that you be not there when she is sucking, for if you are, Neptune himself could not save you; you must hug the Scylla side and drive ship by as fast as you can, for you had better lose six men than your whole crew.”

"... we rowed into the strait- Scylla to our port
and on our starboard beam Charybdis, dire
gorge of the salt-sea tide. By heaven when she
vomited all the sea was like a cauldron
seething over intense fire..." (796-800)

Read the study guide:
The Odyssey

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