Can you please explain what happens in The Land of the Dead from Odyssey?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After losing the bag of wind given to him by ---Odysseus and his crew row back to the land of the Laestrygonians, powerful giants who hurl boulders at them, sinking all the ships but that of Odysseus and his crew. They, then, sail to Aeaea, where dwells the beautiful witch-goddess Circe, who drugs a band of Odysseus’s men and turns them into pigs so she can keep Odysseus with her. Fortunately, Hermess appears to Odysseus in the form of a young man; he instructs Odysseus to eat the herb moly that will protect him against the drugs of Circe. He then confronts her and forces her to change the men back to their human forms. But, she seduces Odysseus, and it is a year before the men can convince him to depart. Still, Circe instructs Odysseus to take aboard sheeip on onto his ship as sacrifice.

In Book Xi, Odysseus arrives at the River of Ocean in the land of the Cimmerians. There he pours libations and the sheeps' blood as offerings to the dead spirits. First appears the spirit of the young man, Elpenor, who passed out the night before and fell off Circe's roof before the men departed. He begs Odysseus to pile rocks as a burial for his body; Odysseus promises to do so. After this, his mother's spirit appears, but Odysseus holds it back until he has spoken with the spirit of the blind prophet Teiresias, who does appear and drinks the blood offered. He warns Odysseus not to eat Helios's cattle at Thrinakia or he will die. Nevertheless, he will meet hardship and all his men will die, but Odysseus will arrive in Ithaca. In response, Odysseus asks about the spirit of his mother which he has just seen. Tiresias instructs Odysseus to offer her the blood and she will approach him. So, when his mother comes, she knows him instantly; further, she explains how she came to this land of the dead: Anticleia tells her son that Penelope has been faithful to him, his son Telemachus farms his estate, but her husband, his father, stays in the fields and beds down in the leaves, or he sleeps in the house where servants once were--all because he longs for his son. But, she could bear the longing for Odysseus no more and died.

Soon the spirits of other women approach and Odysseus must hold them at bay with his sword, but allows them to come and drink. Afterwards, men approach and Odysseus meets Agamenmnon, who relates how he died because of the treachery of his wife, Slytemnestra, to whom he revealed too much of his dealings. She had him slain and many of his party, as well. Next Odysseus meets Achilles, who asks about his son, Neoptolemus; so, Odysseus recounts as much as he can relate. Afterwards, Odysseus sees Telamonian Ajax, and entreats him to forget their quarrel over Achilleus's arms in Troy where Odysseus and Ajax competed for the arms of Achilleus, who had been slain. (Because the arms were to go to the braves man and the Greeks could not reach a decision. But, because they could not afford to lose the two men, the Trojan captives were made to decide. The Trojans chose Odysseus, and Ajax was so enraged that he committed suicide.) But, Ajax has not forgotten, and he turns away from Odysseus.

After this encounter, Odysseus sees Jocasta, wife and mother of Oedipus, who killed herself, among many other figures of Greek mythology. Odysseus is frightened by all the souls converging upon him to ask about their families; consequently, he flees to his ship and departs.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Odysseus goes to meet with the blind prophet Tiresias. He takes a few men off the ship with him to carry his sacrifices he has prepared for Tiresias. These include: milk, honey, wine, and crystal clear water. Likewise, Odysseus brings a ram.

The Land of the Dead seems to be represented by a pit over which many spirits fly. What strikes Odysseus before he gets to discuss anything with Tiresias is the fact that he runs into the spirits of his mother, Anticlea, and a friend, Elpenor.

With Anticlea, he had no idea she had passed. Elpenor requested that after they leave the Land of the Dead, they must go and give his body a proper burial.

Finally, he gets the opportunity to meet with Tiresias. He confirms that Odysseus must and will return home. He mentions the suitors after Odysseus' wife and instrusts that they must be killed. Finally, he tells him to build a monument to honor Poseidon significantly inland.

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The Odyssey

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