In Homer's The Odyssey, how does Odysseus answer when Polyphemus asks his name?
In the ninth book of Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew find themselves in the land of the barbarous Cyclopes. Odysseus, wanting to test the hospitality of a Cyclops named Polyphemus, waits for the Cyclops at his cave rather than following the advice of his men and returning to the ship. Odysseus soon gets himself and his crew in grave danger when the Cyclops returns to the cave and eats some of Odysseus’ men.
Now that Odysseus knows that he and his men are in a horrific predicament, Odysseus puts his nimble mind to work to trick the Cyclops. When the Cyclops asks Odysseus what his name is, Odysseus responds:
“Cyclops, you asked my name, and I will tell it: give me afterwards a guest gift as you promised. My name is Nobody. Nobody, my father, mother, and friends call me.” (A.S. Kline translation)
Odysseus’ false name comes in handy later in Book 9. After Odysseus blinds the Cyclops, the monster calls for help. Polyphemus, however, receives no help from his fellow Cyclopes because “Nobody” is trying to harm him:
“If you are alone, and nobody does you violence, it’s an inescapable sickness that comes from Zeus: pray to the Lord Poseidon, our father.” (A.S. Kline translation)
Unfortunately, Odysseus can’t resist the temptation to reveal his true name to the Cyclops as he sails away. This proves to be a terrible mistake because Polyphemus uses this information to pray to his father Poseidon, who then goes on to persecute Odysseus as he attempts to return home.