How does Odysseus get his lotus-eating men back onboard the ship?

Odysseus gets his lotus-eating men back onboard the ship by driving them back onto the vessel and tying them down so that they cannot escape. After ingesting the sweet lotus plant, three of his men forget about their homes and families. Instead, they wish to stay in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. This episode foreshadows book XIV, when Odysseus is lashed to his ship’s mast while his ear-plugged crew rows them away from the enchanting Sirens.

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In book IX of The Odyssey, Odysseus recounts to Alkinoos how Zeus punished him and his crew by tossing them on dangerous windy seas for nine days. On the tenth day, they dock on a beach to rest and eat. Odysseus dispatches three members of his crew on a reconnaissance mission to learn who lives there.

Odysseus soon discovers that they have gone ashore the land of the Lotus Eaters, kind beings who offer

the sweet Lotos to our friends—
but those who ate this honeyed plant, the Lotos,
never cared to report, nor to return:
they longed to stay forever, browsing on
the native bloom, forgetful of their homeland.

Homer does not specific exactly how Odysseus manages to get his reluctant men to return to and board the ship, but the epic hero obviously needs to do so by force:

I drove them, all three wailing, to the ships,
tied them down under their rowing benches,
and called the rest: “All hands aboard;
come, clear the beach and no one taste
the Lotos, or you lose your hope of home.”

The other crewmen (who do not have a chance to eat the bewitching lotus plant) dutifully row everyone—including the three charmed, lotus-infected men—safely away from the Land of the Lotus Eaters. This entire episode foreshadows book XIV when Odysseus and his men escape entrapment by the Sirens. Like the “honeyed” lotus plant, the blissful song of the Sirens causes people to forget about their homes and families. Circes warns Odysseus that the Sirens

will sing his mind away
on their sweet meadow lolling.

Therefore, if he wishes to hear their singing, he must be tied securely to his ship’s mast and not let go no matter how much he begs his crew. They, on the other hand, must plug their ears with beeswax in order to not hear the Sirens. They must keep rowing until the Sirens’ voices are out of earshot.

So, Odysseus orders his men to tie him

up, tight as a splint,
erect along the mast, lashed to the mast,
and if I shout and beg to be untied,
take more turns of the rope to muffle me.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
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