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In Homer’s epic The Odyssey, the effect of the lotus plant is described in Book IX, in which Odysseus (or Ulysses) guides King Alcinous through his adventures during his ten year journey home. Arriving at the island of the Lotus-eaters, “who did them no hurt,” after being blown seriously off-course by North winds generated by Zeus (or Jove), Odysseus’s men are fed the lotus plant and rendered incapable of memory and, consequently, of their otherwise intense determination to return home. As Homer/Odysseus describes the scene:
“[The Lotus-eaters] gave them [Odysseus’s crew] to eat of the lotus, which was so delicious that those who at it left off caring about home, and did not even want to go back and say what happened to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless, though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made them fast under the benches.”
The effect of the lotus plant, then, is that it causes those who consume it to lose their memories and any desire to depart the island of the Lotus-eaters, remaining forever captive to its taste and potentially hallucinatory effects. Its consumption by his crew threatened Odysseus’s ability to return to Ithaca and to his wife Penelope and now-grown son Telemachus.
The lotus makes the men forget that they wanted to leave so that they would be trapped there.
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