Book 10 Summary and Analysis
Aeolus: the keeper of the magical bag of winds
Antiphates: king of the giant Laistrygones
Eurylochus: the leader of the expedition to Circe’s dwelling
Circe: the sorcerous goddess of the isle Aeaea
Elpenor: a young crewman of Odysseus who dies after a drunken fall
Aeolus, a king charged with caring for the world’s winds, entertained Odysseus and his men for a month on his island. He lent Odysseus the magical bag that keeps the winds so that his fleet might move under the steady West Wind until it reached Ithaca. However, as the fleet was within sight of its home territory, Odysseus fell asleep, exhausted from manning the sails. His men, jealous of their lord’s success, thought that the bag of winds contained a secret gift given exclusively to Odysseus. They foolishly opened the bag, and released all of its winds at once. The fleet was blown all the way back to the Aeolian island. When Odysseus entreated Aeolus to help him once more, he was angrily turned away; Aeolus felt he had no right to help a wretch so hated by the gods.
Odysseus’ fleet next journeyed to the land of the Laistrygones. The ships traveled down a narrow harbor surrounded by towering crags. Odysseus’ own ship, however, was anchored away from the rest of the fleet. He sent three men forward as scouts, and these men encountered the daughter of Antiphates, king of the Laistrygones. She directed them to the great castle of her father, where they were amazed by the enormous size of the Laistrygones. Antiphates devoured one of the messengers, and called on his fellows to help him pursue the others. When the giants had reached the ships, they destroyed the fleet, carrying off every ship but Odysseus’ own; the quick-thinking leader had cut cables and set off at once. His lone ship escaped intact.
The ship brought its mourning survivors to the island of Circe, Aeaea. There, Odysseus discovered a column of smoke drifting up from Circe’s house, and sent out half his men, drawn by lot, to investigate. Eurylochus led the men to the stone house, where they heard a woman singing as she worked her loom. She invited the men inside her house; all complied but the suspicious Eurylochus. Circe drugged the men’s wine and touched them with her wand, making them forget their home country and transforming them into pigs. She then proceeded to herd the swine, who retained their human minds, into her pig pen.
(The entire section is 1034 words.)