The Odyssey by Homer

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Book 10 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
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.

Eurylochus fled to Odysseus, who bravely traveled to Circe’s abode alone in order to free his men. On his way there, he met the disguised Hermes, who lent him the moly plant, which would protect him from Circe’s spells. Following Hermes’ instructions, Odysseus entered the house and drank from Circe’s drugged wine. Then, when she touched him with her wand, he drew his sword and made as if to attack her. She immediately begged for mercy, and, after swearing a great oath to inflict no further harm upon him, she led him to her bed. After they had made love, Circe attempted to feed Odysseus, but he would not partake of her meal until she freed his companions.

Circe agreed to do so, and the men, restored to human shape, wept to see Odysseus once more in their presence. Odysseus called the rest of his men from the ship, and the men eagerly obeyed, for they were glad to hear of their companions’ rescue. Eurylochus remained pessimistic, but he returned to the house nonetheless.

Odysseus and his men remained with Circe for a year while recovering their strength. Afterwards, the men were very anxious about returning home. Odysseus begged his leave of Circe, who agreed to help him return to Ithaca. However, she warned him that he must first travel to the land of the dead in order to receive instructions from the Theban prophet, Teiresias, who retained his powers even after death. Odysseus wept to hear of the journey, and so did his men when they heard of it.

Before they headed towards their...

(The entire section is 1,034 words.)