November 23, 2021

#08-156: Odysseus and the Cyclops, from Homer's "Odyssey"

"When the giant returned, and again dined on two men,
Odysseus offered him some stronger-than-usual wine..."

Note: When "clever Odysseus" and his men are trapped in a cave with the fiercesome Cyclops named Polyphemus, it takes all his cunning to set them free again.

Get Ready: Should you be allowed to punish someone who broke into your house and ate whatever they wanted?

"Clever Odysseus," as he was known, was one of the Greek leaders in the Trojan War. Indeed, he it was who devised the Wooden Horse that brought about the fall of Troy.

But on his way home, through offending the gods, Odysseus and his men were blown off course and forced to wander for ten years, having many harrowing adventures along the way. One of the most famous adventures of this "odyssey" was his meeting with a one-eyed giant--a Cyclops--named Polyphemus, meaning "[having] many songs and legends." In other words, he was famous.

Oblivious to any danger, Odysseus and his men landed on a remote island and entered a cave where, after helping themselves to some food and drink, they fell asleep. But while they slept, Polyphemus returned to that very same cave, leading his flock of giant sheep. As usual, he rolled a huge stone across the cave's entrance to keep the sheep from escaping. Finding the men--and ignoring customs of hospitality, for the Cyclopes were a lawless folk--the Cyclops immediately dined on two of them. The Cyclopes were also man-eaters!

[Note: Cyclops--SY klopps--is singular; Cyclopes--sy KLOH peez--is plural]

Just as the men had, the sated Cyclops fell asleep, but still it was impossible for the men to escape: the stone covering the doorway was too large for them to move. What to do?

The next morning, after gobbling down two more men, Polyphemus again took his flocks out--being careful this time to "close the door" behind him. While he was out, clever Odysseus devised a cunning plan.

When the giant returned, and again dined on two men, Odysseus offered him some stronger-than-usual wine, which got him very drunk (so uncivilized were the Cyclopes that they had never developed alcoholic beverages, so he got drunk easily). Grateful, the drunken Cyclops asked Odysseus his name, and--again showing his cleverness--Odysseus answered "Outis" (in Latin, "Nemo"), meaning "no man." Overcome by wine, Polyphemus, promising as a favor to eat his new friend last of all, fell asleep again.

But while the Cyclops was out with his sheep, Odysseus and his men had sharpened a large stake. Now, once Polyphemus was snoring, they heated the stake in the fire and plunged it into the giant's single eye, blinding him. When Polyphemus bellowed for help, his friends came running. But when they called to him asking who had attacked him and he said, "Nobody!" they returned home snorting derisively.

When the blind Cyclops was taking his flocks out again in the morning, he touched the back of each sheep to make sure none of the Greeks escaped, but Odysseus had tied his men under the sheep! He himself then clung to the underside of the ram, the largest of them. Once they had ridden out of the cave this way and were sailing away free, Odysseus shouted back his real name. Lobbing huge boulders at the ship, the giant called on his father Poseidon for help. This would bring the Greeks further trouble later in their journey.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. boulders
  2. derisively
  3. gobbling
  4. lobbing
  5. oblivious (to)
  6. odyssey
  7. plunged
  8. remote
  9. sated
  10. stake

  1. far from anything
  2. throwing in a high arc
  3. unaware (of)
  4. a long wandering adventure
  5. eating quickly; gulping
  6. strong, pointed stick
  7. satisfied; full
  8. mockingly
  9. huge stones
  10. pushed with force

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 23, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. h; 3. e; 4. b; 5. c; 6. d; 7. j; 8. a; 9. g; 10. f