Mythical Moment 29- Odysseus Meets Polyphemus, or The Eye Has It
Well, I’ve decided to start sharing my Mythical Moment copy. I’ll also try to include some resources so you can read about the myths that I use in the making of my weekly recordings. The audio for this week’s Mythical Moment will be added to this post after It Came From Cleveland tomorrow night, at around 10 Eastern.
For Radio for Humans and It Came From Cleveland, this is Adam Hebert with Mythical Moment 29: Odysseus Meets Polyphemus- The Eye Has It.
Greek mythology has many fascinating and frightful monsters. While originally the Cyclopes were three sons of Gaea and Ouranos who helped the Olympians in the war against the Titans, the idea of large, one eyed savage men also terrified the ancient Greeks, as evidenced in this story from The Odyssey by Homer.
After a long ten year war against the city-state of Troy, Odysseus and his men finally sailed for their home in Greece: Ithaca. All of the men had lives back home, but Odysseus most of all wanted to return home to his wife and son, who by then was ten years of age. But the way home was long and arduous, and Odysseus had many adventures, even before he came upon a mysterious island.
In desperate need of supplies, Odysseus and his men left their ship and explored the island, coming upon a cave full of provisions. The men and their leader helped themselves to some of the food, which was oddly in much larger proportions than typical. Eventually, the owner of the cave, the one eyed giant Polyphemus, returned home from a day of grazing his flock of sheep. Rather than abide by the traditions of how one treats guests, the giant instead scooped up two of the men and ate them whole before blocking the entrance to the cave with a giant boulder and settling in for a good night’s sleep.
As Polyphemus was the only one capable of moving the stone, Odysseus couldn’t end the threat of this giant. And so he couldn’t help but watch as this repeated the next morning, with the giant eating another two men for his breakfast before leaving the cave with his flock and taunting his captives about their fate when he returned. He blocked the entrance, sealing the soldiers in.
Odysseus, as Homer repeatedly stated in both of his great works, was the most clever and quick witted of the Greeks. And even in the dark of the cave with what little light they could make, Odysseus came up with a plan. Finding what to the giant was a mere stake but to the men a giant spear or battering ram, Odysseus worked on sharpening the stake to a sharp point and hardening it in some fire. They then hid it.
Polyphemus returned, and ate two more of them men. Odysseus offered the giant some of their wine if he would just spare him and the remaining Ithacans. Polyphemus took the wine, which was undiluted, and laughed. Soon he was drunk, and in his stupor, he asked Odysseus his name, promising a guest-gift if he answered. And so Odysseus did, giving the name Nobody. Polyphemus declared that Nobody’s guest-gift would be to be the last to die. And with that, the giant laughed at his own cleverness and fell into a deep, drunken sleep.
Wasting no time, Odysseus had his men fetch the sharpened stake. It took everyone left, but they managed to thrust it into the eye of the giant, blinding him. Polyphemus howled in pain, and when the other giants who called the island their home answered, Polyphemus told them Nobody had hurt him. They assumed he was being punished by the gods for one transgression or another, and did not aid him.
The next morning, the giant groped around and managed to unblock the entrance to the cave to let the sheep out. But he wasn’t a fool. He felt each of the animals as they exited, planning to crush or eat any that weren’t the proper feel. Clever Odysseus, however, had tied everyone including himself to the underside of the sheep, and so they passed undetected. The men undid the ropes tying themselves to the sheep and made for their ship. As they left the island, Odysseus gave in to his hubris. He turned back and called out to Polyphemus, saying he wasn’t Nobody. He said Polyphemus had been beaten by Odysseus of Ithaca.
Polyphemus hurled boulders at the ship, managing to miss it only barely. As the Greeks sailed away, the giant, on his hands and knees, turned his gaze to the heavens and cried for his father to see to it that he got his revenge. That’s right. Polyphemus was the child of a god. Poseidon, god of the seas, would see to it that his son Polyphemus was avenged. Odysseus would not see his home again, not if Poseidon had his way.
For Radio for Humans and It Came From Cleveland, this is Adam Hebert reminding you that your mothers were right when they told you it was all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
Back to you, Kenny.
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