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Odysseus and the Cyclops

By on in Mythology

1,501 words, estimated reading time 7 minutes.

Ship wrecked on Sicily, Odysseus and his exhausted crew rest in a cave, only to find that they are sharing the home of Polyphemus the cyclops who is famous for his love of the taste of human flesh!

"What's that?" said Odysseus, Waking up in alarm. He was sure he had heard some creature bellowing and thumping about close by. The cave where he and his twelve companions - all Greeks - were resting was echoing from the noise. Odysseus listened. There it was again - a dreadful sound that seemed to make the Whole cave shake.

Lying beside Odysseus, snoring contentedly, was his companion Eurylochus. Odysseus shook him until he opened his eyes.

"What's the matter?" Eurylochus muttered sleepily.

"I thought you said this cave was empty - that no one lived here!" Odysseus hissed fiercely.

"It looked as if no one did," Eurylochus replied, surprised to see Odysseus so furious. "We were so tired after our voyage here, to the island of Sicily. "I chose the first cave we found to shelter for the night."

"You may soon be sorry you were not more careful," Odysseus told him.

"There is some horrible creature nearby. Listen!"

Eurylochus strained his ears and listened hard. He heard nothing. All was quiet. Obviously, Odysseus had made a mistake. Eurylochus opened his mouth to say so. In the next moment, it stayed open - but in horror and amazement.

For a deep, rumbling roar reached Eurylochus' ears from outside the entrance to the cave. It was so loud that it woke up the eleven other Greeks who were with Odysseus. They all sat up, shaking with fright.

"What is it? What is it?" they cried.

"It sounds like some horrible giant!" said one of the Greeks, his voice trembling.

It WAS a giant. As Odysseus and his men stared fearfully at the cave entrance, two enormous feet thumped down just outside. They made a noise like thunder. Each foot was bigger than all the thirteen men put together.

Horrified, they all looked upwards - past the giants colossal knees and legs as thick as tree trunks, past the giant's enormous torso they were looking at the ugliest, most ferocious face they had ever seen. That mouth - look at it! It's as big as the gates of Troy! One of the Greeks gasped.

The enormous cheeks were as big as the walls of Troy, and the giant's hair hung down on either side of them like two long, thick curtains. Then Odysseus and his men saw the eye. Just one eye. It was set in the middle of the giant's forehead. The eye was looking straight at the thirteen terrified men.

"By all the gods on Olympus!" Odysseus cried. "It's the Cyclops! It's Polyphemus!"

Polyphemus was famous for one thing: he liked the taste of human ?esh. Odysseus' men knew this. They scrambled to their feet and rushed towards the back of the cave, hoping to find somewhere to hide. There was nowhere.

Polyphemus was inside the cave now. He towered high above the Greeks, with his head almost touching the roof.

"I have been out hunting for my food," Polyphemus bellowed with great satisfaction. "But I come home to find it waiting for me, instead!"

Before they could jump out of the way, Polyphemus reached out with his enormous hand and snatched up six of the Greeks. As they struggled and screamed, Polyphemus opened his huge mouth. Odysseus watched, horrified, as the six Greeks disappeared into the giant's mouth. One crunch, and they were gone. Polyphemus licked his lips with satisfaction.

Odysseus wept with grief and rage. The six men who had just died so horribly had lived through so many dangers. Together with Odysseus and the others, they had survived the ten long years of the war the Greeks had waged against Troy. After the Greeks destroyed Troy, they set off on the long, hazardous sea journey home. On the way, they survived many storms. One storm had brought their ship here, to Sicily. Now, in the cave where Odysseus had thought to find rest and warmth, the six men had made a meal for the dreadful Cyclops.

"Why do you weep?" A big, booming voice sounded in Odysseus ears. He looked up to see Polyphemus glaring at him. "Is it because I have eaten your friends?" Polyphemus asked. "Do not weep! You shall soon be with them!"

With that, Polyphemus snatched up Odysseus and the remaining Greeks, three in one hand and four in the other. Polyphemus' eye looked from one handful of men to the other. The Cyclops seemed to be making some decision.

Then, to their great relief, the Cyclops said, "I have changed my mind. I have had enough food for now. I shall keep you until later. In the meantime, make me a fire to warm myself. A big one!"

Odysseus and the six Greeks found themselves down on the ground again.

There was a heap of firewood on one side of the cave. The Greeks hurried over to it and began piling it up to make a fire. "We must find a way to get out of here," Odysseus whispered to his companions. "Let me think. Fire! Even Polyphemus can be hurt by fire." Meanwhile, Polyphemus went outside the cave. He returned carrying the long pole he used as a walking stick and a huge jar full of wine. A ?ock of sheep followed the Cyclops into the cave. Odysseus saw a big pile of sheep's skins lying in one corner.

"I know what will happen to these sheep!" he sighed.

Then an idea entered his mind. He knew how the sheep could help them all escape!

The fire was burning warmly now. Polyphemus lay down beside it and held up his huge hands to warm them.

"This is well done," he said. "You humans may be tiny, puny creatures, but you have made a good fire."

Odysseus pretended to be grateful. "We only seek to serve you, Polyphemus," he told the Cyclops. "Let us bring you some wine."

Polyphemus smiled. "A fine idea," he boomed. "Since you are so small you can bring me the Wine in those buckets over there" The Cyclops pointed towards the other side of the cave.

Odysseus and his companions began filling the buckets from the huge jar of Wine.

"There is enough wine to fill a lake here!" Odysseus whispered. "We must see that Polyphemus drinks it all."

It took a very long time to make Polyphemus drunk, which is what Odysseus Wanted - The Greeks tramped back and forth carrying bucket after bucket of Wine. Polyphemus drank them all. When all the wine was gone, Polyphemus became very sleepy. At last, his one eye closed and he lay snoring on the floor.

"Quickly!" Odysseus whispered to the others. "Let's get the Cyclops' walking stick."

Between them they heaved the stick off the floor, using all their strength. They dragged it towards the fire and held its pointed end in the ?ames until it grew hot.

"Good!" said Odysseus. "Now let's lift it up... Come on. Higher! Higher!"

Then, when they were holding the stick high enough, Odysseus told them, "Plunge it in his eye. Ready? Now!"

They ran forward together and thrust the heated end of the stick into Polyphemus' closed eye. There was a frightful smell of burning and scorching.

Polyphemus let out a ghastly yell of his hands to his eye, shouting and bellowing. The Greeks were almost deafened by the noise.

"Why is it so dark?" roared Polyphemus. "I can see nothing!"

Polyphemus started to feel the walls and the ?oor of the cave. He was looking for Odysseus and his companions. His huge fingers kept thumping down close to them. They were big enough to crush them.

Odysseus ran over to the pile of sheep's skins. Swiftly he threw one to each of his companions. "Cover yourselves with these, and get down on your hands and knees!" he cried. "Then start crawling towards the door of the cave."

Quickly the Greeks did as Odysseus told them. Suddenly, Odysseus felt the Cyclops' fingers feeling along the sheep's skin that covered his back. The fingers felt like a colossal weight. Polyphemus felt another sheep's skin, then another and another. Each one covered one of the Greeks.

"They have escaped!" Polyphemus bellowed. "Those cunning humans! They have blinded me and escaped. Only the sheep remain here in the cave."

As swiftly as they could, Odysseus and his companions crawled out of the cave. Once outside they threw off the sheep's skins which had saved their lives and ran towards the shore.

"The ship is too badly damaged to sail," Odysseus said quickly. "But the small boats are all right. Quick! Launch them and let us get away from this island."

The Greeks quickly pushed the boats out from the shore. Once they were a?oat, they started to row them out to sea as fast as they could move the oars.

Many more adventures awaited Odysseus and his companions before they reached Greece and home. However, they always remembered the night they escaped from the Cyclops as the most dangerous and fearful of them all.

Last updated on: Monday 3rd September 2018

 

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