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Book 10 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 10

They landed next at the island of Aeolus the god-made king of the winds. He kept Odysseus a month to hear the entire story of his journey. In return for the tale, he gave them a bag of storm winds with the promise that they would swiftly arrive at Ithaca. In sight of Ithaca, Odysseus fell asleep and his men, thinking that there was treasure in the bag for Aeolus, opened it and released the winds. There was a terrible storm that blew them all the way back to Aeolus' island. The king asked them why they had returned and when Odysseus explained requesting more help, he responded "Take yourself out of this island, creeping thing-/... Your voyage here was cursed by heaven!" Book 10, lines 82-5.

There was no wind after they left for six days so they rowed and arrived at a nightless island called Lamnos. Here they sheltered for some sleep and then Odysseus sent some men out to investigate where they had landed. These men were eaten by giants, the inhabitants of the island. They came running after the ships and they had to depart in haste. Next they landed on the island Aiaa, Circe's island. They pulled into the cove and rested. After a day, Odysseus left with his weapons to inspect the landscape. He saw a house with smoke coming from its chimney and decided not to approach it without companions. As he returned to the ship, he killed a buck with his spear and dragged it to his companions. At dawn, Odysseus addressed his men and told them about the house. They were hesitant because of their past few experiences. Odysseus, however, roused them and sent 22 off. All around the house of Circe were wolves and mountain lions who would not attack. They came up to the men like pets. One of the men said to his companions that it must be the house of a kind weaver, therefore they need not be stealthy. All the men but Eurylochus went into the house and drank with the woman. They were all turned into pigs by the woman Circe. Eurylochus ran back to the ships and told Odysseus this. Odysseus takes his weapons and asked Eurylochus to lead him back. Eurylochus was too afraid to return so Odysseus went alone. Hermes came to Odysseus and advised him not to go and fight but to take an amulet from him and ingest a flower that would defeat her magic. Hermes picked the flower for him and then left. Odysseus went into the house of Circe. When he drank her potion it did not affect him and she was impressed and assumed that he was a god or a great man. When she found out who he was, she spoke:

"Odysseus then you are, O great contender,
of whom the glittering god with the golden wand
spoke to me ever, and foretold
the black swift ship would carry you from Troy.
Put up your weapon in the sheath. We two
shall mingle and make love upon our bed.
So mutual trust may come of play and love."
Book 10, lines 371-77

Odysseus made her swear that if he went to bed with her she would do no harm to him. Circe's four maids attended to him and bathed him. When they brought him food, he wouldn't touch any of it. Circe asked him why this was and he told her that he could not to eat when his men had been turned into pigs. She transformed them back into men and they were happy to see Odysseus. She told them to get the rest of the men from the ship. They stowed the ship, but Eurylochus yelled against this plan thinking it to be further trickery. Circe spoke to Odysseus and told him to think of joy and not sorrow. After a year on the island, one of the shipmates spoke to Odysseus saying "Captain, shake off this trance, and think of home-/ if home indeed awaits us," Book 10, lines 521-2. Odysseus went to Circe and begged her to let them leave. Circe told him that he must go to the land of death and seek the prophecy of Tiresias before he could go home. Odysseus was upset by this and asked who destined this journey. She told him how to get to the land of the dead and what sacrifices to make there. As they prepare to leave, Elpenor who had fallen asleep in drunkenness on the roof, fell and died. No one noticed as Odysseus instructed his men:

"Homeward you think we must be sailing
to our own land; no elsewhere is the voyage
Kirk has laid upon me. We must go
to the cold homes of death and pale Persephone
to hear Teiresias tell of time to come."
Book 10, lines 621-5

The men wept as they went to the ship, fearful of the journey to come. Circe gave them a black ram and a black ewe to sacrifice when appropriate.

Topic Tracking: Journeys 6
Topic Tracking: Guests and Hosts 8

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