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Book 9 Notes from The Odyssey

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The Odyssey Book 9

Odysseus begins by saying that it is a great thing to listen to such a minstrel perform his songs, but that by asking for the cause of his sorrow he causes more grief. He gives them his name and says his home is Ithaca. Then he says that he has been detained for a long time by Calypso and before her by Circe. He starts at his departure from Troy:

"The wind that carried west from Ilion
brought me to Ismaros, on the far shore,
a strongpoint on the coast of the Kikones.
I stormed that place and killed the men who fought.
Plunder we took, and we enslaved the women,
to make division, equal shares to all."
Book 9, lines 43-8

When he ordered his men to leave this landing, they mutinied and could not leave before reinforcements arrived. Many of his men were killed trying to get away from there. Next, a storm delayed them for three days after which a wind pushed them for nine days to the island of the Lotus eaters. The men who ate the Lotus with the island's inhabitants had no desire to leave the island but had to be dragged away kicking and screaming. Next they came near the land of the Cyclops and they landed on an island in view of it. They admired the island for its good land and harbors and they slept there for the night. When dawn rose they hunted the plentiful game and feasted on many goats, gazing at the smoke of the Cyclops. When they woke up, Odysseus addressed them and told them that he wanted to cross the bay and investigate what type of men lived across it. In one ship they crossed the strait and could see the flocks and rough buildings of the Cyclops.

They beached close to where they could see one sleeping in his cave. Odysseus walked up to the cave with a goatskin full of wine. The cyclops had left the cave because he took his sheep out to pasture. In the cave they found cheeses and lambs separated by age. The men wanted to take these things but Odysseus told them not to. They lit a fire to make an offering and eat some cheese. When the cyclops returned they hid and watched him milk the ewes. Soon, he saw them and reacted "Strangers. . .who are you? and where from?/ What brings you here by sea ways- a fair traffic? Book 9, lines 274-5. Odysseus was afraid but he spoke anyway and entreated the cyclops to give them the courtesy due a guest. The cyclops told him that he didn't care about Zeus and did not fear him. He asked where they hid their ship and Odysseus, knowing that the cyclops means to destroy it, tells him it was destroyed and they are shipwrecked. The cyclops grabbed two of the men and bashed their heads on rocks. The remaining men cried aloud as he ate their comrades. Odysseus had a sword but did not dare kill the cyclops because he was afraid that he wouldn't be able to move the stone the beast rolled in front of the door. When dawn rises, the cyclops lights a fire and takes his sheep through the door, rolling the stone in front of the cave as he left. Odysseus found a mast size portion of an olive tree and they sharpened it in the fire. Odysseus and four other men agreed to wield the weapon. When the cyclops came back Odysseus offered him the wineskin and he drank it all. Once he is drunk, Odysseus said to him:

you ask my honorable name? Remember
the gift you promised me, and I shall tell you.
my name is Nohbdy: mother father and friends,
everyone calls me Nohbdy."
Book 9, lines 394 - 399

The cyclops was drunk enough to be stumbling around, and they take this opportunity to drive the giant pike into his eye. He yells out and claws at his face pulling out the pike. The other cyclops gathered around the outside of the closed cave trying to figure out what is causing the terrible wail. The cyclops Polyphemus yelled to them that "Nohbdy, Nohbdy's tricked me, Nohbdy's ruined me" Book 9, line 443. They thought that he was saying 'nobody' so they went away because they assumed it the work of the gods. Polyphemus opened the door and to let his sheep out but stood in front of it to stop the men from leaving. Odysseus thought hard to figure out how to get past him and he devised away for the men to be strapped to the under bellies of the sheep. The next morning, as the sheep went out, Polyphemus ran his hands over heir woolly backs to make sure that they are sheep. They dropped from the bellies of the sheep when they got out and ran to the ship. Once away, Odysseus yelled back:

"O Kyklops! Would you feast on my companions?
Puny, am I, in a Caveman's hands?
How do you like the beating that we gave you,
you damned cannibal? Eater of guests
under your roof! Zeus and the gods have paid you!"
Book 9, lines 519-23

Polyphemus hurled rocks after them and caused giant waves. The men told Odysseus to stop yelling because his voice was guiding the cyclops' aim. Odysseus yelled out his name and took responsibility for blinding him. Polyphemus yelled that he would get vengeance from his father Poseidon. Then he prayed to his father that even if Odysseus was destined to return home, may he return home with no companions and after a great while... He hurled again and just barely missed. They rowed quickly and joined the other men and made a sacrifice of part of the flock they stole from Polyphemus. They feasted all day long and left at dawn the next morning.

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Topic Tracking: Journeys 5

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