Books 9-12: The Great Wandering (Cyclops, Sirens, Circe etc.)

Book IX: Early Adventures; The Cyclops

Odysseus at last reveals to his hosts who he is, and begins to tell the story of events after the fall of Troy. After the sack of Ismarus and fighting against the Cicones, he was blown off course with his fleet of twelve ships to the land of the Lotus-eaters. After escaping the temptations offered by the inhabitants there, the fleet sails to the land of the Cyclopes. Odysseus and the twelve best men of the crew of his own ship go off to investigate the terrain. They are captured by the Cyclops Polyphemus, who is the son of Poseidon himself. After the monster has murdered and eaten a couple of Odysseus' companions, the hero devises a plan. He befriends Polyphemus with the gift of some very strong wine, saying his name is "Nobody". When the Cyclops is drunk, the Greeks blind him and escape by hiding under the sheep Polyphemus keeps. For he cannot feel or hear them leaving when he goes out to graze his flocks in the morning, while none of his neighbours come to help him, as he has told them that nobody has blinded him. When he is safely on his ship, Odysseus taunts the Cyclops, revealing his true name. For this the Cyclops curses him in his father's name. Thus, it was that Odysseus earned the enmity of Poseidon.

Book X: Aeolus; The Laestrygonians; Circe

The fleet then arrives at Aeolia, where they are entertained. The king, Aeolus, gives Odysseus a bag containing all the winds except the west wind. As they approach Ithaca, the crew of Odysseus' ship become jealous of this mysterious gift that their king has received, so they undo the bag when he is asleep. The results are terrible. They are driven back to Aeolus' land. He refuses to help them any more, so they set off again. They come to the Laestrygonians, a breed of vicious giants who live on human flesh. All the ships except one are destroyed. The survivors make their way to Circe's island, named Aeaea. The enchantress turns half of Odysseus' men into swine, but he himself is protected from her potions by Hermes. With the god's help, he is able to secure the restoration of his men. He then spends a year with the goddess, who now is well disposed to the Greeks. When they wish to return home again, Circe tells Odysseus that he must consult with the shade of Teiresias in Hades, and gives him full instructions on how to do this. Just before their departure, one of the Greeks, Elpenor, dies by falling of the roof, and is left unburied.

Book XI: The Book of the Dead or Necuia

Odysseus follows the instructions Circe gave him and speaks to various shades in Hades. First, he converses with Elpenor, who tells him of his demise and prophesies about Odysseus' future. Next, Teiresias orders him not to harm the oxen of the Sun when he sees them. He also informs him about the problems in Ithaca and adds other prophecies about Odysseus. Next Odysseus meets his mother Anticleia's ghost. She tells him more about the situation at home, in particular about Penelope and Odysseus' father Laertes. Numerous other famous women speak with him. Now Odysseus breaks off from his story. Alcinous and Arete commend his tale, and command that he be given more gifts. At Alcinous' request for him to continue, Odysseus tells of his meetings with other, now deceased, heroes of Troy. He relates his conversation with Agamemnon and the story of his destruction at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra and Helen. Achilles asks after his son and muses on the nature of heroism and its value. Ajax, still nursing his grudge against Odysseus over the arms of Achilles, refuses to speak to him. Odysseus tells his hosts about others he saw in the Underworld, including the heroes in everlasting torment in Tartarus and Heracles. His journey to Hades over, he and his men return to Circe's island.

Book XII: The Sirens; Scylla and Charybdis; The Oxen of the Sun

On his return to Aeaea, Circe tells Odysseus of the further perils he must face. As instructed, he has his men block up their ears with wax when they approach the Sirens, so they will be unable to hear their alluring but deadly singing. He has himself tied to the mast so that he can hear the music. When the ship reaches Scylla and Charybdis, he avoids certain death with the latter (a whirlpool), but the former (a six headed monster) eats six of his men.

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