|The Odyssey for Boys and Girls|
|by Alfred J. Church|
|Lively retelling of Homer's Odyssey, telling of the wanderings of Ulysses and his adventures with the giant Cyclops and the enchantress Circe as he makes his way home to his beloved Ithaca. There, after slaying the suitors who have been wooing his wife Penelope, he is reunited with his family after twenty long years. Ages 8-12 |
 A GREAT many years ago there was a very famous siege of
a city called Troy. The eldest son of the king who
reigned in this city carried off the wife of one of the
Greek kings, and with her a great quantity of gold and
silver. She was the most beautiful woman in the world,
and all the princes of Greece had come to her father's
court wishing to marry her. Her father had made them
all swear, that if any one should steal her away from
the man whom she would choose for her husband, they
would help him to get her back. This promise they
had now to keep. So they all went to besiege Troy,
each taking a number of his subjects with him. On the
other hand, the Trojans were
 helped by many of the
nations that lived near them. The siege lasted for a
long time, but in the tenth year the city was taken.
Then the Greeks began to think about going home. The
story that you are now going to hear is about one of
these Greek princes, Ulysses by name, who was the King
of Ithaca. (This was an island on the west coast of
Greece, and you can find it now marked on the map.)
Ulysses was, according to one story, very unwilling to
go. He had married, you see, a very good and beautiful
wife, and had a little son. So he pretended to be mad,
and took a plough down to the sea-shore and began to
plough the sand. But some one took his little son and
laid him in front of the plough. And when Ulysses
stopped lest he should hurt him, people said: "This
man is not really mad." So he had to go. And this is
the story of how, at last, he came back.
When Troy had been taken, Ulysses and his men set sail
for his home, the Island of Ithaca. He had twelve
ships with him, and fifty men or thereabouts in each
ship. The first place they came to was a city called
 they took and plundered. Ulysses
said to his men: "Let us sail away with what we have
got." They would not listen to him, but sat on the
sea-shore, and feasted, for they had found plenty of
wine in the city, and many sheep and oxen in the fields
round it. Meanwhile the people who had escaped out of
the city fetched their countrymen who dwelt in the
mountains, and brought an army to fight with the
Greeks. The battle began early in the morning of the next
day, and lasted nearly till sunset. At first the
Greeks had the better of it, but in the afternoon the
people of the country prevailed, and drove them to
their ships. Very glad were they to get away; but when
they came to count, they found that they had lost six
men out of each ship.
After this a great storm fell upon the ships, and
carried them far to the south, past the very island to
which they were bound. It was very hard on Ulysses.
He was close to his home, if he could only have
stopped; but he could not, and though he saw it again
soon after, it was ten years before he reached it,
having gone through many adventures in the meantime.
 The first of these was in the country of the
Cyclopes or Round-eyed People. Late on a certain day
Ulysses came with his ships to an island, and found in
it a beautiful harbour, with a stream falling into it,
and a flat beach on which to draw up the ships. That
night he and his men slept by the ships, and the next
day they made a great feast. The island was full of
wild goats. These the men hunted and killed, using
their spears and bows. They had been on shipboard for
many days, and had had but little food. Now they had
plenty, eight goats to every ship, and nine for the
ship of Ulysses, because he was the chief. So they ate
till they were satisfied, and drank wine which they had
carried away from Ismărus.
Now there was another island about a mile away, and
they could see that it was larger, and it seemed as if
there might be people living in it. The island where
they were was not inhabited. So on the second morning
Ulysses said to his men: "Stay here, my dear friends;
I with my own ship and my own company will go to yonder
island, and find out who dwells there, whether they are
 good people or no." So he and his men took their
ship, and rowed over to the other island. Then Ulysses
took twelve men, the bravest that there were in the
ship, and went to search out the country. He took with
him a goat-skin of wine, very strong and sweet, which
the priest of Apollo at Ismărus had given him for
saving him and his house and family, when the city was
taken. There never was a more precious wine; one
measure of it could be mixed with twenty measures of
water, and the smell of it was wondrously sweet. Also
he took with him some parched corn, for he felt in his
heart that he might need some food.
After a while they came to a cave which seemed to be
the dwelling of some rich and skilful shepherd. Inside
there were pens for the young sheep and the young
goats, and baskets full of cheeses, and milk-pans
ranged against the walls. Then Ulysses' men said to
him: "Let us go away before the master comes back. We
can take some of the cheeses, and some of the kids and
lambs." But Ulysses would not listen to them. He
wanted to see what kind of man this shepherd
be, and he hoped to get something from him.
In the evening the Cyclops, the Round-eye, came home.
He was a great giant, with one big eye in the middle of
his forehead, and an eyebrow above it. He bore on his
shoulder a huge bundle of pine logs for his fire. This
he threw down outside the cave with a great crash, and
drove the flocks inside, and then closed up the mouth
with a big rock so big that twenty waggons could not
carry it. After this he milked the ewes and the
she-goats. Half the milk he curdled for cheese, and
half he set aside for his own supper. This done, he
threw some logs on the fire, which burnt up with a
great flame, showing the Greeks, who had fled into the
depths of the cave, when they saw the giant come in.
"Who are you?" said the giant, "traders or pirates?"
"We are no pirates, mighty sir," said Ulysses, "but
Greeks sailing home from Troy, where we have been
fighting for Agamemnon, the great king, whose fame is
spread abroad from one end of heaven to the other. And
we beg you to show
hos-  pitality to us, for the
gods love them who are hospitable."
"Nay," said the giant, "talk not to me about the gods.
We care not for them, for we are better and stronger
than they. But tell me, where have you left your
But Ulysses saw what he was thinking of when he asked
about the ship, namely, that he meant to break it up so
as to leave them no hope of getting away. So he said,
"Oh, sir, we have no ship; that which we had was driven
by the wind upon a rock and broken, and we whom you see
here are all that escaped from the wreck."
The giant said nothing, but without more ado caught up
two of the men, as a man might catch up two puppies,
and dashed them on the ground, and tore them limb from
limb, and devoured them, with huge draughts of milk
between, leaving not a morsel, not even the bones. And
when he had filled himself with this horrible food and
with the milk of the flocks, he lay down among his
sheep, and slept.
Then Ulysses thought: "Shall I slay this monster as he
sleeps, for I do not doubt that
 with my good sword
I can pierce him to the heart. But no; if I do this,
then shall I and my comrades here perish miserably, for
who shall be able to roll away the great rock that is
laid against the mouth of the cave?"
So he waited till the morning, very sad at heart. And
when the giant awoke, he milked his flocks, and
afterward seized two of the men, and devoured them as
before. This done, he went forth to the pastures, his
flocks following him, but first he put the rock on the
mouth of the cave, just as a man shuts down the lid of
All day Ulysses thought how he might save himself and
his companions, and the end of his thinking was this.
There was a great pole in the cave, the trunk of an
olive tree, green wood which the giant was going to use
as a staff for walking when it should have been dried
by the smoke. Ulysses cut off this a piece some six
feet long, and his companions hardened it in the fire,
and hid it away. In the evening the giant came back
and did as before, seizing two of the prisoners and
devouring them. When he had finished his meal, Ulysses
 to him with the skin of wine in his hand and
said, "Drink, Cyclops, now that you have supped. Drink
this wine, and see what good things we had in our ship.
But no one will bring the like to you in your island
here if you are so cruel to strangers."
The Cyclops took the skin and drank, and was mightily
pleased with the wine.
ULYSSES GIVING WINE TO POLYPHEMUS
"Give me more," he said, "and tell me your name, and I
will give you a gift such as a host should. Truly this
is a fine drink, like, I take it, to that which the
gods have in heaven."
Then Ulysses said: "My name is No Man. And now give me
And the giant said: "My gift is this: you shall be
eaten last." And as he said this, he fell back in a
Then Ulysses said to his companions, "Be brave, my
friends, for the time is come for us to be delivered
from this prison."
So they put the stake into the fire, and kept it there
till it was ready, green as it was, to burst into
flame. Then they thrust it into his eye, for, as has
been told, he had but one, and Ulysses leant with all
his force upon
 the stake, and turned it about,
just as a man turns a drill about when he would make a
hole in a ship timber. And the wood hissed in the eye
as the red-hot iron hisses in the water when a smith
would temper it to make a sword.
Then the giant leapt up, and tore away the stake, and
cried out so loudly that the Round-eyed people in the
island came to see what had happened.
"What ails you," they asked, "that you make so great an
uproar, waking us all out of our sleep? Is any one
stealing your sheep, or seeking to hurt you?"
And the giant bellowed, "No Man is hurting me."
"Well," said the Round-eyed people, "if no man is
hurting you, then it must be the gods that do it, and
we cannot help you against them."
But Ulysses laughed when he thought how he had beguiled
them by his name. But he was still in doubt how he and
his companions should escape, for the giant sat in the
mouth of the cave, and felt to see whether the men were
trying to get out
 among the sheep. And Ulysses,
after long thinking, made a plan by which he and his
companions might escape. By great good luck the giant
had driven the rams into the cave, for he commonly left
them outside. These rams were very big and strong, and
Ulysses took six of the biggest, and tied the six men
that were left out of the twelve underneath their
bellies with osier twigs. And on each side of the six
rams to which a man was tied, he put another ram. So
he himself was left, for there was no one who could do
the same for him. Yet this also he managed. There was
a very big ram, much bigger than all the others, and to
this he clung, grasping the fleece with both his hands.
So, when the morning came, the flocks went out of the
cave as they were wont, and the giant felt them as they
passed by him, and did not perceive the men. And when
he felt the biggest ram, he said—
"How is this? You are not used to lag behind; you are
always the first to run to the pasture in the morning
and to come back to the fold at night. Perhaps you
 are troubled about thy master's eye which this
villain No Man has destroyed. First he overcame me
with wine, and then he put out my eye. Oh! that you
could speak and tell me where he is. I would dash out
his brains upon the ground." And then he let the big
When they were out of the giant's reach, Ulysses let go
his hold of the ram, and loosed his companions, and
they all made as much haste as they could to get to the
place where they had left their ship, looking back to
see whether the giant was following them. The crew at
the ship were very glad to see them, but wondered that
there should be only six. Ulysses made signs to them
to say nothing, for he was afraid that the giant might
know where they were if he heard their voices. So they
all got on board and rowed with all their might. But
when they were a hundred yards from the shore, Ulysses
stood up in the ship and shouted: "You are an evil
beast, Cyclops, to devour strangers in your cave, and
are rightly served in losing your eye. May the gods
make you suffer worse things than this!"
 The Cyclops, when he heard Ulysses speak, broke
off the top of a rock and threw it to the place from
which the voice seemed to come. The rock fell just in
front of the ship, and the wave which it made washed it
back to the shore. But Ulysses caught up a long pole
and pushed the ship off, and he nodded with his head,
being afraid to speak, to his companions to row with
all their might. So they rowed; and when they were
twice as far off as before, Ulysses stood up again in
the ship, as if he were going to speak again. And his
comrades begged him to be silent.
"Do not make the giant angry," they said; "we were
almost lost just now when the wave washed us back to
the shore. The monster throws a mighty bolt, and
throws it far."
But Ulysses would not listen, but cried out: "Hear,
Cyclops, if any man ask you who put out your eye, say
that it was Ulysses of Ithaca."
Then the giant took up another great rock and threw it.
This time it almost touched the end of the rudder, but
missed by a hand's breadth. This time, therefore, the
 them on. So big was it that it
carried the ship to the other shore.
Now Ulysses had not forgotten to carry off sheep from
the island for his companions. These he divided among
the crews of all the ships. The great ram he had for
his own share. So that day the whole company feasted,
and they lay down on the sea-shore and slept.
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