|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 |
 WHEN Ulysses had finished his story, the king and all his
people sat for a time saying nothing. After a while,
the king said: "Ulysses, you shall have your wish; we
will carry you to your home. This we will do
to-morrow, for now it is time for bed." Then he turned
to the princes and said: "This guest of ours is a
brave man, and has suffered much; let us give him a
special gift to show that we honour him. He has a
chest full of clothes and gold already; and now let us
give him kettles and bowls to use in his home. These
you may bring to-morrow, and now you can go to your
The next day the princes brought the kettles and bowls,
and the king stowed them away with his own hands under
the benches of the ship. When this was finished they
 all went to the palace, and sat down to a great
feast. But Ulysses kept watching the sun, wishing that
the day was finished, so much did he want to see his
At last he stood up and said: "O king, you and your
people have been very kind to me; and now send me home,
I beg you. Let us have the parting cup, and then let
me go." So the king told his squire to mix the cup.
And the squire mixed it, and served it out. And all
the people in the hall drank, and as they drank they
prayed that the stranger might have a happy return to
his home. And when the cup was given to Ulysses, he
stood up and put it into the hand of the queen, and
said: "O queen, farewell; I pray that you may be happy
with your husband, and your children, and your people."
And when he had said this, he turned and left the
palace. The king sent his squire to show him the way
to the ship; also some of the women who waited on the
queen carried food and wine, and a rug on which he
might sleep in the ship. The chest, with the clothes
and the gold, was taken down also and put into the
 Then the rowers made all things ready. They put
the rug in the hinder part of the vessel, and Ulysses
climbed into the ship, and lay down upon it. Then the
men unfastened the ropes which made the ship fast to
the shore, and took their places on the benches, and
began to row. As soon as ever they touched the water
with their oars, Ulysses fell into a deep sleep. And
the men rowed, and the ship sprang forward more quickly
than a chariot with four horses travels over the plain.
A hawk could not fly through the air more swiftly.
When the morning star rose in the sky, the ship came to
Ithaca. Now there was a harbour in the island which
the rowers knew very well. It was sheltered from the
waves, and at the head of it was a great olive tree,
and near the olive tree a cave. Here the men ran the
ship ashore, and they took up Ulysses in his rug, for
he was still fast asleep, and laid him down under the
olive tree, and by his side they put all his
provisions. After this, they got into their ship
again, and started for home.
ULYSSES ASLEEP LAID ON HIS OWN COAST BY THE PHAEACIAN SAILORS
After a while Ulysses woke up from his
Now Athené had spread a great mist over all the place,
and Ulysses did not know where he was, so different did
it look from what it really was. And he cried out:
"Where am I? What shall I do? Where shall I put these
goods of mine? Surely these Phaeacians have not done
what they promised, but have taken me to a strange
land. But first let me see whether they have left me
the things which belonged to me." So he counted the
clothes, and the gold, and the kettles, and found that
nothing was missing. Still he was in great trouble,
for he did not know where he was. While he walked to
and fro, Athené met him. She had taken the shape of a
handsome young shepherd. When Ulysses saw her, he was
glad, though, indeed, he did not know that it was the
goddess, not a shepherd, that he saw. He said:
"Friend, you are the first man that I have seen in this
country. Tell me where I am, and help me. Is this an
island, or is it part of the mainland?"
Athené said: "You must have come from a very far
country not to know this place,
 for, indeed, it
is a country which most men know. This is the island
of Ithaca, a good land, though it is not a good place
for horses. Yet it is fertile, and gives good pasture
for sheep and goats, and the vineyards bear good wine."
Ulysses was very glad to hear this, still he thought it
better not to let the stranger know who he really was.
So he made up this story: "I come from the island of
Crete. I got into trouble, for I killed the king's
son, who would have robbed me of some of my goods.
Then I made a bargain with certain Phoenicians that
they should take me and my goods either to Pylos or to
Elis. This they would have done but for the contrary
winds which drove them to this place. So they put me
out of the ship while I slept, and my possessions with
When Ulysses had finished his story, Athené changed her
shape again, becoming like a woman fair and tall. And
she laughed, and said: "O Ulysses, he would be a
cunning man who could cheat you. Here you are in your
own country again, and you are still making up these
 yourself. Well, you are the wisest
among mortals, and I am Athené, the goddess of Wisdom.
I have always been used to stand by you and help you.
And so I will do hereafter. First let us hide these
goods of yours. Afterwards we will consider what
should best be done. But you must be silent, telling
no one who you are. So shall you come at last to your
Ulysses answered: "O goddess, it is hard for any man
to know you, for you take many shapes. You were always
good to me when we were fighting against Troy, and you
helped me the other day when I was among the
Phaeacians. But now tell me truly: What is this
place? You say that it is Ithaca, but it seems to me a
Then Athené scattered the mist so that Ulysses could
see the place as it really was, and he knew it to be
Ithaca, and he kneeled down, and kissed the ground, for
he was very thankful in his heart.
And Athené said: "Now let us hide away your goods in
the cave." So Ulysses took the clothes, and the gold,
and all his
 other possessions, and stored them
away in the cave, and Athené rolled a great stone to
the mouth of the cave to keep them safe.
After this Athené asked him how he meant to get
possession of his kingdom again. She told him how that
there was a great crowd of princes from Ithaca and the
islands round about, who had come hoping to marry
Penelopé, and how they sat day after day in his palace
and wasted his substance. "And how," said she, "will
you, being one man, prevail over them who are so many?"
"If you will stand by me, and help me," said he, "I
will fight against a hundred, ay, and against three
Then said Athené: "I will so change you that no man
shall know you. I will make the skin of your face and
hands withered and cold, and take the colour out of
your hair, and make your eyes dull. The Suitors will
think nothing of you, and even your wife and your son
will not know you. Now go to the house of Eumaeus, who
looks after the swine, for he is faithful to you; I
will go to Sparta and fetch home
 your son
Telemăchus, for he is gone there seeking news of you."
Ulysses said: "Why did he go when you knew all and
might have told him? Is he also to suffer what I have
suffered?" "Nay," answered Athené, "it was only right
that he should bestir himself, looking for his father.
Be contented; all will be well."
So she touched him with her rod. And when she touched
him, his skin withered, like the skin of an old man,
and his hair lost its colour, and his eyes grew dim.
And his clothes also looked torn and dirty. Also the
goddess gave him a stag's skin, very shabby, with the
hair worn from it. And she put a staff in his hand,
and a battered wallet, such as beggars carry, which
was fastened to his shoulders by a rope.
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