HOW ODYSSEUS MET WITH CIRCE
 Across the grey seas sailed Odysseus and
his men, until they had left the Land of the
Cyclopes far behind.
Ere long they came to an island floating
in the sea. Round about it was a wall of
bronze, and its cliffs ran sheer up from the
Here lived AEolus, the keeper of the winds.
For a month the ships of Odysseus rested
there, and Odysseus and his men feasted
with AEolus and his sons and daughters, and
were treated as honoured guests. When
Odysseus said he must again sail on his
homeward way, AEolus gave him a parting
gift. This gift was a great leather bag, inside
which AEolus placed all the winds that he
ruled, except the wind of the west. Securely
he fastened the mouth of the bag with a silver
 thong and laid it in the hold of the ship in
which Odysseus sailed. Then AEolus bade the
West Wind blow gently and softly, and carry
the ships safely home to Ithaca.
For nine days and nine nights they sailed
smoothly on, gently guided by the soft West
Wind, until the hills and woods of Ithaca were
in sight, and they could see the people tending
the beacon fires to drive wild beasts away
from their flocks.
When home was so near, Odysseus felt that
he need no longer stay awake day and night,
tending, with his own hands, the sail, and
guiding the ships. He was very weary, and
when sleep made his eyes heavy he gave up
his place at the sail to another, and lay down
and soundly slept.
While he slept his men grumbled together.
'Many are the rich treasures Odysseus
brings home with him,' said they. 'He has
riches of every kind from Troy, while we who
also fought for Greece have nothing. And
now AEolus has given him a gift. The leather
bag is certainly full of gold and silver.'
Thus they talked, till their greed made
 thieves of them, and they brought up the
leather bag from the hold to steal the treasures
which they thought were hidden within.
Quickly they loosened the silver thong, and,
with a mighty gust, all the winds rushed out,
and swept in a hurricane across the waves,
driving the ships before them.
When they saw their own homeland fading
away into a little blue speck on the wind-swept
sea, the men of Odysseus wept for their own folly.
The sound of their weeping and the roar of the
terrible gale awoke Odysseus. When he knew
what had befallen, his heart failed him, and
he longed to throw himself into the waves and
put an end to his life. But soon his courage
came back, and when the storm drove the ships
close to the floating island with its bronze
walls, he made his men go ashore to get fresh
water, and to eat and drink. When he
himself had had bread and wine, he went to the
palace of AEolus. Here he found AEolus
feasting with his wife and children.
In great surprise at seeing him, AEolus said,
'How hast thou come hither, Odysseus? What
evil hath hindered thy safe voyage? Surely
 I gave thee every help to take thee safely to
thine own country and thy home?'
Then answered Odysseus: 'The evil deeds of
my own men have brought me this harm. They
set free the winds while I slept.'
And he begged AEolus to help him, and to
let him sail homeward in safety once more.
But AEolus would not listen.
'Get thee hence!' he cried in anger. 'A very
wicked man must thou be, else this evil could
not have befallen thee. I will not help thee.
Get thee forth!'
Sadder and more heavy at heart than when
they landed, Odysseus and his men once more
embarked in their ships and left the island.
The winds blew fiercely against them, and soon
they were utterly worn out and heartsick with
toiling at their long, heavy oars.
For six nights and days they struggled on.
On the seventh day they reached an island
where lived a race of giants. Thankfully, after
all their toil, the warriors saw before them a
fair harbour. Its entrance was narrow, and steep
cliffs ran up on either side of it, but its water
was smooth as a pond, with never a little wave
 to ruffle it. Into this haven all the ships were
steered, save the ship of Odysseus. His ship
he moored outside the harbour, and fastened
the hawser to a rock. Then he with some of
his men climbed a crag, from which they could
look down on the island. No men or oxen
were to be seen, but they saw smoke curling
up above the trees.
Three of his men Odysseus sent inland to
see what manner of people dwelt there. They
went along the track beaten by the wheels that
brought wood down from the hills into the
town, and presently they came near the town
from whence had risen the smoke. Just
outside they came on a maiden drawing water
from a crystal clear spring. She told the men,
when they asked, that she was a princess,
daughter of the king of the island, and she
showed them the way to her father's palace.
Into the palace she led them, and there they
found the queen of the island. She was a
huge, fat woman, as big as the peak of a
mountain. So horrible was her appearance that
when they looked at her they felt sick with fear
 As soon as she saw the three men she called
to her husband. At once he rushed in, seized
hold of a man, and, like a hungry lion, began to
devour him. The other two men fled to the
ships, but the cannibal giant raised a great
warcry, and all the other giants hurried out at
the sound. They ran to the cliffs, and there
broke off huge rocks which they cast at the
ships. Smashed like eggshells, the ships sank
under the water, and the noise of crashing
timbers and the cries of dying men filled the
air. Like men spearing fishes the giants
seized the men as they floated on the waters
of the harbour, and took them home to devour.
While the haven that had seemed so peaceful
was full of those terrible sights and sounds,
Odysseus drew his sharp sword, cut his hawser,
and bade his ship's company row with all their
might. With one accord they dashed their
oars into the water, and the ship flew forth
from the great dark cliffs of the island out to
the open sea. But the ship of Odysseus was
the only one that escaped. The other ships
were lost there, one and all.
Sad at heart were Odysseus and his men
 because of the friends who were gone, yet
they were glad as men saved from a dreadful
Ere long they reached another island, where
dwelt a great enchantress, Circe of the Golden
The ship of Odysseus put into a sheltering
haven and Odysseus and his men went ashore.
For two days and two nights they lay by the
sea-beach, worn out with weariness and sorrow.
When the third day dawned, Odysseus took
his spear and sharp sword and climbed to the
top of a craggy hill above the harbour. From
thence he could see the blue smoke curling up
above the thick woods, in which stood the
palace of Circe. Having seen this he turned
back to tell his men what he had seen, and as
he came down the path from the hilltop, there
came from his pasture in the woodland, to drink
at the river, a tall, antlered stag. Odysseus
watched him, and as he came out of the river
he cast his spear at him, and slew him with one
Then he made a rope of twisted slips of
willow, and with it slung the great beast across
 his back. Walking heavily under his load, he
carried the stag to where his ship's company,
sad and worn, lay by the sea.
'Take heart, my friends,' said he, 'we are not
yet going to die. Look at the food I have
brought, and let us eat and drink.'
The men roused themselves to gaze with
wonder and delight at the noble stag which
Odysseus had cast down on the sea-beach.
They prepared a meal of its flesh, and all day
they feasted on it and on the sweet wine from
their ship. When darkness fell, they lay down
to sleep by the sea, and slept until rosy dawn.
When Odysseus awoke, he said to his men
Hear my words, my friends. We know not
where the sun rises nor where it sets, and all I
know of this land is what I saw yesterday from
the hill I climbed. All round it lies the sea,
and from the thick woods in its midst I saw
the smoke curling upwards. So, all round us,
we have sea and skies, and a land we do not
When the men heard this, they sobbed aloud,
for the terrors they had endured had robbed
them of their courage.
 But Odysseus was brave as before. He
divided his men into two companies. One
company he himself commanded. His kinsman,
Eurylochus, commanded the other. They
then drew lots who should explore the island.
The lot fell to Eurylochus, and he set out with
In the thick of the forest Eurylochus found
the palace of Circe, built of polished stone. A
great cleared space lay in front of the palace,
and backwards and forwards in this clearing
roamed mountain-bred wolves and tawny lions,
whom Circe herself had bewitched.
Like dogs that fawn on their master when
he comes home, these wild beasts fawned on
Eurylochus and his men, wagging their long
tails and jumping up on them. At the outer
door of the palace the men stood, frightened at
these strange and terrible creatures, and from
within they heard a silvery voice singing a song
so sweet that it stole men's hearts away. It
was Circe who sang, singing as she weaved a
web of wonderful beauty.
Then the man who of all the men of Odysseus
was the one most dear to him, said to the
 others, 'Let us cry aloud to this woman who is
weaving, and who sings so sweet a song.'
So they called to her, and Circe came forth
and opened the shining doors, and, shedding
the beauty of her wonderful face on them,
she gently bade them enter. Heedlessly they
followed her, all but Eurylochus, who,
remembering the giant's fair daughter, feared she
might betray them.
Into her palace hall she led them, and made
them sit on the high seats there. Then she
gave them cheese, and barley-meal, and fragrant
yellow honey and rich wine, and with their
food and wine she mixed harmful drugs that
made them utterly forget their own country.
Then she smote them with her magic wand,
and in one moment they were turned into
swine. Four-footed, bristly, and snouted were
they, and yet with their own minds inside their
ugly bodies, and she penned them into pig-sties, and
flung them acorns and other food fit only for pigs.
Long and fearfully Eurylochus waited outside
the door of the palace, but when his
companions did not return he went back to the ship.
 At first he was so full of grief that he could
not speak a word, nor tell his story. At length
he was able to tell what had befallen.
When Odysseus heard how his men had
entered the palace but never returned, he flung
over his shoulder his silver-studded sword with
its great blade of bronze, slung on his bow, and
bade Eurylochus lead him by the way he had
But, clinging to his knees, Eurylochus in
great fear begged Odysseus to leave him
'I know that thou thyself shalt return no
more,' he said, 'nor bring back any one of thy
'Stay here, then, by the ship, eating and
drinking,' said Odysseus scornfully. 'As for
me, I go.'
All alone he went up from the seashore,
through the green woods to the enchanted
As he drew near, a fair lad bearing a
golden wand came to meet him. Hermes
was his name, and he was the messenger of
 Taking Odysseus by the hand, he gently told
him how Circe had bewitched his men and
turned them into swine, and how Circe would
try to serve Odysseus in the same way that she
had served them. She would give him food
mixed with evil drugs, and when he had eaten
she would smite him with her magic wand, and
send him grunting to a sty.
'But I will save thee,' said Hermes, 'and
prevent Circe from doing thee harm.'
With that he gave Odysseus a strange plant,
black at the root, but with a flower as white as
milk. Moly, he called it, and it was so hard to
dig that mere men were scarcely able to dig it.
He told Odysseus that if he carried the Moly
with him, Circe would not be able to enchant
'When Circe smites thee with her long
wand,' said he, 'even then draw thy sharp
sword and spring on her as if thou wouldst slay
her. Then she will shrink away in fear, and
ever after she will treat thee kindly. Only thou
must make her promise that she will plan no
more mischief against thee.'
Then Hermes of the golden wand went away
 through the trees, and Odysseus held on his
way to the palace.
At the gates of the palace he stood and called
aloud. Soon the shining doors were swung
open, and beautiful, wicked Circe, with her
golden hair hanging round her false, fair face,
came and led him in.
She made him sit on a carved chair, studded
with silver, and brought him a golden cup full
of her drugged wine.
When he had drunk of it, she smote him
with her wand, and said, 'Go thy way now to
the sty, and lie there with the rest of thy
At that Odysseus did as Hermes had bidden,
and, drawing his sharp sword, he rushed at
Circe as if to slay her.
With a great cry, Circe slipped to the ground
and clasped Odysseus round the knees.
'There is no man save one who is great
enough to be proof against the charm which
thou hast drunk,' she cried. 'Truly thou must
be Odysseus of whom Hermes of the golden
wand hath ofttimes told me. From Troy, in thy
swift black ship, he said thou wouldst come.
 Sheathe thy sword, I pray thee, Odysseus, and
let us be at peace.'
Then said Odysseus: 'How canst thou bid
me be at peace with thee, Circe, when thou
by thy wicked magic hast turned my men into
swine? How can I trust thee?'
Then Circe solemnly promised to do Odysseus
no harm, and to let him return in safety to his
Quickly her servants spread fair linen on the
floor, and covered the chairs with covers of rich
purple. Tables of silver they drew up near the
chairs, and on them placed golden dishes full of
tempting food, and silver bowls and golden
cups full of sweet wine. They also made ready
a warm bath for Odysseus, and when he had
bathed they brought him a fair mantle and
tunic. Then Circe made him sit on a beautiful
chair, inlaid with silver, and with a footstool at
his feet. A maid brought water in a golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for him
to wash his hands, and served him with every
kind of dainty.
But Odysseus could not eat. His mind was
full of care, and he thought sadly of his friends
 who were even then penned like swine in a
'Why art thou so sad and silent, Odysseus?'
asked Circe. 'Why wilt thou not eat? Art
thou afraid that I will deceive thee and harm
thee? Nay, thou hast no cause for fear, for I
have sworn I will do thee no hurt.'
Odysseus answered: 'How can I be happy,
and eat and drink, when I have not yet freed
my dear friends? If thou wilt set them
free, then indeed shall I know that thou wilt
keep the promise thou hast made.'
Then Circe went through the great hall to
the sty where the bewitched men were
imprisoned. She opened the doors of the sty
and waved her wand, and when the swine
came out she touched each one with a charm
that made its bristles and pig's body and
face disappear. And they became men again,
and looked even handsomer and stronger than
When they saw Odysseus, they ran to him
and took his hands, and wept for joy. And
even Circe's hard heart was melted at their
gladness, and tears came into her eyes.
 Then Circe asked Odysseus to bring up his
men from the seashore, that they might all
feast together. Down by the ship he found
them sorrowing, because they feared they
should see him no more. So dearly did they
love Odysseus that they were as glad when
they saw him safe and well, as they would
have been had they themselves safely
returned to their own homeland. When he
told them to draw the ship on shore, and
hide their goods in the sea-caves, and come
and feast in Circe's palace, they gladly
Eurylochus alone, who did not wish to go,
tried to prevent the others from going.
'Wretched men that we are!' he cried,
Odysseus is always foolhardy, and always
leading us into danger. It was he who put us
into the power of the Cyclopes, and now he
leads us to the enchantress, Circe, who will
surely turn us all into swine, or wolves or
lions to guard her palace.'
So angry was Odysseus at these words, that
he laid his hand on his sword, and would have
cut off the head of Eurylochus. But the other
 men of his company pleaded for mercy for
'Leave Eurylochus here to guard the ship,'
said they, 'but lead us to the palace of
And Eurylochus, ashamed, did not stay by
the ship, but went with the others.
When they reached the palace, Circe
provided warm baths and rich clothes for the
tired and hungry men, and made them a great
And when Odysseus saw them all safe and
happy, he, too, was happy, and ate of the
banquet that Circe had made for him.
For a whole year Odysseus and his men
stayed in the palace, feasting and resting.
But when a year was gone, and the long
summer days had returned once more, his
men came to Odysseus and said—
'Surely it is high time for us to think of our
own homes, and our own dear land. Are we
to stay here evermore?'
That night Odysseus said to Circe—
'Circe, thou didst promise to let me return to
my own country. My men and I long with a
 great homesickness to see our land again.
Wilt thou let us go?'
Said Circe: 'Thou shalt stay no longer in
my house against thy will, Odysseus.'
So when some days had passed, and when
Circe had told Odysseus of many dangers he
would meet on his homeward voyage, and
warned him how best to escape from them,
Odysseus said farewell to the sorceress.
'If thou or thy men do what I have warned
them not to do,' she said, 'ruin will come upon
thy ship, and on thy men. And thou, Odysseus,
even though thou shouldest thyself escape,
shalt return to Ithaca late, and in evil plight,
and with the loss of all thy company.'
When dawn was turning the tops of
the trees on the enchanted island into gold,
Odysseus and his men got on board their ship.
They thrust their oars deep into the grey
sea-water, but soon they ceased to row, for Circe
sent a kindly wind to fill the sails and carry
Odysseus safely home.
As the ship flew swiftly through the water,
like a bird that swims through the waves,
Circe of the golden hair walked up from the
 shore, through the green woods, to the enchanted palace.
Sad was her heart at the parting, and
mayhap she grieved for the evil she had