| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
II. THE WANDERING OF ODYSSEUS
Now Odysseus and his men sailed on and on till they came to
Æolia, where dwells the king of the winds, and here they
came nigh to good fortune.
Æolus received them kindly, and at their going he secretly
gave to Odysseus a leathern bag in which all contrary winds
were tied up securely, that only the favoring west wind
might speed them to Ithaca. Nine days the ships went gladly
before the wind, and on the tenth day they had sight of
Ithaca, lying like a low cloud in the west. Then, so near his
haven, the happy Odysseus gave up to his weariness and fell
asleep, for he had never left the helm. But while he slept
his men saw the leathern bag that he kept by him, and, in
the belief that it was full of treasure, they opened it. Out
rushed the ill-winds!
In an instant the sea was covered with white caps; the waves
rose mountain high; the poor ships
strug-  gled against the
tyranny of the gale and gave way. Back they were
driven,—back, farther and farther; and when Odysseus woke,
Ithaca was gone from sight, as if it had indeed been only a
low cloud in the west!
Straight to the island of Æolus they were driven once more.
But when the king learned what greed and treachery had
wasted his good gift, he would give them nothing more.
"Surely thou must be a man hated of the gods, Odysseus," he
said, "for misfortune bears thee company. Depart now;
I may not help thee."
So, with a heavy heart, Odysseus and his men departed. For
many days they rowed against a dead calm, until at length
they came to the land of the Læstrygonians. And, to cut a
piteous tale short, these giants destroyed all their fleet
save one ship,—that of Odysseus himself, and in this he
made escape to the island of Circe. What befell there, how
the greedy seamen were
turned into swine and turned back into men, and how the
sorceress came to befriend Odysseus,—all this
has been related.
THE GREEDY SEAMEN WERE TURNED INTO SWINE
There in Ææa the voyagers stayed a
year before Circe would let them go. But at length she
bade Odysseus seek the region of Hades, and ask of the sage
Tiresias how he might ever return to Ithaca. How Odysseus
followed this counsel, none may know; but by some mysterious
journey, and with the aid of a spell, he came to the borders
of Hades. There he saw and spoke with many renowned
Shades, old and young, even his own friends who had fallen
on the plain of Troy. Achilles he saw, Patroclus and Ajax
and Agamemnon, still grieving over the treachery of his
wife. He saw, too, the phantom of Heracles, who
with honor among the gods, and has for his wife Hebe, the
daughter of Zeus and Juno. But though he would have
talked with the heroes for a year and more, he sought out
"The anger of Poseidon follows thee," said the sage.
"Wherefore, Odysseus, thy return is yet far off. But take
heed when thou art come to Thrinacia, where the sacred kine
of the Sun have their pastures. Do them no hurt, and thou
yet come home. But if they be harmed in any wise, ruin
shall come upon thy men; and even if thou escape, thou
shalt come home to find strange men devouring thy substance
and wooing thy wife."
With this word in his mind, Odysseus departed and came once
more to Ææa. There he tarried but a little time, till
Circe had told him all the dangers that beset his way. Many
a good counsel and crafty warning did she give him against
the Sirens that charm with their singing, and against the
monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, and the Clashing
Rocks, and the cattle of the Sun. So the king and his
men set out from the island of Ææa.
Now very soon they came to the Sirens who sing so sweetly
that they lure to death every man who listens. For
straightway he is mad to be with them where they sing; and
alas for the man that would fly without wings!
But when the ship drew near the Sirens' island, Odysseus did
as Circe had taught him. He bade all his shipmates stop up
their ears with moulded wax, so that they could not hear.
He alone kept his hearing; but he had himself lashed to the
mast so that he could in no wise move, and he forbade them
to loose him, however he might plead, under the spell of the
 As they sailed near, his soul gave way. He
heard a wild sweetness coaxing the air, as a minstrel coaxes
the harp; and there, close by, were the Sirens sitting in a
blooming meadow that hid the bones of men. Beautiful,
winning maidens they looked; and they sang, entreating
Odysseus by name to listen and abide and rest. Their voices
were golden-sweet above the sound of wind and wave, like
drops of amber floating on the tide; and for all his wisdom,
Odysseus strained at his bonds and begged his men to let
him go free. But they, deaf alike to the song and the
sorcery, rowed harder than ever. At length, song and island
faded in the distance. Odysseus came to his wits once more,
and his men loosed his bonds and set him free.
But they were close upon new dangers. No sooner had they
avoided the Clashing Rocks (by a device of Circe's) than
they came to a perilous strait. On one hand they saw the
whirlpool where, beneath a hollow fig-tree, Charybdis
sucks down the sea horribly. And, while they sought to
escape her, on the other hand monstrous Scylla upreared
from the cave, snatched six of their company with her six
long necks, and devoured them even while they called upon
Odysseus to save them.
So, with bitter peril, the ship passed by and came to the
island of Thrinacia; and here are
goodly pastures for the flocks and herds of the Sun.
Odysseus, who feared lest his men might forget the warning
of Tiresias, was very loath to
land. But the sailors were weary and worn to the verge of
mutiny, and they swore, moreover, that they would never lay
hands on the sacred kine. So they landed, thinking to
depart next day. But with the next day came a tempest
 blew for a month without ceasing, so that they were
forced to beach the ship and live on the island with their
store of corn and wine. When that was gone they had to hunt
and fish, and it happened that, while Odysseus was absent in
the woods one day, his shipmates broke their oath. "For,"
said they, "when we are once more in Ithaca we will make
amends to Helios with sacrifice. But let us rather drown
than waste to death with hunger." So they drove off
the best of the cattle of the Sun and slew them. When the
king returned, he found them at their fateful banquet; but
it was too late to save them from the wrath of the gods.
As soon as they were fairly embarked once more, the Sun
ceased to shine. The sea rose high, the thunderbolt of Zeus
struck that ship, and all its company was scattered abroad
upon the waters. Not one was left save Odysseus. He clung
to a fragment of his last ship, and so
he drifted, borne here and there, and lashed by wind and
wave, until he was washed up on the strand of the island
Ogygia, the home of the nymph Calypso. He was not to leave
this haven for seven years.
Here, after ten years of war and two of wandering, he found
a kindly welcome. The enchanted island was full of wonders,
and the nymph Calypso was more than mortal fair, and would
have been glad to marry the hero; yet he pined for Ithaca.
Nothing could win his heart away from his own country and
his own wife Penelope, nothing but Lethe itself, and that
no man may drink till he dies.
So for seven years Calypso strove to make him forget his
longing with ease and pleasant living and soft raiment. Day
by day she sang to him while she
broi-  dered her web with
gold; and her voice was like a golden strand that twines in
and out of silence, making it beautiful. She even promised
that she would make him immortal, if he would stay and be
content; but he was heartsick for home.
At last his sorrow touched even the heart of Athena in
heaven, for she loved his wisdom and his many devices. So
she besought Zeus and all the other gods until they
consented to shield Odysseus from the anger of Poseidon.
Hermes himself bound on his winged sandals and flew down
to Ogygia, where he found Calypso at her spinning. After
many words, the nymph consented to give up her captive, for
she was kind of heart, and all her graces had not availed to
make him forget his home. With her help, Odysseus built a
raft and set out upon his lonely voyage,—the only man
remaining out of twelve good ships that had left Troy nigh
unto ten years before.
The sea roughened against him, but (to shorten a tale of
great peril) after many days, sore spent and tempest-tossed,
he came to the land of the Phæacians, a land dear to the
immortal gods, abounding in gifts of harvest and vintage, in
godlike men and lovely women.
Here the shipwrecked king met the princess Nausicaa by the
seaside, as she played ball with her maidens; and she, when
she had heard of his plight, gave him food and raiment, and
bade him follow her home. So he followed her to the palace
of King Alcinous and Queen Arete, and abode with them,
kindly refreshed, and honored with feasting and games and
song. But it came to pass, as the minstrel sang before them
of the Trojan War and the Wooden Horse, that Odysseus wept
over the story, it was
 written so deep in his own heart.
Then for the first time he told them his true name and all
They would gladly have kept so great a man with them forever,
but they had no heart to keep him longer from his
home; so they bade him farewell and set him upon one of
their magical ships, with many gifts of gold and silver, and
sent him on his way.
Wonderful seamen are the Phæacians. The ocean is to them as
air to the bird,—the best path for a swift journey!
Odysseus was glad enough to trust the way to them, and no
sooner had they set out than a sweet sleep fell upon his
eyelids. But the good ship sped like any bee that knows
the way home. In a marvellously short time they came even
to the shore of the kingdom of Ithaca.
While Odysseus was
still sleeping, unconscious of his good fortune, the
Phæacians lifted him from the ship with kindly joy and laid
him upon his own shore; and beside him they set the gifts of
gold and silver and fair work of the loom. So they
departed; and thus it was that Odysseus came to Ithaca after
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