DANGERS OF THE SEA
EFORE Ulysses and his men reached Circe's island, they had
stopped at the country where Æolus lived. He had
charge of the wind, and could send out gentle breezes
or wild storms as he chose. He was glad to see Ulysses
and gave him a leather bag tied with a silver string.
In it all the hindering and dangerous winds were safely
shut up. The fair and favoring winds were free to blow
the ships along to their home country.
Ulysses steered the boat for nine days and then, tired
out, lay down to sleep. The foolish sailors had often
looked at the strange bag and wondered what it held.
They thought that it must be gold, and that they ought
to have their share. They untied the string to get
some of the money, but the angry winds rushed out, the
ships were caught in a fierce storm, and were blown
back to the island of Æolus. He was angry and
would not help them again, so they had to row all the
way, until they came to the enchanted island.
After spending some time in the palace of Circe, they
set out once more upon their voyage. Circe gave them
good advice and told them how to escape the Sirens.
These creatures looked like beautiful women. They sat
on dangerous rocks in the sea and sang so sweetly
that every sailor who heard them was bewitched and let
his boat drift until it was dashed among the rocks, and
he was lost.
Circe told Ulysses to fill the ears of his men with wax
so that they could not hear, and to have himself bound
tight to the mast, with orders that no one should untie
him until they had safely passed the island of the
Sirens. This was done. As they drew near the place,
Ulysses could hear the sweetest music. "Oh!" he cried,
"home and joy are in those sounds. Row in that
direction; we shall find our dear ones there, and every
delight we have ever known or hoped for."
The rowers only stared at him. They heard nothing.
"Slaves!" he shouted. "Am I not your master? Do as I
bid you! Dogs that you are, do you dare to disobey me?
If you will not row toward those divine voices, at
least unbind me and let me swim to them."
Two men rose up and went toward him. He thought they
would untie him and said to them, "Brave fellows,
thank you, thank you!" But they only took more cords
and bound him tighter. He was furious and called them
many hard names, but they rowed on. The voices of the
Sirens died away. The danger was over, the isle had
been safely passed. Ulysses was ashamed of his folly.
"You did well to bind me," he said to his men.
"Without that I should have gone to my death."
There were other dangers ahead. The ships had to pass
between Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla had once been a
pretty girl, but Circe changed her into a horrid
 monster. She lived in a cave on the side of a cliff.
The water passage below was very narrow, and she
stretched down her six long necks, each with a head at
the end, and with her mouths caught six sailors from
every ship that passed within her reach.
On the other side of the strait was the whirlpool
Charybdis. Three times every day the water rushed into
a deep gulf and was cast out again. If the tide, while
going in, caught a vessel, nothing could save her. She
must certainly be wrecked.
Ulysses heard the roar of the whirlpool, and keeping
far away from it, sailed close to the cliff where
Scylla lived. She darted out her six heads, laid hold
of six men with her teeth, and dragged them up on the
rock to eat them. Nobody could help them. They were
The wanderers came next to the island where the cattle
of the sun pastured. Ulysses gave strict orders that
the beasts should not be touched. But contrary winds
kept the ship there for a month. All the food was
eaten. The sailors caught birds and fish, but still
were very hungry. One day, when Ulysses was absent,
they killed some of the sacred cows and ate the flesh,
first offering part of it in a sacrifice to the
When Ulysses came back, he was frightened to see the
skins of the cows creeping along the ground, while
large joints of meat were roasting before the fire and
mooing as they cooked.
The wind changed, and the wanderers left that dreadful
shore. Soon a great storm arose. Lightning struck
the mast and killed the pilot. The vessel was
broken to pieces, and the crew sank in the waters. The
keel and mast of the ship floated side by side.
Ulysses tied them together with ropes and made a raft.
On this he floated alone to an island where he found a
friend and help.