The Odyssey Books 10-12 Summary

     In book ten Odysseus is still recounting past adventures to the Phaecians. After leaving the Cyclops, the men travel to the islands of Aeolus, the god of winds, who gives Odysseus a bag containing all of the bad winds so that his journey will send him directly to Ithaca. When Odysseus is within sight of his homeland, he decides to take a nap. The crew becomes jealous thinking that Odysseus is hiding great treasures from them and opens the bag, which causes the ship to return to Aeolus, who will not help them again. Next they reach the land of the Laestrygonians, who are cannibals, and only Odysseus's ship and men escape alive.

     His boat then leads him to Circe, a goddess who lures the men in with food and wine then turns them in to pigs. Odysseus eventually rescues them and forces Circe to turn them back into humans with assistance from the messenger god, Hermes, who brings a magical herb. He then stays with Circe for another year before continuing on his journey. Circe encourages Odysseus to pass through the land of the dead next so that he can speak to the prophet about whether he foresees him ever making it home.

     Book eleven begins with Odysseus making sacrifices before he enters the land of the dead. He finds Teiresias, the prophet, who tells him he may still reach home. Then Odysseus's deceased mother Anticlea approached him to answer questions about his family. She says that she died of grief waiting for Odysseus to return and mentions that his wife, Penelope, is waiting faithfully for him. Odysseus then speaks to other famous dead people. Then Odysseus interrupts his own story to tell Alcinous that he would like to go to sleep, but Alcinous tells him no.

     In book twelve Odysseus continues the tale of what happened after he left the underworld. He returned to Circe, pleased with his journey, who told Odysseus what he would encounter next. It would happen exactly as Circe said it would. First, he passed the Sirens, bird women who lure men to their deaths with their beautiful music. Odysseus was told to plug his men's ears with wax so that they cannot hear the music, but he himself listened though he tied himself to the ship to ensure he didn't go with them. Next the men came upon Scylla and Charybdis. Charybdis was a large whirlpool that would suck in the men's ship with no chance for escape; therefore, Circe told Odysseus he must travel beneath Scylla, which was right alongside Charybdis dangling from the cliffs. Scylla was a large, many-headed snake, which reached down and ate the men off the ship as it went past. The men rowed as quickly as they could, but still many men were eaten during the voyage. They remained on new land awhile until one day Eurylochus convinced the hungry men to eat the cattle of Helios, which Odysseus had been specifically told not to touch. Zeus exacted revenge on them, and the only one to survive was Odysseus. He eventually found himself where Calypso lives, which is a story he already told the Phaecians, so he ended there.

     It had been prophesied that Odysseus would be the only one to return home, so it's no surprise that facing all of these obstacles resulted in the loss of all of his men. This section was told entirely as a flashback as Odysseus recounts the tale to King Alcinous after it has occurred. His journey home will continue in the next book.

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