Book 10, In which Odysseus is a rubbish project manager and bacon is most definitely off the menu
Having escaped from old one-eye (Polyphemus), in the last instalment of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’, Odysseus and his pals arrived at the floating island of Aeolia, home of Aeolus and his rather close-knit family (he married off all six of his sons to his six daughters). Aeolus’s family spend all their time feasting, and enjoying their vast luxury, wealth and inbreeding, but welcomed Odysseus and his band of sailors, happy to trade hospitality for gossip of life outside the bronze, castle walls.
Odysseus was by now well used to telling his tale in exchange for B&B for himself and his crew, and kept Aeolus highly entertained. In return, his host, who happened to be Warden of the Gales, called up a fine breeze for the sailors on their departure the next day, and gave Odysseus a tightly bound leather bag containing all the boisterous energies of the winds, just in case. Alas, when Odysseus refused to allow the bag into anyone else’s supervision, his crew suspected him of cheating them out of great riches. By the time they reached sight of Ithaca and home, their anger and curiosity got the better of them and they opened the bag for a quick peek while Odysseus slept, unleashing a great storm which blew their ships all the way back to Aeolia.
When Aeolus discovered that Odysseus had returned, he flew into a rage at how badly he had mismanaged the operation.
Leaving again in disgrace, Odysseus and co. sailed on for six days until they reached an idyllic natural harbour, which would provide shelter against even the stormiest seas. While the rest of the fleet moored within the harbour walls, Odysseus tethered his ship outside anxious to check out the lay of the land. He climbed the steep cliffs and discovered that the locals were not only gigantic, but didn’t welcome strangers. The locals chased Odysseus and his men back to the harbour hurling boulders and harpoons, and only those who made it onto the ship outside the harbour escaped with their lives.
Arriving at another island not long after, the dejected survivors mourned the loss of their comrades. Odysseus caught and roasted a stag for his men’s dinner, then sent out two parties to explore the land. They discovered a house in the woods. A woman sat weaving this season’s must have fabric, singing as she worked. Seeing no threat, the men called out to her, ignoring the warnings of Eurylochus to be wary. The men willingly accepted the offer of wine and food from this charming woman, who was in fact the goddess, Circe. To Eurylochus’ horror, all the men were turned into pigs in front of his eyes, after drinking the wine, which Circe had poisoned.
On hearing Eurylochus’ dismal tale, Odysseus didn’t know what he could possibly do to save his men this time. Luckily, at that very moment Hermes, god of the golden wand, came sauntering through the woods to help Odysseus come up with a plan to save his crew from becoming bacon. He foraged about for a root that would protect Odysseus from Circe’s magic pig potion, and told Odysseus to threaten her and make her swear to do no further harm. Odysseus followed his instructions and Circe agreed to release the men from their swine state, and all was well. In fact, to show there were no hard feelings, Odysseus and his crew stayed on feasting and carousing for a whole year before deciding it was time to set sail for home again.
Unfortunately, Circe had a bit of bad news, and told them that before they could reach Ithaca, they would have to take a diversion and consult the blind, and indeed, dead, Theban prophet Teiresias, now resident in the underworld (due to the deadness). Oh how they groaned. At that moment, it felt like they were trapped in a pre-make of ‘Trains, Planes and Automobiles‘.