The Butler's Books

Great stories

The Cave of the Cyclops — Apr 23, 2015

The Cave of the Cyclops

This is a short story, part of a longer ancient Greek poem by Homer. It’s about a terrible man, Odysseus, who meets a wonderful giant with one eye, Polyphemus, who traps Odysseus and his ship’s crew in a cave and starts eating them all up.

Polyphemus painted by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein 1802 (public domain image)

This is going well, I thought, but Odysseus is crafty and has a plan to escape. Unfortunately he does and goes on to many other adventures. While it was a great story, with the giant and all, Odysseus is a very annoying hero.

“When we were beyond the reach of the Cyclops, I called out to tease him, ‘Ha! Cyclops, Cyclops, thou hast not been entertaining a coward. Zeus and the other gods have avenged the brave men whom thou didst so cruelly destroy.’

“The Cyclops heard my words and grew furious. He seized a large rock and threw it with all his might toward the place where he had heard my voice.

“The rock fell in front of my ship, and the waves which it raised carried us back on shore. I seized a large pole and shoved the boat back into the water, commanding my men to ply their oars vigorously, that we might escape destruction.

My companions begged me not to excite the dangerous monster further; but when we were a long way out I shouted to him: ‘Cyclops, if ever anybody asks thee who put out thine eye, tell him it was Odysseus, the son of Laertes, conqueror of Troy.’

Think of the most incompetent boss you’ve ever had, that boss that was stupid, brimful of confidence  and completely blind to the damage they caused. Then imagine them captaining a ship and leading dozens of men through dangerous seas and into the lairs of monsters long before antibiotics or anesthetic. This is Odysseus, the hero of The Cave of The Cyclops, an immature idiot of ancient times. The story is available as a pocket penguin or can be read for free online at Project Gutenberg:

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