2 Book VIII – The CyclopsKing Alcinous has asked Odysseus to reveal who he is after he was brought to tears by the bard Demodocus’ song.He reveals himself as ‘Odysseus, son of Laertes’, and we get a hint of the importance of his name and reputation to Odysseus.
3 ‘Take me to the island…’ Odysseus begins to tell of how he came to the island of the Cyclopes.He mentions:- Calypso who kept him captive for seven years- Circe (whom we meet in Book X), who turned his men into swine
4 The Cicones- we see a shift in tone as he begins to recount how they left Ilium and sacked the city of Ismarus, land of the Cicones- they destroyed its menfolk and plundered its wealth
6 Land of the CyclopesAfter nine days in a terrible gale sent by Zeus, Odysseus and his men come to the land of the Lotus-Eaters.The lotus fruit was a mythical fruit which made men forget their worries and lose and desire to return home.
7 “Those who ate the honeyed fruit of the plant lost any wish to come back and bring us news. All they now wanted was to stay where they were with the Lotus-Eaters, to browse on the lotus, and to forget all thoughts of return.”
8 Land of the Cyclopes Odysseus had to force them to return to the ship. Next they came to the land of the Cyclopes, ‘a fierce, lawless people who never lift a hand to plant or plough but just left everything to the immortal gods.’The Land of the Cyclopes is describes as wild and untamed, in comparison to the cultivated beauty of the Phaeacians.
10 Polyphemus The Nymphs sent goats to Odysseus’ men to hunt. Odysseus instructs his men to stay in the ship while he goes to see what kind of people live on the island.He sees the den of the cyclops where he had large flocks of sheep and goats.
11 Polyphemus He describes him as ‘unlike and man who eats bread’. At this point he chooses twelve of his best men to come with him.
12 He brings unwatered wine and some food with him as he has a sense of foreboding that they will encounter a barbarous being.When they reached the cave, the giant was out tending his flock of sheep.Inside, the cave is filled with cheeses and full of lambs and kids.
13 Pirates The men beg Odysseus to allow them to take some spoils. Odysseus refuses to leave at this point as he wants to meet the owner of the cave and hopefully get some hospitality from him.The cyclops arrives back with some of his flock and closes the entrance with a huge boulder, trapping Odysseus and his men inside.
15 Polyphemus spies the men as he lights the fire. He asks the men who they are; traders or pirates?His booming voice fills them with panic.Odysseus explains who they are, appealing to him to observe the law of hospitality as Zeus commands.
16 Polyphemus tells how the Cyclopes have no fear or reverence for the gods. Odysseus tells how Poseidon wrecked his ship onto the island of the Cyclopes.Polyphemus makes no reply but grabs some of the men and dashes their heads against the floor.
17 Carnage Their brains ran out onto the ground and soak the earth. He tears them limb from limb and eats them.After his meal, he lays down to sleep.
18 Odysseus thinks of stabbing him and killing him but realises that they need him to move the boulder from the mouth of the cave.The next day, the cyclops again eats some of the men.Odysseus spies a staff of green olive-wood, sharpens it to a point and hardens it on the fire.
19 The planOdysseus picks lots to see who will help him drive the staff into the cyclops’ eye and the lots fell on the very men he would have picked himself.Odysseus give him unwatered wine, which he fills three times over for him.He tells him his name is ‘Nobody’. The Cyclops says he will eat nobody last, and the rest before him!
20 The blinding of the Cyclops As the cyclops falls down drunk, they stab him in the eye and twist it ‘until the blood boil[s] up round the burning wood.’.The other Cyclopes hear Polyphemus’ wails and come to see what all the commotion is about.
21 Nobody Polyphemus wails of course that nobody has injured him. The other Cyclopes think that he is mad and since this must come from Zeus, he cannot be helped.They tell him to pray to daddy Poseidon.
22 PunThe Greek for no one is me tis (oddly contrasting the Hiberno English ‘tis me!).As one word, metis, it means clever scheme/ resourcefulness.Odysseus is laughing here because of the double entendre.
23 The Cyclops sits in the doorway, expecting to catch the men on their way out, but the Cyclops has underestimated Odysseus.They tied themselves to the underside of the giant’s rams, with Odysseus under the largest ram and each of the other men taking three each.
25 Polyphemus notices that the last ram is lagging behind. He tells them of the same woes that he told the other Cyclopes.As Odysseus and his men make for their boat, Odysseus cannot resist boasting to the Cyclops that he has overpowered him and that the gods have punished him for his crimes.
26 The crew are terrified and urge Odysseus to shut up. Odysseus however, through pride, obstinacy, arrogance or all of the above, cannot resist telling Polyphemus that it was ‘Odysseus, sacker of cities, the son of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca’ who blinded him.We must remember here thatname and reputation were ofgreat importance to the Greeks.
27 ProphecyPolyphemus now remember that the prophet Telemus once told him that a man called Odysseus would rob ohim of his sight.He believed he would encounter a great man, not puny Odysseus.He tells Odysseus that Poseidon is his father and that he will ‘help him on his way home’.
28 RevengePolyphemus calls on Poseidon to ensure that Odysseus never reaches home.Polyphemus throws a boulder into the sae at them.This is another example of how a Greek hero’s hamartia due to his fatal flaw (hubris, for example) caused his downfall.