Aeolus, the keeper of the winds.
For a month the ships of Odysseus rested
there, and Odysseus and his men feasted with Aeolus and his sons and daughters, and were
treated as honoured guests. When Odysseus
said he must again sail on his homeward way,
Aeolus gave him a parting gift. This gift
was a great leather bag, inside which Aeolus
placed all the winds that he ruled, except
the wind of the west. Securely he fastened
the mouth of the bag with a silver thong and
laid it in the hold of the ship in which
Odysseus sailed. Then Aeolus bade the West
Wind blow gently and softly, and carry the
ships safely home to Ithaca.
For nine days and nine nights they sailed
smoothly on, gently guided by the soft West
Wind, until the hills and woods of Ithaca
were in sight, and they could see the people
tending the beacon fires to drive wild
beasts away from their flocks.
When home was so near, Odysseus felt that he
need no longer stay awake day and night,
tending, with his own hands, the sail, and
guiding the ships. He was very weary, and
when sleep made his eyes heavy he gave up
his place at the sail to another, and lay
down and soundly slept.
While he slept his men grumbled together.
'Many are the rich treasures Odysseus brings
home with him,' said they. 'He has riches of
every kind from Troy, while we who also
fought for Greece have nothing. And now
Aeolus has given him a gift. The leather bag
is certainly full of gold and silver.'
Thus they talked, till their greed made
thieves of them, and they brought up the
leather bag from the hold to steal the
treasures which they thought were hidden
Quickly they loosened the silver thong, and,
with a mighty gust, all the winds rushed
out, and swept in a hurricane across the
waves, driving the ships before them.
When they saw their own homeland fading away
into a little blue speck on the wind-swept
sea, the men of Odysseus wept for their own
folly. The sound of their weeping and the
roar of the terrible gale awoke Odysseus.
When he knew what had befallen, his heart
failed him, and he longed to throw himself
into the waves and put an end to his life.
But soon his courage came back, and when the
storm drove the ships close to the floating
island with its bronze walls, he made his
men go ashore to get fresh water, and to eat
and drink. When he himself had had bread and
wine, he went to the palace of Aeolus. Here
he found Aeolus feasting with his wife and
In great surprise at seeing him, Aeolus
said, 'How hast thou come hither, Odysseus?
What evil hath hindered thy safe voyage?
Surely I gave thee every help to take thee
safely to thine own country and thy home?'
Then answered Odysseus: 'The evil deeds of
my own men have brought me this harm. They
set free the winds while I slept.'
And he begged Aeolus to help him, and to let
him sail homeward in safety once more. But
Aeolus would not listen.
'Get thee hence!' he cried in anger. 'A very
wicked man must thou be, else this evil
could not have befallen thee. I will not
help thee. Get thee forth!'
Sadder and more heavy at heart than when
they landed, Odysseus and his men once more
embarked in their ships and left the island.
The winds blew fiercely against them, and
soon they were utterly worn out and
heartsick with toiling at their long, heavy
For six nights and days they struggled on.
On the seventh day they reached an island
where lived a race of giants. Thankfully,
after all their toil, the warriors saw
before them a fair harbour. Its entrance was
narrow, and steep cliffs ran up on either
side of it, but its water was smooth as a
pond, with never a little wave to ruffle it.
Into this haven all the ships were steered,
save the ship of Odysseus. His ship he
moored outside the harbour, and fastened the
hawser to a rock. Then he with some of his
men climbed a crag, from which they could
look down on the island. No men or oxen were
to be seen, but they saw smoke curling up
above the trees.
Three of his men Odysseus sent inland to see
what manner of people dwelt there. They went
along the track beaten by the wheels that
brought wood down from the hills into the
town, and presently they came near the town
from whence had risen the smoke. Just
outside they came on a maiden drawing water
from a crystal clear spring. She told the
men, when they asked, that she was a
princess, daughter of the king of the
island, and she showed them the way to her
Into the palace she led them, and there they
found the queen of the island. She was a
huge, fat woman, as big as the peak of a
mountain. So horrible was her appearance
that when they looked at her they felt sick
with fear and disgust.
As soon as she saw the three men she called
to her husband. At once he rushed in, seized
hold of a man, and, like a hungry lion,
began to devour him. The other two men fled
to the ships, but the cannibal giant raised
a great warcry, and all the other giants
hurried out at the sound. They ran to the
cliffs, and there broke off huge rocks which
they cast at the ships. Smashed like
eggshells, the ships sank under the water,
and the noise of crashing timbers and the
cries of dying men filled the air. Like men
spearing fishes the giants seized the men as
they floated on the waters of the harbour,
and took them home to devour.
While the haven that had seemed so peaceful
was full of those terrible sights and
sounds, Odysseus drew his sharp sword, cut
his hawser, and bade his ship's company row
with all their might. With one accord they
dashed their oars into the water, and the
ship flew forth from the great dark cliffs
of the island out to the open sea. But the
ship of Odysseus was the only one that
escaped. The other ships were lost there,
one and all.
Sad at heart were Odysseus and his men
because of the friends who were gone, yet
they were glad as men saved from a dreadful
Ere long they reached another island, where
dwelt a great enchantress, Circe of the
The ship of Odysseus put into a sheltering
haven and Odysseus and his men went ashore.
For two days and two nights they lay by the
sea-beach, worn out with weariness and
When the third day dawned, Odysseus took his
spear and sharp sword and climbed to the top
of a craggy hill above the harbour. From
thence he could see the blue smoke curling
up above the thick woods, in which stood the
palace of Circe. Having seen this he turned
back to tell his men what he had seen, and
as he came down the path from the hilltop,
there came from his pasture in the woodland,
to drink at the river, a tall, antlered
stag. Odysseus watched him, and as he came
out of the river he cast his spear at him,
and slew him with one blow.
Then he made a rope of twisted slips of
willow, and with it slung the great beast
across his back. Walking heavily under his
load, he carried the stag to where his
ship's company, sad and worn, lay by the
'Take heart, my friends,' said he, 'we are
not yet going to die. Look at the food I
have brought, and let us eat and drink.'
The men roused themselves to gaze with
wonder and delight at the noble stag which
Odysseus had cast down on the sea-beach.
They prepared a meal of its flesh, and all
day they feasted on it and on the sweet wine
from their ship. When darkness fell, they
lay down to sleep by the sea, and slept
until rosy dawn.
When Odysseus awoke, he said to his men Hear
my words, my friends. We know not where the
sun rises nor where it sets, and all I know
of this land is what I saw yesterday from
the hill I climbed. All round it lies the
sea, and from the thick woods in its midst I
saw the smoke curling upwards. So, all round
us, we have sea and skies, and a land we do
When the men heard this, they sobbed aloud,
for the terrors they had endured had robbed
them of their courage.
But Odysseus was brave as before. He divided
his men into two companies. One company he
himself commanded. His kinsman, Eurylochus,
commanded the other. They then drew lots who
should explore the island. The lot fell to
Eurylochus, and he set out with
In the thick of the forest Eurylochus found
the palace of Circe, built of polished
stone. A great cleared space lay in front of
the palace, and backwards and forwards in
this clearing roamed mountain-bred wolves
and tawny lions, whom Circe herself had
Like dogs that fawn on their master when he
comes home, these wild beasts fawned on
Eurylochus and his men, wagging their long
tails and jumping up on them. At the outer
door of the palace the men stood, frightened
at these strange and terrible creatures, and
from within they heard a silvery voice
singing a song so sweet that it stole men's
hearts away. It was Circe who sang, singing
as she weaved a web of wonderful beauty.
Then the man who of all the men of Odysseus
was the one most dear to him, said to the
others, 'Let us cry aloud to this woman who
is weaving, and who sings so sweet a song.'
So they called to her, and Circe came forth
and opened the shining doors, and, shedding
the beauty of her wonderful face on them,
she gently bade them enter. Heedlessly they
followed her, all but Eurylochus, who,
remembering the giant's fair daughter,
feared she might betray them.
Into her palace hall she led them, and made
them sit on the high seats there. Then she
gave them cheese, and barley-meal, and
fragrant yellow honey and rich wine, and
with their food and wine she mixed harmful
drugs that made them utterly forget their
own country. Then she smote them with her
magic wand, and in one moment they were
turned into swine. Four-footed, bristly, and
snouted were they, and yet with their own
minds inside their ugly bodies, and she
penned them into pig-sties, and flung them
acorns and other food fit only for pigs.
Long and fearfully Eurylochus waited outside
the door of the palace, but when his
companions did not return he went back to
At first he was so full of grief that he
could not speak a word, nor tell his story.
At length he was able to tell what had
befallen. When Odysseus heard how his men
had entered the palace but never returned,
he flung over his shoulder his
silver-studded sword with its great blade of
bronze, slung on his bow, and bade
Eurylochus lead him by the way he had come.
But, clinging to his knees, Eurylochus in
great fear begged Odysseus to leave him
'I know that thou thyself shalt return no
more,' he said, 'nor bring back any one of
'Stay here, then, by the ship, eating and
drinking,' said Odysseus scornfully. 'As for
me, I go.'
All alone he went up from the seashore,
through the green woods to the enchanted
As he drew near, a fair lad bearing a golden
wand came to meet him.
Hermes was his name,
and he was the messenger of the gods.
Taking Odysseus by the hand, he gently told
him how Circe had bewitched his men and
turned them into swine, and how Circe would
try to serve Odysseus in the same way that
she had served them. She would give him food
mixed with evil drugs, and when he had eaten
she would smite him with her magic wand, and
send him grunting to a sty.
'But I will save thee,' said Hermes, 'and
prevent Circe from doing thee harm.'
With that he gave Odysseus a strange plant,
black at the root, but with a flower as
white as milk. Moly, he called it, and it
was so hard to dig that mere men were
scarcely able to dig it. He told Odysseus
that if he carried the Moly with him, Circe
would not be able to enchant him.
'When Circe smites thee with her long wand,'
said he, 'even then draw thy sharp sword and
spring on her as if thou wouldst slay her.
Then she will shrink away in fear, and ever
after she will treat thee kindly. Only thou
must make her promise that she will plan no
more mischief against thee.'
Then Hermes of the golden wand went away
through the trees, and Odysseus held on his
way to the palace.
At the gates of the palace he stood and
called aloud. Soon the shining doors were
swung open, and beautiful, wicked Circe,
with her golden hair hanging round her
false, fair face, came and led him in.
She made him sit on a carved chair, studded
with silver, and brought him a golden cup
full of her drugged wine.
When he had drunk of it, she smote him with
her wand, and said, 'Go thy way now to the
sty, and lie there with the rest of thy
At that Odysseus did as Hermes had bidden,
and, drawing his sharp sword, he rushed at
Circe as if to slay her.
With a great cry, Circe slipped to the
ground and clasped Odysseus round the knees.
'There is no man save one who is great
enough to be proof against the charm which
thou hast drunk,' she cried. 'Truly thou
must be Odysseus of whom Hermes of the
golden wand hath oft times told me. From
Troy, in thy swift black ship, he said thou
wouldst come. Sheathe thy sword, I pray
thee, Odysseus, and let us be at peace.'
Then said Odysseus: 'How canst thou bid me
be at peace with thee, Circe, when thou by
thy wicked magic hast turned my men into
swine? How can I trust thee?'
Then Circe solemnly promised to do Odysseus
no harm, and to let him return in safety to
Quickly her servants spread fair linen on
the floor, and covered the chairs with
covers of rich purple. Tables of silver they
drew up near the chairs, and on them placed
golden dishes full of tempting food, and
silver bowls and golden cups full of sweet
wine. They also made ready a warm bath for
Odysseus, and when he had bathed they
brought him a fair mantle and tunic. Then
Circe made him sit on a beautiful chair,
inlaid with silver, and with a footstool at
his feet. A maid brought water in a golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for
him to wash his hands, and served him with
every kind of dainty.
But Odysseus could not eat. His mind was
full of care, and he thought sadly of his
friends who were even then penned like swine
in a sty.
'Why art thou so sad and silent, Odysseus?'
asked Circe. 'Why wilt thou not eat? Art
thou afraid that I will deceive thee and
harm thee? Nay, thou hast no cause for fear,
for I have sworn I will do thee no hurt.'
Odysseus answered: 'How can I be happy, and
eat and drink, when I have not yet freed my
dear friends? If thou wilt set them free,
then indeed shall I know that thou wilt keep
the promise thou hast made.'
Then Circe went through the great hall to
the sty where the bewitched men were
imprisoned. She opened the doors of the sty
and waved her wand, and when the swine came
out she touched each one with a charm that
made its bristles and pig's body and face
disappear. And they became men again, and
looked even handsomer and stronger than
When they saw Odysseus, they ran to him and
took his hands, and wept for joy. And even
Circe's hard heart was melted at their
gladness, and tears came into her eyes.
Then Circe asked Odysseus to bring up his
men from the seashore, that they might all
feast together. Down by the ship he found
them sorrowing, because they feared they
should see him no more. So dearly did they
love Odysseus that they were as glad when
they saw him safe and well, as they would
have been had they themselves safely
returned to their own homeland. When he told
them to draw the ship on shore, and hide
their goods in the sea-caves, and come and
feast in Circe's palace, they gladly obeyed.
Eurylochus alone, who did not wish to go,
tried to prevent the others from going.
'Wretched men that we are!' he cried,
Odysseus is always foolhardy, and always
leading us into danger. It was he who put us
into the power of the Cyclopes, and now he
leads us to the enchantress, Circe, who will
surely turn us all into swine, or wolves or
lions to guard her palace.'
So angry was Odysseus at these words, that
he laid his hand on his sword, and would
have cut off the head of Eurylochus. But the
other men of his company pleaded for mercy
'Leave Eurylochus here to guard the ship,'
said they, 'but lead us to the palace of
And Eurylochus, ashamed, did not stay by the
ship, but went with the others.
When they reached the palace, Circe provided
warm baths and rich clothes for the tired
and hungry men, and made them a great feast.
And when Odysseus saw them all safe and
happy, he, too, was happy, and ate of the
banquet that Circe had made for him.
For a whole year Odysseus and his men stayed
in the palace, feasting and resting. But
when a year was gone, and the long summer
days had returned once more, his men came to
Odysseus and said:
'Surely it is high time for us to think of
our own homes, and our own dear land. Are we
to stay here evermore?'
That night Odysseus said to Circe
'Circe, thou didst promise to let me return
to my own country. My men and I long with a
great homesickness to see our land again.
Wilt thou let us go?'
Said Circe: 'Thou shalt stay no longer in my
house against thy will, Odysseus.'
So when some days had passed, and when Circe
had told Odysseus of many dangers he would
meet on his homeward voyage, and warned him
how best to escape from them, Odysseus said
farewell to the sorceress.
'If thou or thy men do what I have warned
them not to do,' she said, 'ruin will come
upon thy ship, and on thy men. And thou,
Odysseus, even though thou shouldest thyself
escape, shalt return to Ithaca late, and in
evil plight, and with the loss of all thy
When dawn was turning the tops of the trees
on the enchanted island into gold, Odysseus
and his men got on board their ship. They
thrust their oars deep into the grey
sea-water, but soon they ceased to row, for
Circe sent a kindly wind to fill the sails
and carry Odysseus safely home.
As the ship flew swiftly through the water,
like a bird that swims through the waves,
Circe of the golden hair walked up from the
shore, through the green woods, to the
Sad was her heart at the parting, and mayhap
she grieved for the evil she had wrought.
The Legend and Myth about Circe and Odysseus
The Myth of Circe and Odysseus
The story of Circe and Odysseus is featured in the book
entitled 'The Odyssey' by Jeanie Lang published
in London in 1920 by T.C. And E.C.Jack.