Odysseus was a legendary Greek hero ... well, maybe he wasn't, in case he didn't really exist! But still, he features in the legends, and in them, as a prominent character, got up to some serious heroics!
It all started with the Trojan War. Remember, that was when the Greeks beat the Trojans at War by smuggling lotsa soldiers into Troy inside a huge wooden horse, which was supposedly a gift. Some gift, eh what? Walp, Odysseus happened to be the commander of the Greek Soldiers inside the horse. They came out while everybody else was asleep, opened the city gates for the rest of the Greek Army, and they all sneakily slaughtered the Trojans and destroyed their city!!! Back in those days they still thought war was pretty neat, and so Odysseus was considered *some* (as in, of the admirable kind, not the merely general kind) hero.
But you know, for Odysseus that was just the *start*! The next bit is the really good bit! It's quite a big bit ... it was made into a very long song, sung by Homer (no, not Simpson!!! This was *way* before that!) who actually was *blind*, so he musta got the story by hearsay, and it would probably not be upheld in a court of law, but irrespective of whether it's true or not, it's a good story!
After his great Victory, Odysseus headed home in his big boat along with all his warriors. Along the way on a stopover on some island, he had a run-in with a Cyclops called Polyphemus. He and his men cleverly blinded the only eye of the Cyclops (an altogether nasty person ... he *ate* six of Odysseus's warriors!) but after the Greeks escaped (by hiding underneath the giant's sheep!), Polyphemus prayed to his dad Poseidon, the God of the Ocean, to punish his assailants.
Poseidon, being the mighty God that he was (or maybe is, still ... though he hasn't let hear of him in a while), unleashed strong ocean winds against Odysseus, which of course blew him off course. He landed on an island governed by Aeolos, the king of the winds, to whom we must be thankful for graciously donating his name so we'd have a shorter term for those neat front-porch-hanging-wind-blown-tubular-bell-thingummies.
Aeolus was a good host and apparently took a liking to Odysseus and his men, because he gave them a really cool present: a big bag containing all the unfavourable winds. By keeping the winds in the bag they would be assured of a peaceful voyage. However, Odysseus's idiot crew went and *opened* the bags out of curiosity, as soon as their boss went for a kip ... and all the bad winds blew out of it and blew the ship *way* off course!
They landed up on the island resort of Circe the sorceress. She, like Polyphemus, was apparently also in the habit of eating her guests ... weird times, huh? But Odysseus didn't know that. Upon landing, he sent a group of twenty three men to explore the interior of the island. They were soon lured by music and magical animals to Circe's palace. There she received them very friendlily, but then gave them a drug that turned them all into pigs(*real* pigs, of the farm variety, that is!)... except for one guy, Eurylochos, who managed to escape and bring his boss the bad news. Odysseus was righteously miffed. He decided not to risk the lives of any more of his men, and went up to Circe's palace alone. Along the way he met the cunning Messenger God, Hermes. Hermes liked Odysseus, and gave him a magical plant with which to counter the witchery of Circe. Odysseus went on to the palace, where Circe gave him the same deceivously nice reception she gave the others. She also gave him the swinifying potion ... but he first drank his plant potion, for protection. When Circe thought the potion should have started working, she drew out her magic wand ... but Odysseus drew out his not-magic-but-nevertheless-very-effective sword! Circe rapidly figured out that she was outmatched. She changed all of Odysseus's pigs back into men. Not only that ... she made them even bigger, taller and sexier than they were before! She also gave them refreshments and entertainment. They so liked it that they ended up staying a whole year! But then they started to ponder that maybe it was time to head back home again.
Just before he left, Circe offered Odysseus one more bit of advice: to go to hell! Well, actually they called it Hades, and it was apparently a physical place people, or at least heroes like Odysseus, could go to. In Hell, Odysseus had to look up the soul of one Theiresias the Theban, who could tell him how he should make his peace with Poseidon the Sea God, or else he might *never* be able to reach his home again.
(To be continued ...)
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