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The Cyclopes


After the battle of Troy, all the chiefs went home. But the gods were angry and made many of the chiefs unhappy. One was shipwrecked and another was shamefully murdered by his false wife in his palace and others found all things at home troubled and changed. And some had to go on unwanted adventures. One of all, the wise Ulysses, wandered farthest and suffered most. Twelve ships with 50 men on each he brought with him to Troy. Half of them were killed in the battle.
First, they sailed northwest to the Thracian coast where the Ciconians lived. They were the Trojans' friends and fought Ulysses's men, so that they had to flee. Ulysses lost 6 men out of each ship.
Then the storm came and they had to land on a sandy beach of an island and waited until the storm ended. However, it was the island where the lotus grew – a wondrous fruit of which whoever eats does not want to see his country or wife or children again. The Lotus eaters were kind people and gave the fruit to some of the sailors. These sailors then wanted to stay on the island. Ulysses had to bind them and carry them to the ships.
After many days they came to a fertile island, but no people lived there. They landed and had a rest. They killed some animals to eat and drank some wine. But Ulysses wanted to know where he was and what kind of island it was, so he took one ship and went to explore the shore.
When they arrived to a place where they could see some smoke, they landed and Ulysses chose 12 bravest soldiers. They soon saw that the island belonged to the Cyclopes, big creatures who looked like men but had only one eye in the middle of the forehead. They lived solitary lives in their own caves.
Ulysses and his men came back, took the best wine and went towards one of the caves. They entered the cave and judged that it was the home of a rich and skilful shepherd. There were baskets full of cheese and bottles of milk. But the Cyclops was away. The companions of Ulysses begged him to leave, but Ulysses wanted to see what strange shepherd this Cyclops was.
It was evening when the Cyclops came home. He was really big – 6 metres tall, or even more. On his shoulder he was carrying a heavy load of logs for his fire. He drove the flock of sheep inside the cave and closed the entrance with a huge rock. He milked his sheep and then made a fire which lighted up all the cave and showed Ulysses and his companions.
"Who are you?" cried Polyphemus, because this was the giant's name. "Are you traders or pirates?"
"We are no pirates, but Greeks, sailing back from Troy, and subjects of the great King Agamemnon, whose fame is spread from one end of heaven to the other. And we come to beg your hospitality in the name of Zeus."
"No," said the giant. "We Cyclopes do not care about gods. We are much stronger than them. But tell me, where have you left your ship?"
But Ulysses saw his thought when he asked about the ship, how he wanted to break it. He answered him craftily:
"We do not have a ship. Our ship was destroyed in a storm."
Polyphemus took two of the men, hit them against the ground and tore them limb from limb and ate them. When he finished his meal he lay down among his sheep and fell asleep.
Then Ulysses thought whether he should kill the monster in sleep. And he remembered that if he killed him, he and his men would die because they wouldn't be able to move away the great rock at the door of the cave. So they waited till the morning.
The monster woke up, milked his sheep and then took 2 men and ate them for his breakfast. Then he went out with his sheep, but he put the great rock to the entrance of the cave.

Polyphemus
All the day Ulysses was thinking what to do to save himself and his companions. Finally, he had an idea. There was a mighty pole in the cave, big as a ship's mast. Ulysses and his men sharpened one end and hardened it in the fire.
In the evening the monster came back and drove his sheep into the cave. Then he had his cruel meal as before. After that Ulysses came forward with the wine bottle and said:
"Cyclops, have a drink after such a good meal. Drink and see what things we had in our ship. But no one will come to you if you deal with strangers as cruelly as you deal with us."
The Cyclops drank and was very pleased. He said:
"Give me again to drink and tell me your name, stranger, and I will give you a gift such as a host should give."
Then Ulysses gave him the wine again. And again. The monster didn't know what it would do in his head. Then Ulysses spoke:
"You asked my name, Cyclops. My name is No Man. And now when you know my name you should give me your gift."
"My gift will be that I will eat you last of your company." And the monster fell back in a drunken sleep.
Ulysses was waiting for this moment. He and his companions took the pole and thrust it into the monster's only eye. The burning wood hissed in his eye. Then the giant leapt up, tore away the pole and cried out that all the Cyclopes heard the cry and came in a hurry to their hurt companion. They asked him:
"Why do you cry so loud, Polyphemus? Is anyone stealing your sheep? Or does anyone want to kill you?"
"No Man wants to kill me!" said Polyphemus.
"If no man wants to kill you, we cannot help you." The giants thought that Polyphemus went crazy and left. But Polyphemus rolled away the great stone from the door of his cave and sat in the middle of the entrance. He stretched out his arms to feel if the men inside would try to escape. For a long time, Ulysses thought how to get away. Then he had an idea. He fastened his comrades under the bellies of big strong rams. He himself got under the belly of the strongest ram and held to its fleece tight with his hands.
In the morning, the sheep went out to the pasture. Polyphemus sat in the door and felt the back of each sheep. When the sheep were away out of reach of the giant, Ulysses untied his men. Then they ran to their ship and rowed away. When they were a hundred metres away, Ulysses stood up and shouted:
"Hey, Cyclops! You killed my men, now you will suffer for that!"
Polyphemus was furious. He took a great rock and threw it where he heard the voice. It fell in front of the ship making a huge wave which took the ship back to the shore.
They had to row hard to get away from the shore. When they got twice as far as before, Ulysses stood up and shouted at the Cyclops again:
"Listen, Cyclops! If someone asks you who blinded you, say it was the warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes from Ithaca."
The Cyclops in anger started to pray to Poseidon, god of the sea." Poseidon, if you are my father, may this Ulysses never reach his home, or may he come alone to find sore troubles in his house!" Then he threw another mighty rock which almost hit the ship.
Ulysses an his warriors escaped and came to the island where their comrades were waiting. They were happy that they were safe. However, the curse of Polyphemus was strong and Ulysses had problems to get home. But that is another story...
***


Adapted from "MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF ALL NATIONS Translated and Edited by LOGAN MARSHALL"

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Created by J. Brandecky, December 28, 2011. Copyright.
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