Scylla and Charybdis: Homeric Parallel

In Book 12 of The Odyssey, Odysseus and his men return from the Land of the Dead (see headnote to Hades) to Circe's isle, where they fulfill Odysseus's promise to bury Elpenor's body. Circe gives Odysseus "sailing directions" (12:24; Fitzgerald, p. 222). She tells him about the Sirens (Ulysses, episode 11) and offers him a choice of routes: one by way of the Wandering Rocks (Ulysses, episode 10) "not even birds can pass them by" (12:62; Fitzgerald, p. 223); and the other by way of the passage between Scylla and Charybdis. The latter route, which Odysseus chooses, offers a second choice: the ship that sails the side of the channel overlooked by the six-headed monster Scylla, that lives on "a sharp mountain peak" (12:74; Fitzgerald, p. 223), does so at the sacrifice of "one man for every gullet" (12:99; Fitzgerald, p. 224). But the ship that chooses the other side of the channel risks being totally engulfed by the "whirling / maelstrom" (12:104; Fitzgerald, p. 224) of Charybdis. Circe advises Odysseus to "hug the cliff of Scylla" (12:108; Fitzgerald, p. 224), which he does. But she also urges him not to try to combat Scylla, a "nightmare [that] cannot die" (12:118; Fitzgerald, p. 225). When the time comes to face Scylla, Circe's bidding swlips his mind, and try to combat Scylla he does -- but in vain, because at the moment of her strike Odysseus and his men are distracted by the terrifying vision of the "yawning mouth" of Charybdis (12:243; Fitzgerald, p. 230).

(from Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses" [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], p. 192. The first numbers following quotes from The Odyssey [for example, 1:115] refer to book and line numbers in the Greek text; English translations, unless otherwise noted, are from The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fitzgerald [New York: Doubleday, 1961])