Cyclops: Homeric Parallel

In Book 9 of The Odyssey, Odysseus describes his adventures among the one-eyed Cyclopes, who are "giants, louts, without a law to bless them" (9:106; Fitzgerald, p. 160). They live in a fertile land but are ignorant of agriculture; they "have no muster and no meeting, / no consultation or old tribal ways, / but each one dwells in his own mountain cave / dealing out rough justice to wife and child, / indifferent to what the others do" (9:112; Fitzgerald, p. 160). Odysseus and a scouting party are trapped in the cave of Polyphemus, one of the Cyclopes, who scoffs at Zeus and at the laws of hospitality that govern the "civilized" world, acting out his scorn by devouring two of Odysseus's men. Polyphemus imprisons Odysseus and his remaining companions, presumably to be eaten at the rate of two a day. The second evening he "feasts" again, and then Odysseus plies him with wine. In the course of the drinking bout Odysseus announces that his name is "Noman," and when the one-eyed giant collapses into drunken sleep, Odysseus blinds him with a burning pike of olive wood. Polyphemus shouts that "Noman" has ruined him, and his neighbors (taking him literally) mock him and refuse to help. In the morning Odysseus and his remaining men escape Polyphemus's search by hiding among his sheep. Once free and launched in his ship, Odysseus makes the mistake of revealing his identity, taunting the blind Polyphemus, who heaves a rock and almost sinks Odysseus's ship. Then the blind giant calls on his father, Poseidon, to prevent Odysseus from returning home, or, if "destiny / intend that he shall see his roof again far be that day, and dark the years between. / Let him lose all companions, and return / under strange sail to bitter days at home" (9:532ff; Fitzgerald, p. 173). Since destiny does "intend" that Odysseus return home, Poseidon is only able to grant the latter part of his son's prayer.

(from Don Gifford with Robert J. Seidman, "Ulysses" Annotated: Notes for James Joyce's "Ulysses" [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988], p. 314. 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])