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Objective Summary of Odyssey Book XII

Translated by Robert Fitzgerald, Sea Perils and Defeat is book twelve of Homers Greek

epic, The Odyssey. Revolving around the storys hero, Odysseus, Sea Perils and Defeat recounts

he and his crews encountering with the enchanting Sirens, a whirlpool called Charybdis, and

Helios special cattle, in attempt to return back home to Ithaca. The story follows up on

Odysseus in his efforts of dealing with theses monsters, and how his reckless actions tend to

cause additional problems for him and his crew, all which make him a Greek hero. After being

away in the Trojan War and sea-bounded on ship for so long, Odysseus is in desperate need of

seeing his still faithful wife, Penelope and their son, Telemachus, whom is now full grown. He

goes under the wing of Lady Circe, the goddess of magic and sorcery, who informs him of all the

dangers that will cross their path on the journey back home. First, Sirens will block their path.

Disguised by their beauty and melodious tunes, the Sirens real intent is to lure sailors to their

demise and drown them in a shipwreck. To avoid hearing the Sirens song, Circe advises

Odysseus that he and his crew must plug their ears with beeswax to block out the noise.

However, if Odysseus wishes to hear the song, his crew must tie him up to the lugger and not

release him until the song finally fades away in the distance. Once they have past the Sirens,

Odysseus and his crew must choose one of the two courses they will have to take. Given the

names of Prowling Rocks or Drifters by the gods, the first route is fenced in with

overhanging rocks and soaring seas. The second course, however, no mortal man has ever

succeeded. This is a towering mountain whose peak reaches up to the skies. In addition to this,

the crew would still be faced with two more dangers. Halfway up the mountain, only appearing

during hours of dusk is Scyllas cave. This is home to the hideous monster, Scylla; notorious for
never leaving her guests without a quick bite, in which she takes one man for every gullet. There

is also Charybdis, a whirlpool that sucks in and spews out the sea three times a day from dawn to

dusk. Despite that the two could possibly be fatal death experiences for them in the future, Circe

advises Odysseus that facing Scylla is the better choice. He would only lose a few men rather

than losing them all to a shipwreck by Charybdis. Afterwards, Odysseus and his crew must cast

through the island of Thrinacia, where Helios, the sun gods cattle dwell in. However, they must

not be tempted in eating them or will face the consequences of Helios revenge. When faced with

these dangers on their journey back home, the only advice given by Circe was whatever they do,

they must flee. Despite Circes advice, Odysseus fails to recall this during the start of their

journey; and even some of the crucial pieces of information needed to get him and his crew back


The first task of enduring the Sirens song went most smoothly. Having warned his crew

prior to the event, they plugged their ears with beeswax and tied Odysseus to the lugger due to

his own curiosity about the Sirens song. As predicted, Odysseus begged and begged to be

released but it wasnt until the fading of the Sirens song, his crew would be able to release him

from his custody. Afterwards, Odysseus and his crew ventured on towards Scyllas cave. Yet,

being the selfish and ignorant mortal that he was, Odysseus does not tell his crew of the hideous

beast that awaits them in the cave, and the fact that some of them will be sacrificed to this beast.

In addition to this, Odysseus fails to remember Circes advice of refraining from battle. He puts

on his body armor and brings two heavy spears with him as he and his crew proceed on toward

Scyllas cave. When Odysseus and his crew finally reached the cave, Scylla is nowhere to be

seen. On top of that, they are furthermore distracted by the scene of Charybdis in the distance,
whom happened to be spewing out the sea at that same moment in time. Sidetracked from their

original plans, Odysseus and his crew fail to the notice the hideous beast that had sneaked behind

them as they were distracted by the sight of Charybdis. Scylla takes her first strike, taking six

men as her appetizers. All horrified in absolute shock, Odysseus and whatever was left of his

remaining crew left in their ship, fleeing the scene. Now with the Sirens, the beetling rocks,

Scylla, and Charybdis all behind them, Odysseus and his crew pass by the island of Thrinacia,

which is the home to Helios and his precious cattle. Finally, taking Circes advice after all the

trouble that was caused ignoring them, Odysseus insists to his crew that they should just bypass

the island and proceed on with their journey. However, driven by the hunger and the desire for

food, the crew ignores his wishes and eventually his warning of not eating Helios cattle. They

do just that and trigger the angry rage of the sun god. Helios threatens that Zeus that he will stop

shining unless further payment is received. To please him, Zeus sends down a thunderbolt to sink

Odysseus and his crews ship. Odysseus is the only survivor of this strike. Not knowing where to

go, Odysseus eventually goes to Ogygia, home to the nymph, Calypso who keeps him on the

island for seven years.