U is for Ulysses

PolyphemusUlysses the Greek hero has already featured under R, where we talked about his reluctance to join the Trojan War and his revenge on the man who blew his cover, thus forcing him to fight for ten long years at the Trojan War. He fought bravely and as soon as Troy was won, our hero wanted to go back home as quickly possible. But it took him another ten years to reach his kingdom. These wanderings too were not out of choice, but his ship landed at various islands, driven more by fate than by design and at every port he had an adventure. This is the story of one such adventure, when our hero literally chose to be Nobody!

Ulysses and his crew found themselves in a land which was the home to the giant one eyed monsters, the Cyclops. The Cyclops of this island were shepherds and lived on sheep meat and cheese, but a tasty human snack was something they looked forward to.

The new arrivals wondered around the island, till they found a cave. There was a huge boulder lying carelessly on the side and the cave was open and inviting. Inside, there were goats tied in a corner and cheese hanging from the walls. The tired warriors, quickly killed a few goat, cooked them over a roaring fire, had a hearty meal which they then washed down with some wine and cheese. Then they rested.

What they did not know is that the cave belonged to the cyclops called Polyphemus, who was the son of the Sea God Poisedon. Polyphemus returned home and was pleasantly surprised to see that tasty human had walked into his cave. He quickly rolled the boulder in place, and ate a handful of men. In the morning he repeated his meal and went out to graze his sheep after ensuring that the boulder was firmly put in place. The men could not escape but while the giant was away, Ulysses and his men, sharpened a long stake and hid it in the cave.

In the evening, Polyphemus entered his cave and quickly rolled the boulder back into its place. He then stretched out his hands and grabbed a few men, for a light snack. Ulysses stepped up and offered the giant some of the potent wine that they had carried from a different land. After he had quickly downed three giant glasses, his speech was slurry and his eye was droopy. Ulysses was polite to a fault. He introduced himself as Nobody, and asked the giant his name. The giant now half asleep, mumbled, ‘my name is Polyphemus, and I promise to eat you last dear Nobody.’ And then he was snoring.

Quickly our hero and his men heated the stake in the roaring fire and pushed it into the cyclops single eye, thus blinding him. When the other cyclops heard Polyphemus roar in pain, they asked, “What’s the matter Polyphemus? Do you ned some help?” The giant cried back, “Nobody is hurting me.” And so it seems, the Cyclops left him alone.

The next day, the conscientious Polyphemus, rolled the boulder away, and let his sheep out. Eye or no eye, he had decided that he would take the sheep out grazing in the day, and he would come back in the evening and treat himself to tasty human meat. But what he did not know was that Ulysses and his team, had tied themselves to the underbellies of the giant woolly sheep. Once the sheep were out, the men quickly untied themselves and ran towards their ship. It’s only after they set sail that Ulysses shouted out his true name. Polyphemus tried to stop them, but he was blinded and anyway it was too late. The heroes were free and far away out at sea.

I am going to have fun saying this, just because it’s so obvious. There is some merit in being a Nobody even when you really are a Greek hero of epic proportion!

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