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Story Summary: Return From Troy, Episode 7

Odysseus and the Sirens

On this page we have split the telling of this episode into its three main sections and provided a summary of each.

Back from the dead (3:17)

They leave the chill of the land of the dead and return to feasting on Circe’s island. Circe is amazed that Odysseus has returned from the land of the dead, but tells him of more trials that he must undergo. He must evade the island of the Sirens and their enchantment. Passing between tall rocks he must steer away from the whirlpool of Charybdis, the swallower. But he will not be able to escape six-headed Scylla, the devourer. Six lives must be lost to her.

Siren song (2:50)

They approach the enchanted regions of the Sirens, whose songs make mortals forget everything except the desire to hear more and so lure ships to be wrecked. Ever curious, Odysseus wants to hear the song for himself. He has himself tied to the mast and his men block their own ears with wax. The song is so beautiful that he nearly loses his mind and calls out to his men. But the ship stays away from the rocks because the men are deaf to his pleas. They sail on past heaps of human bones. For Odysseus, all other music has now become clatter.

A price for passage (4:11)

Odysseus encourages his men and urges them on, warning them about the whirlpool but not about the dragon. He puts on his armour and takes his spears, expecting to defend them from Scylla. They pass safely by Charybdis but while they gaze at her something happens behind them; Scylla strikes, each of her six heads taking one of the crew. The men are distraught. The ship drifts on until Odysseus looks up and sees an island where cattle graze. He remembers the words of Tiresias.

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