Ulysses and the Cyclops – Charles Lamb

Ulysses and the Cyclops
Ulysses and the Cyclops

Kannada Summary

Once upon a time, there was a king called Ulysses. He was ruling an island called Ithaca in Greece. They fought in the Trojan War, which lasted for ten years. Once the war was over, Ulysses and his men undertook a journey back to their kingdom. On the way, there was a series of exciting adventures they encountered. One such adventure is the story of Ulysses and the Cyclops.

Ulysses and his men sailed through the night on an unknown shoreline. In the early hours of the morning, they landed on the island of the Cyclops. Cyclops were a kind of giant shepherds who had only one eye in the middle of their forehead. They were living in fertile land, where wheat, barley, and grapes were grown in abundance. The Cyclops did not know anything about agriculture. They were not even interested in that. They were not making any bread or wine from the food available.

They lived alone in the caves on the steep edges of the hills, roughly and independently. They didn’t have any kingdom, government, or a king. They had no concept of laws or policies.

They would stay in their homes however they wanted. The shores had convenient curves to build ports for shipping purposes. But they had no boat or ship, no practice of any trade or business. They did not even have any curiosity about what existed outside their territory.

Ulysses chose twelve of his men and set out to find what kind of people might be living there, the ones who are friendly to their visitors or the wild and uncivilized ones.

The first place they found looking a bit livable was a cave not so well decorated. It was massive, indicating the enormous size of its owner. The pillars used for the support were the bodies of tall oaks or pines in their natural state. They reflected the strength of their builder, rather than the skill.

Entering in, Ulysses, admired the unpolished tactics and artless structure of the place and was curious to see the resident of that outlandish mansion. To become friendly with this giant resident, Ulysses thought of offering a gift upon meeting, instead of showing off his power and strength.

He decided to present the Greek wine, which he had stored in twelve large vessels. That wine was so strong that no one ever drank it without adding twenty parts of water to one part of it. Yet, it had a strong fragrance and was so delicious it would tempt any man to smell it and taste. Whoever tasted it, would be influenced to feel like a strong and brave hero.

They stepped inside the cave along with their goat-skin flagon filled with wine. The kitchen was full of sheep and goat’s meat, spread all around, the dairy where goat milk was stored in troughs and buckets. It had pens to keep the animals. The giant shepherd would take them out everyday morning to pasture.

While they were feasting their eyes with a sight of these curiosities, suddenly they heard a loud sound as if a house was falling. The owner of the cave was back from the mountains after being out all day feeding his flock. He threw down a heap of firewood at the entrance of the cave, which he had been gathering the whole day. The loud thud they just heard was from that.

By seeing the rude monster, the Grecians hid in the corners of the cave. He was Polyphemus, the largest and most savage of the Cyclops, who boasted himself to be the son of Neptune. He looked more like a mountain rock than a man. He had a cruel mind suitable to his brutal body.

He drove all his milk-giving (female) sheep and goats inside the cave but left the male sheep and the he-goats outside. After that, he took a gigantic stone so massive that even twenty oxen could not have pulled and placed it in the mouth of the cave to guard the entrance. Then impatiently kindled a fire and he sat down to milk his female sheep and goats. Throwing his single great eye round the cave in the glimmering light, he noticed some of Ulysses’ men.

“Ho, guests! Who are you? Merchants or wandering thieves?” He yelled so loud, it would take all of them to shout together with all their energy to match.

Ulysses alone came forward to answer and said that they were not for the sake of loot or trade but were Grecians, who had lost their way, returning from Troy. They humbly bowed to the Cyclop’s feet, acknowledging him as the strongest, and requested to allow them to treat him.

He replied nothing but gripping two of the nearest of them as if they had been no more than children, he dashed their brains out against the floor, tore their limbs into pieces, and began eating them like a lion, as their hot blood started spreading.

Cyclops are cannibals, man-eaters, and human flesh is a delicacy for them, much more than goat or kids. Because of such horrible customs, nobody was visiting that coast, except the people from broken ships and the ones who had lost their way.

By the sight of this horror, Ulysses and his men got disturbed. After finishing his horrible meal, the monstrous giant poured the goat milk into his huge throat, drank, and slept among his goats. Pulling his sword out, Ulysses was about to stab the evil giant in his chest. But his sense did not let him do so. If he kills the demon now, the rest of them also had to die stuck inside the cave. It was because only Polyphemus could move the large stone across the entrance. They spent the whole night in fear, stuck in there.

Waking up the next morning, Cyclop kindled a fire, ate two other of his unfortunate prisoners for breakfast. He then milked his goats as he does every day. Pushing aside the vast stone, he let his flock out and shut the entrance again. He drove the animals towards the mountains with whistlings as sharp as winds in the storms.

Ulysses felt like his strength and intelligence is too weak and small like of child, to fight with Cyclops. But being left with the remainings of his men, which the Cyclop had not gobbled, gave him the determination to use the manly wisdom to fight this brutal force. From the firewood that Cyclop set the fire on, Ulysses picked up a piece of wood that was as thick as a ship’s pillar. He sharpened it and stiffened it in the fire. Choosing four of his men instructed them what to do with this stake. He then made them practice their role with no mistake.

That evening, the Cyclop drove home his sheep and goats. Against his custom, he drove both male and female animals inside the pen. It was as if his fortune misdirected him or the gods only took away his memory. Shutting the stone of the cave, he fell to his horrible supper. While he ate two more of the Grecians, Ulysses mustering up his courage started to put his plan in action.

He took a bowl of Greek wine and cheerfully dared the Cyclop to drink it.

“Cyclop,” he said, “Take a bowl of wine from the hand of your guest; it may help you to digest the human flesh that you have eaten and would show you what drink our ship held before it went down. If you find it good, all I ask in return is to leave me alive. It seems you get very few visitors here because of your horrible way of treating your guests.

The brute took and drank, enjoyed the taste of wine, which was new to him, and drank more and more. He then asked Ulysses to tell him his name, that he might grant a gift upon the man who had given him such a tasty liquor. He said that the Cyclops had grapes, but this rich juice was simply divine.

Once again Ulysses supplied him with more wine, and the fool drank it as fast as it was poured out. Cyclops once again asked the name of his benefactor. Ulysses said, pulling a cunning act, “My name is Noman: my family and friends in my country call me Noman”.

Cyclop responded, “This is the kindness I will show you, Noman: I will leave you but will eat all of your friends.” He barely expressed his barbaric kindness when the power of the wine overcame him, and he rolled down upon the floor and fell into a deep sleep.

Ulysses waited for the right time while the monster lay asleep. He cheered his men up, together they placed the sharp end of the stake in the fire till it was heated red-hot. Some god only gave them enough courage beyond what they usually had, the four men with great difficulty bored the sharp end of the large stake, which they had heated red-hot, right into the eye of the drunken cannibal.

He woke up roaring with the pain so loud that all the cavern broke into claps like thunder. The men fled and dispersed into corners of the cave. Cyclop plucked the burning stake from his eye and threw the wood madly around the cave.

Then he cried out with a mighty voice for his brethren, the Cyclops, that lived nearby in the caverns upon hills. Hearing this terrible shout, they all came running from all parts to inquire what bothered Polyphemus, making him scream so loud in the nighttime breaking their sleep.

He answered from inside the cave that Noman had hurt him. Noman had tried to kill him, Noman is with him in the cave. They couldn’t understand, “If no man has hurt you, and no man is with you, then you are alone; and the evil which affects you is from the hand of Heaven, which none of us can resist or help.”

So they left him and went their way, thinking that some disease troubled him. Blind and angry of the pain, he went groaning, up and down in the dark, to find the doorway. He found the entrance, removed the stone, and sat on the threshold, thinking if he could catch any man going out with the sheep, as it was already morning, and the animals were ready to go to their accustomed pastures.

By then Ulysses took the soft osier twigs from the cyclops bed, made knots. Using that rope he tied the fattest and the ones with thick wool, three rams together, in each group. He tied a man under the belly of the middle one. At last, he wrapped himself fast with a ram that had thick silver wool, the fairest of the flock. By then, the sheep began to move along very fast: as they passed, Cyclop felt the backs of those fleecy wools, never dreaming that they carried his enemies under them. So they passed on till the last ram came loaded with his wool and Ulysses together. He stopped that ram, and felt him, and had his hand once in the hair of Ulysses too, yet he didn’t know it.

When Ulysses found himself free, he assisted in disengaging his friends. By then, the rams had befriended the men and, they took them to the ships, where their companions, with tears in their eyes, received them as men escaped from death. They plied their oars and set their sails, and when they got as far off from shore as a voice could reach, Ulysses cried out to the Cyclop: “Cyclop, you should not have so much abused your monstrous strength to eat your guests.”

The Cyclop heard and came forth furious, and in his anger, he plucked a big piece of a rock and threw it with blind fury at the ships. It narrowly escaped the bark on which Ulysses sat. But with the fall, it raised a powerful wave it almost pushed the ship back to the shore.

Ulysses shouted again: “Cyclop if anyone asks you who inflicted that ugly scar in your eye, say it was Ulysses, son of Laertes, the King of Ithaca and, the destroyer of cities”.

He then started sailing, defeated the old sea, and set off ahead like a windstorm.

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Answer briefly the following questions

1.Who were Cyclops?

Ans: cyclops are the giant shepherds who lived on the steep heads of mountains in caves.

2.Pick any five details to show that they were not civilized

Ans:Cyclops neither sowed nor ploughed, but the earth untilled produced for them rich wheat and barley and grapes. They had neither bread nor wine, nor did they know the arts of cultivation, not cared to know them.Their dwellings were in caves on the steep heads of mountains, every man’s household governed by his own caprice or not governed at all. They did not have any ships or boats, no trade or commerce or wish to visit other shores.

3.Why did Ulysses and his men enter the habitation of the Cyclop?

Ans:Ulysses landed to explore what sort of men dwelt there, whether hospitable or friendly to strangers or altogether wild and savage.

  1. Read the last four sentences of paragraph 2 and try to draw the picture of Polyphemus (savage face, massive body, one eye….)

Ans:The Greek wine was so strong that no one ever drank it without an infusion of twenty parts of water to one wine, yet the fragrance of it even then so delicious, that it would have vexed a man who smelled it to abstain from tasting it; but whoever tasted it, it was able to raise his courage to the height of heroic deeds.

5.How strong was the Greek wine?

Ans: He added that they acknowledged him to be mightier than them, and hence prostrated themselves humbly before his feet.Ulysses said that they came neither for plunder, nor business, but were Grecians, who had lost their way, returning from Troy.

6.How did Ulysses introduce himself and his group to the Cyclop?

Ans:The cyclops replied nothing, but gripping two of the nearest of Ulysses’ followers as if they had been no more than children, he dashed their brains out against the earth, and tore in pieces their limbs, and devoured them, yet warm and trembling, making a lion’s meal of them lapping the blood.

  1. What horrid response did the Cyclop give to Ulysses, request for hospitality?

Ans:When the Cyclop slept among his goats, Ulysses wanted to draw his sword and thrust it with all his might into the bosom of the sleeping monster; but wiser thought restrained him because he realized that he would need Polyphemus alive as only he could have removed the mass of stone which he had placed to guard the entrance.

8.What prevented Ulysses from attacking the Cyclop with his sword?

Ans:Ulysses hatched a plot to incapacitate the Cyclop and escape from the cave alive. He chose a stake from among the wood which the Cyclop had piled up for firing, in length and thickness like a mast, which he sharpened, and hardened in the fire; and selected four men, and instructed them what they should do with his stake and made them perfect in their parts.

9.How did Ulysses prove that “manly wisdom excels brutish force”?

Ans:The Cyclop took the wine and drank it, and vehemently enjoyed the taste of wine, which was new to him, and swilled gain at the flagon, and entreated for more; and prayed Ulysses to tell him his name, that he might bestow a gift upon the man who had given him such brave liquor. When Ulysses says that this name is Noman, the Cyclop promises Ulysses that he will eat him after he has eaten all of Ulysses’ friends.

10.What ‘gift’ does the Cyclop offer Ulysses in return for the wine?

Ans:Ulysses waited for some time while the Cyclop lay insensible; and heartening up his men, they placed the sharp end of the stake in the fire till it was heated red-hot; and the four men with difficulty bored the sharp end of the huge stake, which they heated red-hot, right into the single eye of the drunken cannibal.

11.How do the brave Greeks blind the Cyclop?

Ans:When the fellow Cyclops came flocking from all parts to inquire what trouped Polyphemus, Polyphemus answered from within the cave that Noman had hurt him and Noman was with him in the cave. The other Cyclops thought that Polyphemus was alone in the cave ‘and no one had hurt him but he himself. So they went away, thinking that some disease troubled him.

12.Why didn’t the fellow Cyclops help Polyphemus when he cried out for help?

Ans:Ulysses made knots of osier twigs upon which the Cyclop, commonly slept, with which he tied the fattest and fleeciest of the rams together, three in a rank; and under the middle ram he tied a man. Thus the man could escape from the cave along with the ram which was moving towards its accustomed pasture.

13.How did Ulysses help his men escape from the cave?

Ans:Ulysses made knots of osier twigs upon which the Cyclop, commonly slept, with which he tied the fattest and fleeciest of the rams together, three in a rank; and under the middle ram he tied a man. Thus the man could escape from the cave along with the ram which was moving towards its accustomed pasture.

14.How did Ulysses himself escape from the cave?

Ans:Ulysses wrapped himself fast with both his hand in the rich wool of a ram, the fairest of the flock. As the sheep passed the doorway of the cave, the Cyclop who was sitting there at the threshold, felt the back of those fleecy wools, without realizing that they carried his enemies under them. When the last ram came with Ulysses under it, the Cyclop stopped the ram and felt it, and had his hand once in the hair of Ulysses, but did not recognize it.

15.How did Ulysses introduce himself to the Cyclop at the end of the story?

Ans:Ulysses introduced himself as ‘Ulysses, son of Laertes; he was called the King of Ithaca and a waster of cities’.

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