The Poem “The Odyssey” by Homer: Story of the Sirens

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When it comes to the story of the Sirens in Homer’s The Odyssey, the first mention of them comes from the goddess Circe. She warns Odysseus that upon returning from the Underworld, he will encounter creatures bewitching sailors with the sweetness of their song. Circe notes that there is no homecoming for the men who fall under the Sirens’ spell – devious monsters lure travelers and kill them. The only way to avoid the entrapment, the goddess says, is to plug one’s ears as not to hear the Sirens’ voices. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for ‘bewitch’ – thelgein – is used by Homer twice in Circe’s account of the danger as if to emphasize the impossibility of resistance. Moreover, the word nostos – homecoming – has a rather strong effect: as previously stated, there is no homecoming for the spellbound. Since Odysseus’ ultimate goal over the course of the poem is to come back home, this warning is particularly daunting.

Upon starting on a journey, Odysseus cannot find peace and decides to share Circe’s prophecies with his crew. He claims that they should be warned about the impendence regardless of whether they escape the trap or not. What one learns from that passage is that Odysseus cannot properly console his companions – possibly, to some readers’ shock. However, he is only human and is incapable of being brave all the time, which is highlighted by this snippet.

Almost immediately after that, the ship approaches the Sirens’ island. Foggy darkness hides the travelers’ entrance; the creatures only break into their song after spotting them. The Sirens flatter the protagonist by addressing him as mega kudos Achaion – the great glory of the Greeks – and tell him that they possess knowledge of everything that happens on Earth. One comes to the conclusion that it is more likely that the prospect of that knowledge is what enchants Odysseus, not the pleasant compliments. The hero recognized for his intellectual abilities has a hunger for knowledge – and the cunning creatures must be aware of it. That is how one realizes that the Sirens sing more than sweet nothings – they promise exactly what one wants to hear. Nevertheless, the plan, according to which the crew all plug their ears and bind their leader tight so he could not be lured in, works. The ship moves past the island, and the danger is avoided.