Imagine approaching the end of a long, lingering and laborious day, shepherding over your flock: a million muscles protesting, stomach screaming, feet surrendering from supporting your volcano-sized frame. Nevertheless, you persevere, knowing that the perfect evening is drawing closer: retreating to your cave; positioned in the peaceful mountainside; a hearty meal awaiting, a roaring fire to rejuvenate those flagging feet, whilst your overburdened eye gradually closes as you drift off into a restful and revitalising slumber. Sounds like paradise, right?
Well, imagine instead, that upon your long-awaited return you discover some intruders, who are not only complete strangers that broke into your cave, but had gorged on your prepared meats and cheeses, devoured your milk and then decided to fall asleep in front of YOUR roaring fire! Surely the magma in your blood would be rising? Well, this unpleasant encounter happened to me! And this volcano was ready to erupt!
Perhaps you might have heard about me? Polyphemus, the giant son of Poseidon, God of the sea and the sea nymph Thoosa? No? How about the Cyclops with the single eye who was fooled by Odysseus? Ah yes! Now you remember! “Odysseus the hero: brave, intelligent and fearless”, right? WRONG! Well, I have had enough of this arrogant, big-headed, miniature-sized mortal, damaging my reputation. Show me someone that believes this nonsense and I’ll show you someone that has only heard HIS version of the story! It’s time to hear my side.
Odysseus and his men sailed to my private land, broke into my cave, gorged on my supplies, intentionally gave me strong wine so that I would lose consciousness, misled me into believing that we were friends, seared my eye with a blistering, scorching hot staff, burned and scalded me, lied about his name so my brothers wouldn’t know to help, tied himself to my sheep and stole them. Then to add further pressure to this boiling volcano, he taunts a wounded, blinded, heartbroken giant with his trickery! This is NOT a hero! Let’s address his allegations, one by one:
- “Polyphemus ate my men!”. He knew that I am a cannibal! I cannot resist! It’s like wafting a zebra in front of a lion – carnivores act on instinct and so do cannibals! Did Odysseus feel sorry for the lamb that he devoured in my cave? No! Of course he didn’t .. a hypocrite! Also, if you decide to trespass on a cannibal’s land, enter a cannibal’s home and dangle your mouth-watering human aroma in front of a cannibal’s nose, then surely you are asking to be eaten? Besides, they ate all my food, I was ravenous! Scrumptiously satisying!
- “Polyphemus wasn’t a good host!”. Firstly, Odysseus knew that Cyclopes do not follow laws and secondly, by breaking in and stealing my food, he was NOT the perfect guest! Besides, I offered him friendship, sharing a drink, asking his name and kindly proposing to spare him until last, whereas he was underhand, corrupt and deceitful!
- “Polyphemus locked us in his cave!”. I always seal the cave to protect my beloved from escaping and falling prey to unknown predators. When I later realised that we had company – I had no intention of releasing them to commit the same crime at my brother’s cave. Besides, he would most certainly have eaten them all that same night!
- “Polyphemus hurled giant boulders at my ship!”. Firstly, he was taunting a pitiable, distressed and wounded Cyclops. Secondly, he stole my sheep, especially my beloved ram Woolly, whom I miss enormously!
- “Polyphemus asked his father to avenge me!”. I prayed to my father for justice to prevail. Fathers protect their sons! A criminal needs to be punished and ten years of cruel seas seems a light penalty in comparison to my lifelong punishment!
The outcome: A volcano without it’s lava; a shepherd without his flock; a distraught Woolly without his owner; picturesque mountains, a striking sunrise, a stunning sunset without an eye to admire their beauty; solitude and joy overturned into isolation and misery; but worst of all? – accused “guilty” without a fair trial!
So, who is the real hero? A creature who minds his own business and lives his life by natural instinct: deceived, misunderstood and deserving of pity, or is it a devious, cunning and manipulative trickster?