In Homer’s epic novel The Odyssey, Homer depicts Odysseus as a character of great intelligence and cunning. Throughout the many dangers and hazards he encounters, Odysseus shows, in many ways, his ingenious slyness. Odysseus’ cunning is shown in many examples, such as when he encounters the lotus-eaters. Some of his men, hungry as they are, accept the lotus-eaters’ offering of some of their lotus to eat. Soon they forget all about their efforts to get home as a result of eating the lotus. So, knowing the lotus must be flushed out of their system, “Odysseus brings them back to the ship by main force…and stows them under the benches'” (Homer 102) so they cannot get any more of the lotus to eat. Then, he “orders the rest of the men to hurry up and get aboard'” (102) so they will not also be affected by the lotus. Odysseus knows if the entire crew would have eaten the lotus, he would never be able to regain control of them all, thus losing all hope of returning home safely and quickly. Also, when the crew encounters Polyphemous, the large, powerful Cyclops, Odysseus realizes that if they kill the Cyclops they will never be able to “move the great stone which Polyphemous has planted in the doorway'” (106) to prevent them from escaping. So, Odysseus gets the giant Polyphemous drunk and allows him to enter a deep sleep. Then, when he is fully entrapped in a “drunken slumber'” (107), the men jab a large spear into the Cyclops’ eye. As a result, the Cyclops is not dead, just very injured and unable to see anything. Stabbing Polyphemous in the eye allows him to remove the rock and give the men a chance to escape without killing the men. The crafty display of cunning here needs no explanation. Odysseus also displays his cunning when he meets with Circe, the evil goddess who seduces men then turns them into animals. When she fails at the seduction of Odysseus, they become lovers and he makes her “swear a solemn oath that she will never attempt any evil thing against him'” (119). This shows he is using his brain skillfully by making sure no harm comes his way. Also, Odysseus shows his cunning by the crafty way he summoned the dead seer Teiresias. In order to get his attention, Odysseus “dedicates the best black ram among his flocks'” (124). Odysseus shows his intelligence with this in that it is the only way he can achieve contact with Teiresias without actually entering Hades. Odysseus shows his cunning once again when it is time for him to pass by the sirens. He knows of the sirens’ deadly song; therefore, in an effort to escape certain death, he “takes a thick round of wax…and plugs up the ears of all the men one after another'” (141). Plugging their ears allows Odysseus and his men to safely pass by the evil sirens. Obviously, Odysseus is a man of extreme intelligence and cunning. He shows his craftiness in many ways in The Odyssey, every time revealing more and more evidence of his smarts. He is shown as a skillful man in other works also, being liked by Athena for “his wily mind, his shrewdness and his cunning” (Hamilton 213) in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. He is most definitely well-known as one of the smartest, most cunning epic heroes ever to grace the pages of a poem.
The Odyssey Odysseus Cunning