When we last left our heroes, they were trapped in a cave with the dreaded cyclops, Polyphemus! The barbaric giant vowed to feast upon all, including the great Odysseus. Can they escape the peril? Can they hope to defeat such a giant? Can I drop the lame announcer voice?
Yes. Yes, to all three. The only one of those that was actually a question was the last. There really are no spoilers when it comes to a story recorded over 2,500 years ago.
Let that number sink in.
Right, so, Odysseus has a problem. He can’t kill Polyphemus. It’s not that he doesn’t have the ability. He’s got men, and they’ve got weapons. The giant likes to sleep, so it’s no big deal to kill him. In fact, Odysseus was tempted to “smite him in the breast, where the midriff holds the liver” (301-302). But, he can’t, not and expect to live because of the boulder blocking the door. Only Polyphemus has the strength to move it, so it’s a nice, tidy, trap. This also shows that Polyphemus is not an utter moron. He’s an egomaniac and cruel, but he’s not completely stupid.
So, what’s Odysseus to do? Get Polyphemus drunk and take advantage of him (No, not like Lot’s daughters. Get your head out of the gutter already, geez.). They’ll poke out Polyphemus’s eye, of course. They use a length of wood, sharpen it into a nice, giant spear, and heat the sucker in the fire, and drill it into Polyphemus’s eye.
The cleverness of this solution isn’t immediately apparent, but remember that Polyphemus has his sheep in the cave, too. He has to let them out in the morning. He’s blind, now, but he’s still got to take care of them in order to feed himself. He’ll have to let them through, only Odysseus’s men will be passengers and sneak out.