In the days of long ago there reigned over Ithaca, a rugged little island in the sea to the west of Greece, a king whose name was Odysseus. Odysseus feared no man. Stronger and braver than other men was he, wiser, and more full of clever devices. Far and wide he was known as Odysseus of the many counsels. Wise, also, was his queen, Penelope, and she was as fair as she was wise, and as good as she was fair.
While their only child, a boy named Telemachus, was still a baby, there was a very great war in Troyland, a country far across the sea.
The brother of the overlord of all Greece besieged Troy, and the kings and princes of his land came to help him. Many came from afar, but none from a more distant kingdom than Odysseus. Wife and child and old father he left behind him, and sailed away with his black-prowed ships to fight in Troyland.
For ten years the siege of Troy went on, and of the heroes who fought there, none was braver than Odysseus. Clad as a beggar he went into the city and found out much to help the Greek armies. With his long sword he fought his way out again, and left many of the men of Troy lying dead behind him. And many other brave feats did Odysseus do.
After long years of fighting, Troy at last was taken. With much rich plunder the besiegers sailed homewards, and Odysseus set sail for his rocky island, with its great mountain, and its forests of trembling leaves.
Of gladness and of longing his heart was full. With a great love he loved his fair wife and little son and old father, and his little kingdom by the sea was very dear to him. "I can see nought beside sweeter than a man's own country," he said. Very soon he hoped to see his dear land again, but many a long and weary day was to pass ere Odysseus came home.
Odysseus was a warrior, and always he would choose to fight rather than to be at peace.
As he sailed on his homeward way, winds drove his ships near the shore. He and his company landed, sacked the nearest city, and slew the people. Much rich plunder they took, but ere they could return to their ships, a host of people came from inland. In the early morning, thick as leaves and flowers in the spring they came, and fell upon Odysseus and his men.
All day they fought, but as the sun went down the people of the land won the fight. Back to their ships went Odysseus and his men. Out of each ship, were six men slain.
While they were yet sad at heart and weary from the fight, a terrible tempest arose.
Land and sea were blotted out, the ships were driven headlong, and their sails were torn to shreds by the might of the storm. For two days and two nights the ships were at the mercy of the tempest. At dawn on the third day, the storm passed away, and Odysseus and his men set up their masts and hoisted their white sails, and drove homeward before the wind.
So he would have come safely to his own country, but a strong current and a fierce north wind swept the ships from their course. For nine days were they driven far from their homeland, across the deep sea.
On the tenth day they reached the Land of the Lotus Eaters. The dwellers in that land fed on the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus flower. Those who ate of the lotus ceased to remember that there was a past or a future. All duties they forgot, and all sadness. All day long they would sit and dream and dream idle, happy dreams that never ended.
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