The Odyssey Book 12 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
(Odysseus, in his tale:) "Come then, goddess, answer me truthfully this: is there some way for me to escape away from deadly Charybdis, but yet fight the other off, when she attacks my companions?" 'So I spoke, and she, shining among goddesses, answered: "Hardy man, your mind is full forever of fighting and battle work. Will you not give way even to the immortals? She is no mortal thing but a mischief immortal, dangerous, difficult and bloodthirsty, and there is no fighting against her, nor any force of defense. It is best to run away from her." (12.112-120)
Odysseus isn't one to back down from a challenge, but Circe has news for him: there's no way out of Scylla and Charybdis without losing some men. The fact that Odysseus actually listens to Circe instead of trying to fight anyway shows us that—just maybe—he's starting to tamp down some of the pride that got him into this mess in the first place.
Circe is referring here to the monster Skylla, but you can really apply her words to all forms of suffering. Pain, she tells Odysseus, is unavoidable.
(Eurylochos, in Odysseus’s tale:) ‘“Listen to what I say, my companions, though you are suffering evils. All deaths are detestable for wretched mortals, but hunger is the sorriest way to die and encounter fate. Come then, let us cut out the best of Helios’ cattle, and sacrifice them to the immortals who hold wide heaven, and if we ever come back to Ithaka, land of our fathers, presently we will build a rich temple to the Sun God Helios Hyperion, and store it with dedications, many and good. But if, in anger over his high-horned cattle, he wishes to wreck our ship, and the rest of the gods stand by him, I would far rather gulp the waves and lose my life in them once for all, than be pinched to death on this desolate island.”’ (12.340-351)
(Odysseus:) ‘But when the young dawn showed again with her rosy fingers, then I sent my companions away to the house of Circe to bring back the body of Elpenor, who had died there. Then we cut logs, and where the extreme of the foreland jutted out, we buried him, sorrowful, shedding warm tears for him. But when the dead man had burned and the dead man’s armor, piling the grave mound and pulling the gravestone to stand above it, we planted the well-shaped oar in the very top of the grave mound.’ (12.8-15)
Odysseus honors the dead Elpenor by setting up a proper burial for him. This ensures that he will not be forgotten among the living and will have respect among the dead.