A painting of the mythological sirens from Homer's Odyssey.

Odysseus & the Sirens (Homer’s Odyssey)

The story of Odysseus and the Sirens comes from The Odyssey, by Homer, written in the 8th century BCE. It’s one of the oldest and most important works in Western literature.

It is the story of the valiant warrior king Odysseus (also known as Ulysses). As he journeys home after a great war, he encounters many perils, including the fearsome sirens. This is that story, translated from Greek and written in modern prose.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

A long time ago, as Odysseus sailed across the vast Mediterranean Sea, his men began to whisper of Sirens, hideously beautiful, enchanting creatures known for their irresistible voices. It was said that any sailor who heard the Sirens’ song would be driven mad with desire and steer their ship toward the rocky shores, dooming themselves and their crew.

Odysseus instructed his crew to fill their ears with beeswax, so they could not hear the alluring melodies. As for himself, he had his sailors tie him to the mast of the ship, allowing him to hear the Sirens’ song but preventing him from succumbing to their charm. He ordered his crew not to untie him, no matter how much he pleaded or commanded.

As their ship sailed closer to the island, the Sirens began to sing their bewitching song. The crew, with beeswax in their ears, remained focused on their tasks, unable to hear the enticing melodies. Odysseus, however, was captivated by the beautiful voices, and in his enchanted state, he begged his crew to release him. He clawed at the ropes. He shrieked and screamed. But his loyal sailors, unable to hear him, continued doing their duties.

Eventually, the ship moved out of the Sirens’ reach, and their song faded into the distance. Odysseus returned to his senses, grateful for his crew’s unwavering obedience and his own forethought. They had once again escaped peril through cunning and teamwork.

I love the message in this story. With a little pre-planning, we can restrain our future selves, preventing ourselves from succumbing to temptation. You can remove junk food from your cupboards, set unbreakable deadlines, or make bets against your friends and enemies, forcing your future self into the path you set now, with a clear and sober mind.

Juan Artola Miranda

I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. My friends know me by the name of my father's father, but that name grew into something bigger, my writing reaching tens of millions of readers. It was too strong for me to control. Artola Miranda is the name of my mother's mother. It's a better name for a fabulist.

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