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Vengeance of the gods /Episode 1/ (Ulysses 31)

Full first episode of the TV series "Ulysses 31", a hit from the 80's retelling the adventures of the Greek hero Ulysses in a futuristic setting in the 31st century.

 

THE TRUE STORY OF ULYSSES AND THE CYCLOPS

In this futuristic version, Ulysses kills the Cyclops and Zeus punishes him for doing so, making it hard for him to find his way back home. In Greek mythology things are a bit different. Ulysses had been fighting in the War of Troy where the Greeks managed to take the city thanks to Ulysses' clever plan: they built a huge wooden horse (the famous Trojan Horse) and Greek soldiers, including Ulysses himself, hid inside the horse. The Greeks pretended to surrender and gave the horse as a present to the Trojans, who gladly took it inside the city walls. That night, when all the Trojans were fast asleep after the victory celebrations, the soldiers got out of the horse and conquered the city. After this total victory Ulysses sails back home to his little kingdom of Ithaca, but on the way back he'll find lots of adventures and difficulties that will turn his journey into an odyssey*. Back home, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus are waiting for him but they don't know if he's alive or dead. The noblemen in his kingdom get impatient and they suggest that Penelope should marry one of them because the country needs a new king. While Ulysses is desperate to find his way back home, Penelope is trying hard to keep the suitors away while she awaits anxiously for her husband to return, and Telemachus just doesn't know if his father will ever come back. To keep the suitors waiting, Penelope promises them she will marry one of them when she finishes weaving a tapestry. The trick is that she weaves it during the day, but then she undoes part of it during the night, so she never seems to finish it.

If Ulysses can't make it back home soon, he will lose his wife and his kingdom, and they will most probably kill his son to prevent him from claiming his rights to the throne when he grows up. In the Trojan War, part of the gods were helping the Trojans and part of them were helping the Greeks, so now, on his way back home, Ulysses will find the same kind of treatment, some gods help him and some gods try to kill him, turning his journey into a constant battle full of fascinating adventures that will let us meet many of the most famous gods, demi-gods, monsters and magical beings of the Greek mythology.

In one of his adventures, Ulysses lands on the Island of the Cyclopes. He takes with him twelve men to find food and drink, and they eventually find a large cave, which is the home of the great Cyclops Polyphemus. When Polyphemus returns home with his flocks and finds Ulysses and his men, he blocks the cave entrance with a great stone, trapping the remaining Greeks inside. Polyphemus then crushes and immediately devours two of his men for his meal. It is said that "rapping them on the ground, he knocked them dead like pups".

The next morning, Polyphemus kills and eats two more of Ulysses' men for his breakfast and exits the cave to graze his sheep. The desperate Ulysses devises a clever escape plan. He spots a massive unseasoned olivewood club that Polyphemus left behind the previous night and, with the help of his men, sharpens the narrow end to a fine point. He hardens the stake over a flame and hides it from sight. That night, Polyphemus returns from herding his flock of sheep. He sits down and kills two more of Ulysses' men, bringing the death toll to six. At that point, Ulysses offers Polyphemus the strong and undiluted wine given to him by Maron. The wine makes Polyphemus drunk and unwary. When Polyphemus asks for Ulysses' name, promising him a guest-gift if he answers, Ulysses tells him "οὔτις," literally "nobody." Being drunk, Polyphemus thinks of it as a real name and says that he will eat "nobody" last and that this shall be his guest-gift—a vicious insult both to the tradition of hospitality and to Ulysses. With that, Polyphemus crashes to the floor and passes out. Ulysses, with the help of his men, lifts the flaming stake, charges forward and drives it into Polyphemus' eye, blinding him. Polyphemus yells for help from his fellow cyclopes that "nobody" has hurt him. The other cyclopes think Polyphemus is making a fool out of them or that it must be a matter with the gods, and they grumble and go away.

In the morning, Ulysses and his men tie themselves to the undersides of Polyphemus' sheep. When the blind Cyclops lets the sheep out to graze, he feels their backs to ensure the men aren't riding out, but because of Ulysses' plan, he does not feel the men underneath. Ulysses leaves last, riding beneath the belly of the biggest ram. Polyphemus doesn't realize that the men are no longer in his cave until the sheep and the men are safely out.

As he sails away with his men, Ulysses boasts to Polyphemus that "I am not nobody; I am Ulysses, Son of Laertes, King of Ithaca." This act of hubris causes problems for Ulysses later. Polyphemus prays to his father, Poseidon for revenge. Even though Poseidon fought on the side of the Greeks during the Iliad, he bore Ulysses a grudge for not giving him a sacrifice when Poseidon prevented them from being discovered inside of the Trojan Horse. Poseidon curses Ulysses, sending storms and contrary winds to inhibit his homeward journey.


* Ulysses is the Latin word for the original Greek name Odysseus. Ancient Greek poet Homer wrote all the adventures of Odysseus' voyage back home in a book called The Odyssey. That is why in modern European languages we use the word "odyssey" to refer to a long adventurous journey or series of events full of difficulties and problems:
- Finding a job after I finished my studies was an odyssey.
- My grandmother's life was an odyssey, they could make a movie out of it.
- Current crisis threw the country's economy into an odyssey.

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