Odysseus is cruising past, and out on his ship he can literally hear the cows. He remembers what Tiresias told him in the House of the Dead. And what Circe told him on Aeaea. Whatever you do, don’t eat the Sun god’s cattle. His men are, like, Boss, look, a good, green island. And Odysseus is, all, Guys, seriously, let’s just keep going. And his men are, like, That’s easy for you to say; we’re hungry. And so Odysseus relents — as long as his men promise to leave the Sun god’s herd alone. This they do, happily. And they beach their ship, meet a troupe of dancing nymphs and have a big party. So far, so good.
Of course, portents being portents, an ill wind keeps them marooned for weeks. At length, they run out of food. And the men grow tired of scrounging. (You can see where this is headed.) Desperate for a way out, Odysseus decides to take a walk to clear his head. And ends up taking a nap, which is always when things go to hell.
Odysseus’ men, meanwhile, are roused by a troublemaking ring leader to break their no-cattle-eating oath with the winning argument of, Why should we starve like animals when we can die like men. It’s persuasive, though; one guy goes to the corner to buy some charcoal, and the rest drive the herd to the beach where they “prayed, slaughtered and skinned” the lot.
The smell of roast beef reaches Odysseus, and he snorts awake. He realizes he is in for it, and like a good politician, immediately blames the gods for his problems. (“You lulled me into disaster.”) But for six days, Odysseus lets his men gorge themselves.
Finally, they take to the sea where, predictably, “killer squalls attacked us, screaming out of the west.” The storm begins to tear the ship apart to gruesome effect. The forestays are sheared off and the mast crashes down, striking “the helmsman’s head and crushed his skull to pulp and down from his deck the man flipped like a diver.”
And that’s the ballgame, for everyone else but Odysseus, who bobs along in the storm-tossed sea.
Talking point: When the going gets tough, Odysseus takes a nap. Death toll: Everyone else.