Hawthorne's Circe's Palace, by Nathaniel Hawthorne | Summary of Circe's Palace
Hawthorne summarizes the disasters of Ulysses, a Trojan War hero of the Greeks better known as Odysseus, before he arrives at the island of Circe. When Ulysses and his crew arrive at the island, they don't know where they are, but are leery because of their recent experiences. Hunger gets the better of them, so Ulysses scouts the area and sees what appears to be the palace of the nobility. He trusts that the residents will be hospitable, but on his way back to his men, a bird seems to try to warn him of something. Ulysses finds and kills a stag near the shore, which his hungry men cook and eat. The next day, hunger returns and a scouting party of half the men, under Eurylochus, is sent to palace Ulysses spotted the previous day. Ulysses stays on the shore with half the men. As the scouts near the palace, the same bird tries to chirp a warning, but only Eurylochus pays heed. When they approach to the palace steps, a pack of wild animals behaving like house pets approaches them. Soon they hear the pleasant singing of a group of women. Eurylochus keeps trying to focus the men on lessons they should have learned, but to no avail, so when the men join the women singing, only Eurylochus stays behind. Meanwhile, Circe prepares a feast for the hungry men. The men behave like swine, so Circe turns them into pigs and drives them out to the sty, where Eurylochus sees them. He returns to Ulysses, who wonders where his comrades are. He hadn't seen the transformation, but suspects foul play. Ulysses sets off for the palace, and on the way runs into "Quicksilver" (Mercury/Hermes) who tells him that the bird who has been trying to warn him used to be King Picus. Hermes also tells what happened to Ulysses' men. Hermes gives Ulysses a special flower that will keep Circe from changing him into a fox. Ulysses then proceeds to the palace where Circe greets him with a lavish show of hospitality. The cup of wine she offered, however, was poisoned. Fortunately, the scent of the flower was proof against its affects. Circe was enraged at her failure to change the man. He in turn, threatens to kill her. Circe begs for her life, promising real hospitality and the restoration of his men. He also has Circe restore the bird, but not the other wild animals whose form reflects their disposition.