The ancient Greeks loved heroes, especially military heroes. They loved hear stories about these heroes, the more mythical and magical the better.
About 2700 years ago, around 70 BCE, a man named Homer collected legends about one particular hero, King Odysseus. Homer was a poet. He wrote down all the stories he had heard about this fabulous hero. He named his collection of stories the Odyssey.
The Odyssey is the story (a collection of short stories, really) about how King Odysseus and his men returned home after the Trojan War. It should have taken about a month for the king and his men to sail back to the kingdom of Ithaca, which was on the far side of Greece from the town of Troy. But it took Odysseus ten years to make the trip! That's how much trouble he ran into on the way. That's what happens, King Odysseus, finally realized, when you do not give the ancient Greek gods the respect they expect.
Homer's Odyssey is full of trickery and magic and monsters and gods and goddesses and heroic actions. The Greeks loved to hear the adventures of King Odysseus and his men, and all that happened to them on their way home. (We still love them today.) Here are two stories from the Odyssey, loosely rewritten (and shortened considerably):
The Story of the Cyclops Cave
While sailing home from the Trojan War, Odysseus and his men came ashore to restock their food and water. They were thrilled to find a cave full of sheep! They knew the sheep probably belonged to someone, but they were hungry and they hoped, if the owner showed up while they were there, that he would understand that they had fought for Greece and won. They built a fire in the cave, and cooked some sheep on a sharpened stick.
There was a giant roar! A Cyclops appeared at the mouth of the cave, swinging a club. (A Cyclops is a one-eyed giant!) Odysseus grabbed the sharpened stick and blinded the Cyclops. Odysseus and his men got safely away by pretending to be sheep. They made bah-bah sounds until they had crawled to safety.
The Story of the Sirens
Odysseus and his men were sailing along when they heard the most beautiful sound. It sounded like singing. It was hypnotic. All the men stopped what they were doing, and listened. No one steered the ship. No one moved. They just listened.
Odysseus and his men had run into the Sirens. The Sirens were magical creatures. They looked like mermaids, but they were evil. They loved to lure sailors to their death. With no one at the wheel, ships crashed into the rocks. And everyone was killed. This was great fun to the Sirens.
Odysseus was lucky. He had heard of the Sirens. He knew they were dangerous. He stuffed his ears so he could not hear. He stuffed all his men's ears. They sailed safely away.