Updated: Jun 6, 2020
For anyone new to this blog, the idea is simple - each day my boys (Joshua - 9 and Archie - 8) choose a stimulus that drives the learning. We hope that you enjoy the blog and can take some inspiration from what we love doing - making learning as engaging as possible!
Legends are what the world is built upon - great stories passed down from generation to generation. I feel blessed to have been brought up immersed in the world of story. I remember snuggling up with great books every night and being told many engaging tales of events passed. We must not underestimate the importance of story - it is part of who we are.
Today's blog is all based on the story of Odysseus and The Cyclops. This is without doubt one that children should hear and enjoy.
Recount in the form of diary / log book
Writing in the past tense, manipulating into the present progressive
I am currently working with a number of schools, creating their English curriculum and writing model texts that engage the reader and contextualise toolkits. I recently wrote a diary unit based on the legend of Odysseus and The Cyclops. As soon as this was complete, I knew I had to explore this with Joshua and Archie.
We began by reading this superb model, written by Kathryn Pennington, adapted from The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton.
The Adventures of Odysseus - The Cyclops
For many days we sailed across what felt like the surface of a mirror. My men rowed until their hands were studded with blisters and their backs stripped by the suffocating sun. Eventually, we reach an island that seemed to use a paradise. We saw land, level for the plough, and plump sheep and goats grazing.
We beached our ship and disembarked, carrying with us treasures with which we hoped to barter with for fresh meat and water. I took a goatskin of strong wine; one cupful poured into a barrel of water would make a potent potion.
We followed a path from the beach to a hill. In the hill there was a cave and at the entrance to the cave was a boulder. Inside we found pens holding lambs and kids, buckets of milk and cheese and a bronze cauldron boiling a bone broth over a well-stoked fire. Whose home was this? We squatted by the fire, munched cheese, drank milk and waited.
Before long we heard a commotion outside. Frantic bleating and a stampede of hooves were accompanied by a low thudding sound. Without hesitation, I instructed my men to hide just as a huge herd of sheep and goats entered and gathered near their young. Then, in the cave’s mouth, we saw a silhouette. It was the shape of a man but this was bigger than any man you or I have ever seen. This was a mountain of a man with legs as tall as a tree and muscles the size of cartwheels. We stared as the giant rolled the cave’s boulder, like a marble, across the entrance and came into the light of the fire. We studied the giant’s tusk-like teeth, snout of a nose and its enormous, central eye.
The monster sniffed. He sniffed again. A wry smile spread across the giant’s face as it glanced at our trembling shadows. “Guests? Little two-eyed things? Show yourselves for I am the fearless Cyclops Polyphemus and we Cyclopes are the sons of the Sea God Poseidon!”
We stepped forwards. “We are men. We have treasures to trade.” We spoke with authority, camouflaging our apprehension.
Unmercifully, the Cyclops grabbed one of my men and smacked his head against the roof of the cave, crammed the corpse into his mouth and licked his lips. Before he could devour another, I stepped forwards holding up the skin of strong wine. “Give it to me,” grunted the Cyclops. I threw the wineskin to his feet; he picked it up, took the stopper from it and emptied it in one long gulp. “Name?” he commanded.
“My name is Nobody,” I replied swiftly. He snorted, grabbed another one of my men and bit of his head. Before long, the beast began to sway, regularly steadying himself against the blood-splattered. It was clear that the wine was beginning to take effect and he laid himself on the ground shutting his eye shut and allowing the blood and wine to drip from his mouth.
Knowing that the Cyclops was our only means of escape, we quickly found the trunk of an olive tree that Polyhemus was drying to us as a shephard’s crook. We drew our swords and whittled it until it came to a sharp point and then placed it into the fire, until it glowed red-hot. We lifted the spear onto our shoulders, and, urging each other on, we ran forwards and plunged the point into the Cyclops’ eye. Steam rose and the Cyclops let out an almighty yell. He reared up and, with an unforgettable sucking sound, pulled the wood from his eye.
His scream was so loud; it summoned other Cyclopes who called:
“Who has done this to you?”
“Nobody has done this to me!” bellowed Polyhemus.
“We cannot help you then if nobody has maimed you. It must be a punishment from the immortals,” the others replied, lumbering back to their caves.
All night the blinded Cyclops stumbled around the cave, desperate to capture his attackers. When the animals bleating alerted the Cyclops to the coming of a new day, he felt his way along the walls of the cave until his found the boulder that blocked the exit. He tapped it out of the way and waited for us to run past – certain we would be his prisoners. However, as we knew that Polyphemus would be searching for the human form, each one of us had fastened ourselves to the underneath of a ram or buck and trotted right past the volcano-man and back to our ship.
We made the water white with the blade of our oars and I watched as the Cyclops continued his futile search. From the bow of my ship, I mocked: “Polyphemus! It wasn’t Nobody who blinded you, it was somebody! It was I, Odysseus, a ram among sheep – remember my name for the rest of your life of stumbling darkness!”
I laughed at Polyhemus’ uncontrollable ranting but I would soon realise that my gloating would cost us dearly…
written by Kathryn Pennington
Adapted from: The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton
We then watched this short video clip of the key events. Please note that this is a little gruesome in places (the boys loved it!) https://youtu.be/k5OERqTniro
Our task was to then write Odysseus's log as he sailed away from the island. We discussed how this form of recount is designed to capture the essence of the day, not recall every last occurrence. Here is the model I created, followed by the boys' independent versions.
As we sail away from the Isle of Ithaca, I cast my eye back on the treacherous events that we have just survived. A few days ago, we landed full of hope and promise. Now, we flee with men sent to their graves.
Arriving at the mouth of the cave, our eyes widened at the prospect of what lay before us. Land to farm, sheep to herd and supplies a-plenty. How foolish we were! The truth of the situation was that this was a land full of devilish intent and monsters beyond our worst nightmares!
I cannot believe the way we were victorious. Blinding the beast allowed us to take out exit, strapped to the bellies of rams as they set off to pasture. The nightmares we saw and lived are not to be retold. However, they will remain with me forever.
Now we set sail for new lands. I wonder what fortunes the future will hold.
© Jamie Thomas 2020
Captain's Log by Joshua
That was the worst day of my life! I lost three great friends and only just got away.
When we arrived, we were excited about growing our crops but then a stampede of sheep and goats ran TOWARDS us. We dodged them until we saw a cave. My men and I saw legs as tall as trees, a body as tall as a mountain and arms as big as cartwheels. The beast also had one eye like a volcano.
What happened in that cave was too disgusting to describe. Then my men and I made a sharp point on the end of a log. We climbed up the hill next to the cyclops and stabbed it into his eye. The cyclops screamed and shouted and moaned. It sounded like a thunderstorm.
The cyclops screamed for help and opened the cave entrance. Quickly, some of us ran out of the entrance and some of us strapped ourselves to the herding sheep to escape. We ran back to the ship as fast as we could and vanished into the fog.
We are now back on our island and have hidden our treasure. I hope that that day never comes back into my mind again.
Captain's Log by Archie
That was the scariest day of my life! When we arrived, I thought it was a great place to be. It was like paradise with loads of land and food. But it definitely wasn’t.
Polyphemus was terrifying. He had one gruesome eye, was bigger than a bus and had an appetite for meat. Some of us died and are now with the Gods.
Stabbing him in the eye was the only way to escape. As he called for his brothers, we left the cave strapped to the belly of the of sheep. I can still hear his growling and groaning.
We are now travelling round the world to find new islands.
For a little Friday fun, we played Cyclop Physics. The boys loved having to work through the logic problems and worked on their strategic thinking.
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My thanks to Pie Corbett, Julia Strong and the Talk for Writing team for inspiring many of the ideas explored in this blog.