The following interpretations of the myth of Odysseus and the Cyclops are based upon material found in Justin
Glenn's "The Polyphemus Myth: Its Origin and Interpretation." Greece & Rome 25 (1978) 141-155. They were
discussed in Classical Mythology class on Friday, August 29, 1997, at Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois. If
you have any questions about this document, please contact the instructor, Prof. Tom Sienkewicz at
Interpretations of the Cyclops Myth
Leo Meyer (1857) solar interpretation of Polyphemus' eye
Grimm (1857) origin in nature symbolism
Night vs. Day
Eye of Cyclops as solar symbol
Tylor (1870) rationalistic theory
The myth is the result of "early mariners' fabulous reports of some savage, perhaps actually
Mannhardt (1877) comparative approach
"Cyclops were originally Forest- and Montain-Spirits of ancient Greece...corresponding with
nature spirits of northern European folklore who are also one-eyed, cave-dwelling, shepherds.
Laistner (1889) All monsters of myth originated in nightmares.
D. B. Cook (1914) discovery of the fire-drill as a source of the Cyclops myth.
Germain (1954) Cyclops myth as a very ancient initiation rite with ram cult as source
Dion (1969) Myth as political satire in which the Ionian Greeks ridicule the Phoenicians (Robert) or
Psychoanalytical interpretations of the Cyclops myth:
Rascovsky (1957) "prenatal nucleus of Odysseus"
Conflict between Odysseus and Polyphemus is an "expression of the antagonism between the
'pre- and the post-natal nucleus of the ego...."
Wormkondt (1953)a sexual assault
Roheim (1952) disguised version of the Oedipus complex
Hostility between father and son
Glenn (1978) wish-fulfillment
The succession myth of Uranus-Cronus-Zeus "contains the key to the interpretation of the
Polyphemus myth." Namely, hostility between father and son
Three essential elements of succession myth:
1.) Son imprisoned in earth by father-ogre
2.) Son threatened with cannibalism by father-ogre
3.) Son triumphs over father via castration
1.) Hero imprisoned in cave by ogre
2.) Hero threatened with cannibalism by ogre
3.) Hero triumphs over ogre via blinding
Blinding as symbolic castration