The OdysseyThis is a featured page

Atwood's "Siren Song" contains several allusions to Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey" due to the sirens themselves and the way that they lure the sailors from their ships with their songs. The image of the siren telling how the song:
forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls (lines 4-6)

refers to the prediction that Circe gave Odysseus in "The Odyssey."

In this prediction, Circe told Odysseus:
To the Sirens first shalt thou come, who bewitch all men, whosoever shall come to them. Whoso draws nigh them unwittingly and hears the sound of the Sirens’ voice, never doth he see wife or babes stand by him on his return, nor have they joy at his coming; but the Sirens enchant him with their clear song, sitting in the meadow, and all about is a great heap of bones of men, corrupt in death, and round the bones the skin is the sirens dwelt upon the rock islands. (Odyssey 12)

Just as the poem states, Circe explained to Odysseus how the sirens used their songs to lure unsuspecting sailors eventually leading them to leap overboard to their own deaths in an attempt to reach the sirens.

Sirens and Odysseus

However, in order to stop himself form hearing the siren's seductive song, Odysseus was advised by Circe to place bee's wax inside his ears in order to block out any of the siren's melodies. In addition, Odysseus tied himself to the mast of his ship in order to stop himself from leaping overboard to reach the sirens.

Another allusion from "The Odyssey" resides in the number of sirens that appear in the poem. Here the siren states:
I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable (lines 13-18).

As stated above, there are exactly three sirens in "Siren Song," the siren narrator herself and the other two sirens that she is trapped with upon the rocks. Also, the references to "squatting on this island" and "feathery maniacs" alludes to the presence of the sirens in "The Odyssey." Homer described the sirens as women with bird-like features that sat upon rocks where they lured sailors and shipwrecked them, leaving them either dead or awaiting death.


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