Circe by Madeline Miller tells the myth of the titular goddess Circe, daughter of son god Helios, witch of Aiaia, lover of Odysseus, and mother of Telegonus. Her story starts with her birth, then the birth of her younger brother, Aeetes. After witnessing the whipping Prometheus and the god's cruelty alike, she comes across her first encounter with betrayal.
Circe met a mortal, poor yet rich spirited fisherman, Glaucous. After building an intimate connection with him, she got the sap from blossom flowers to turn him into a sea god (47-49). That was the first of her many mistakes. Once she brought him back to Olympus, he was well adjusted to his new role as God of the Sea. As a new god, Glaucous drew attention of many. Just as he caught Circe's eye, Scylla caught Glaucous' eye, and he abandoned her (52-53). Feeling neglected, Circe changed her into a three-headed sea monster. Even after Scylla's transformation, Glaucous still asked "Can she not be changed back"(60)? Not even considering Circe as an option, he still wanted Scylla. That must hurt more than stubbing your pinky toe on a table leg.
Circe has had her fair share of conflicts with Athena. When Circe gave birth to Odysseus's and her son Telegonus, Athena appeared and wanted Circe to hand him over. Athena saw him as a threat to her because she thought that when Telegonus grew up, he would stand up against Athena (250). Circe declined and kept him.
When Circe, Penelope, Telegonus, and Telemachus are together on Aiaia, Athena appears offering a voyage and glory to Telemachus. When he declines, the same fate is offered to Circe's son. She begs him not to speak; she knows she this means they will not meet again. Telegonus agrees to go on the voyage with Athena and leave Circe (351-354).
Circe went out of her way to help others and often backfired. She is a valuable partner, friend, sister, daughter, mother, and most importantly individual. We often forget that people are not just what their relationships make them out to be. In this case, Circe is selfless. She gives refuge to sailors that wash up on her shores, some of which took advantage of her. Although she did not welcome Penelope and Telemachus with open arms, she hurt them on her island. An island that she was sent to as punishment.