The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tales of Troy
aid Menelaus, 'Over against the river that flows out of Egypt there is an Island that men call Pharos, and to that island I came with my ships when we, the heroes who had fought at Troy, were separated one from the other. There I was held, day after day, by the will of the gods. Our provision of corn was spent and my men were in danger of perishing of hunger. Then one day while my companions were striving desperately to get fish out of the sea, I met on the shore one who had pity for our plight.
'She was an immortal, Eidothëe, a daughter of the Ancient One of the Sea. I craved of her to tell me how we might get away from that place, and she counselled me to take by an ambush her father, the Ancient One of the Sea, who is also called Proteus, "You can make him tell you," said she, "for he knows all things, what you must do to get away from this island of Pharos. Moreover, he can declare to you what happened to the heroes you have been separated from, and what has taken place in your own hall."
'Then said I to that kind nymph Eidothëe, "Show me how I may take by an ambush your immortal father, the Ancient One of the Sea."'
'Said Eidothëe, "My father, Proteus, comes out of the sea when the sun is highest in the heavens. Then would he lie down to sleep in the caves that are along the shore. But before he goes to sleep he counts, as a shepherd counts his flock, the seals that come up out of the ocean and lie round where he lies. If there be one too many, or one less than there should be, he will not go to sleep in the cave. But I will show you how you and certain of your companions may be near without the Ancient One of the Sea being aware of your presence. Take three of your men—the three you trust above all the others—and as soon as it is dawn to-morrow meet me by the edge of the sea."'
'So saying the nymph Eidothëe plunged into the sea and I went from that place anxious, but with hope in my heart.
'Now as soon as the dawn had come I walked by the sea-shore and with me came the three that I trusted above all my companions. The daughter of the Ancient One of the Sea, Eidothëe, came to us. In her arms she had the skins of seals newly-slain, one for each of us. And at the cave where the seals lay she scooped holes in the sand and bade us lie there, covering ourselves with the skins. Then she spoke to me and said:
'"When my father, the Ancient One of the Sea, comes here to sleep, lay hands upon him and hold him with all the strength you have. He will change himself into many shapes, but do not you let go your hold upon him. When he changes back into the shape he had at first you may let go your holds. Question him then as to how you may leave this place, or question him as to any other matter that may be on your mind, and he will answer you, speaking the truth."'