Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scylla

It's true her voice sounds like a new-born pup,
but she's a vicious monster.  Nobody
would feel good seeing her, nor would a god
who crossed her path.  She has a dozen feet,
all deformed, six enormously long necks,
with a horrific head on each of them,
and three rows of teeth packed close together,
full of murky death.  Her lower body
she keeps out of sight in her hollow cave,
but sticks her heads outside the fearful hole,
and fishes there, scouring around the rock
for dolphins, sword fish, or some bigger prey,
whatever she can seize of all those beasts
moaning Amphitrite keeps nourishing
in numbers past all counting.  No sailors  
can yet boast they and their ship sailed past her
without getting hurt.  Each of Scylla's heads
carries off a man, snatching him away  

right off the dark-prowed ship. 
She's not human,
but a destroyer who will never die

fearful, difficult, and fierce—not someone 
you can fight.  There's no defense against her.
The bravest thing to do is run away. 
If you linger by the cliff to arm yourself,
I fear she'll jump out once more, attack you
with all her heads and snatch away six men,
just as before.  Row on quickly past her,
as hard as you can go.  Send out a call
to Crataiis, her mother, who bore her
to menace human beings.
The Odyssey: Book 12
  
Originally, Scylla was a beautiful nymph. There are two tales that describe how she was changed into the monster we know today. The first has already been told here, how jealous Amphitrite changed her into a monster. 
This is the other tale: one day while playing with the Nereids in a pool she was seen by the merman Glaucus, who instantly fell in love with her. (Glaucus was a mortal fisherman who had previously been transformed by eating a magical  plant, gaining the form of a fish from his waist down, more about him later.) He approached her and told her of his love for her, but she was disgusted by his fish tail and green hair and ran away. Glaucus, determined to win her, went to the sorceress Circe and told her of his problem. That was a mistake as Circe had a thing for Glaucus. Not wanting any competition Circe went to the pool where Scylla bathed and poured in some magic herbs turning Scylla into a monster with six arms, six heads with four eyes each and at the lower part of her body, six hideous dogs with mouth containing three rows of razor sharp teeth. From  that day forward she kept herself hidden in a cave at the bottom of a cliff, only showing herself to pop out and gobble up dolphins or any human or animal that would venture near. Which, to be honest, wasn't often since she chose to live next door to Charybdis.

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