Wednesday, August 6, 2014

TFBT: The Dragon Slayer, the Princess and the Dragoness

" Jaffa…is situated on a hill, and in front of it is a rock on which they point out the marks made by the chains with which Andromeda was fettered; here there is a cult of the legendary goddess Ceto (the Sea-Monster)."   Pliny the Elder, Natural History 5. 69 


We all know the princess and the dragon motif.  (Aarne-Thompson folktale type 300 – Dragon Slayer)  The knight errant runs across a damsel in distress of noble birth.  He saves her from the local evil monster or ogre and is rewarded with her hand in marriage.  Of course, in Greek Mythology it is a little more complicated than that.   

Bellephron -  Homer tells in  Iliad 6.   About Bellerophontes the blameless. To Bellerophontes the gods granted beauty and desirable manhood”  As an honored guest “…the lord of wide Lykia King Iobates tendered him full-hearted honor. And “he sent him away with orders to kill the Chimaera” …The chimera was a fire-breathing three headed and daughter of Typhon and Echidna.   She was the pet of King Amisodarus, of neighboring Caria, who often used her to abuse his enemies.  With a little help from the gods Bellephron slew the beast and accomplished several other heroic quest.  “.. Then when the king knew him for the powerful stock of the god, he detained him there, and offered him the hand of his daughter,” and gave him half the  kingdom. 

Perseus freeing Andromeda.Perseus - Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 64  "Cassiopea claimed that her daughter Andromeda’s beauty excelled the Nereids’. Because of this, [Poseidon] demanded that Andromeda, Cepheus’ daughter, be offered to a sea-monster. When she was offered, Perseus, flying on [Hermes] winged sandals, is said to have come there and freed her from danger.  The story is that Andromeda was naked and wearing fancy jewelry.  Perseus fell in love instantly and wanted to marry her.  Andromeda did the math; Parents who just sacrificed her to Poseidon or a handsome young “god” (Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 224).  She accepted his proposal.  Her parents objected and violence ensued.  Unfortunately, Perseus carried Medusa’s head in a bag.  Pretty much everyone got turned to stone except him and his wife.  They flew away and lived happily ever after.  Too bad King Cepheus didn’t have a better pet sea-monster. 

Telamon’s story (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 103)  u=is real similar to Perseus    "Poseidon sent a cetos (Sea-Monster) which would come inland on a flood-tide and grab people on the plain. Oracles proclaimed that there would be release from these adversities if Laomedon were to set his daughter Hesione out as a meal for the cetos, so he fastened her to the rocks by the seaside.”  Telamon and his buddies happen by and promise to save her in exchange for some of the famous horses.  A deal is struck.  Hesione is requested and her father reneges on the deal.  He’s famous for this sort of things.  Telamon and company attack Troy.  Everyone there dies except for Telamon’s future brother-in-law Priam.  The baby is set on the throne and Hesione returns home with Telamon.  Again, too bad for the local people that the sea monster lost.

Oedipus - Myriad sources tell the story of this hero.  The old king was dead, another monstrous daughter of Typhon and Echidna, the Sphinx, plagued Thebes.  The once and forever Regent Creon offers the hand  of his sister and crown to whoever can slay the beast.  Oedipus accomplishes the task with his wits and marries Jocasta.  The only complication to this happy ending is several attempts by writers to equate Jocasta and the Sphinx, as though the Sphinx was the darker side of the Queen of Thebes.  (Sorry I have no scholarly reference at hand and can only offer, “ The Identity of Jocasta and the Sphinx” in Approaches to Greek Myth”, Lowell Edmunds page 373   and “the Sphinx and Jocasta synonymous “   Reviewing British Cinema, 1900-1992 Essay and Interviews. )   It is almost as if the Sphinx might be protecting Creon and Jocasta’s rule.

In summary even with complications some Greek myths seem to conform to  folktale  type 300 – Dragon Slayer.  The Hero wanders by, slays the female sea-monster or daughter of Echidna, rescues the Princess and weds here.  It is always a win/win for the Hero and Princess, no so much for her family if they don’t honor the agreement.

image courtesy of NYPL Digital Collection

1 comment:

  1. Following up on the notion that Jicasta and the Sphinx are flip-sides of the same coin, I would like to suggest that the Python is another manifestation of Gaia. In the story of Delphi, the Python was the monster laying waste to the country-side. Apolloo (and maybe his twin sister Artemis slay the snake and invoking ancestry claims takes over the Oracle. So much for g-grandma Gaia ruling the realm. Next Apollo (and Artemis). travel the world seeking purification for the murder. It doesn’t seem to stick. the only other person that had trouble with purification in a similar fashion was Orestes. He killed his mother. And who has to get purification for killing a (male) snake. The erinyes only care about murder within the family. So why all the issue with purification unless Gaia er. I mean the snake was an aspect of their ggmother.