Wednesday, August 6, 2014

TFBT: The Dragon Slayer, the Traitoress and Dragon

There is a darker side to the Aarne-Thompson folktale type 300 – Dragon Slayer.  This is when the Princess actively betrays her doomed family.  For example; the Hero Theseus and other youths were sent to Crete  as human sacrifice for the Minotaur.  The Minoan Princess Ariadne fell in love with him, betrayed her country, helped him defeat the national monster (which happened to be her half-brother) and they eloped.  In route home to Athens he abandoned her on the island of Naxos.  The god Dionysus (her second cousin) just happen to be passing by heard her lament, fell in love, made her his wife, and raised her among the immortals Olympus.  (Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 3)      

As I pondered this variation on AT-300, Medea came to mind.  She was the Colchian princess who betrayed her country, helped Jason (and the Argonauts) defeat the dragon that guarded the Golden Fleece.  He was born from the blood of Typhon split upon the Earth.  Medea and Jason steal the fleece and elope, he abandons her and she ascends to heaven in a winged chariot sent by the sun-god Helios.   

Princess Scylla fell in love with King Minos while he assaulted her father’s kingdom.  For love of Minos she plucks from her father’s head the sacred lock of purple hair that protects them.   Minos abandons her and the gods turn Scylla into a sea-bird.  (Metamorphoses, Book 8)    

So the darker side of AT-300 would be: A princess betrays her country and helps the hero defeat the male magical element protecting the country.   The hero abandons her and the gods intervene on her behalf.   Betraying your father doesn’t seem like a really good idea if you are a princess in Ancient Greek mythology. 





  1. Excellent summary. However, I see a major exception: Hypermnestra. Indeed, there is no magical element; but she betrays her father king, her sisters and the country that accepted her as suppliant and whose men fought to protect her. Yet she prospers, and her sisters in most variants of the myth suffer. And there is not even moral condemnation, except maybe in her name ("too interested in her fiancée", if I have understood it correctly).
    I find curious the polar difference between the attitude of Greeks to the Danaids and the attitude of Jews to Judith.
    About Ariadne - I find more realistic the variants where Dionysus kills her, or asks Artemis to kill her. I don't see any sense in a god apotheosing and marrying a mortal-born woman after she has been in love with a hero and maybe even made sex with him. As far as I remember, no god except Zeus ever laid with a woman after she had had a mortal partner. (Maybe Ares with Aphrodite after Anchises, but I am not sure.) After all, this is why Zeus threw Thetis into the bed of Peleus - to be sure that no god will lay with her.

  2. So far I found nine mortal woman either married or experienced who slept with Poseidon and three married woman with Hermes. Still it is something to think about.


  3. You have done quite a research!
    I thought only of Aethra and Amymone. However, Amymone's marriage had not been consummated, and I suppose the same was true for Aethra. Even if Aegeus spent some time with her, he had proven infertility, and we can well suspect impotence.
    Actually, maybe Dionysus cared about Ariadne being pregnant from Theseus, rather than the sexual act per se, He didn't kill her until she gave birth. Maybe waited for the result of a paternity test :-).