Penelope

All posts tagged Penelope

S is for Sita

Published April 22, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

S

King Janaka wanted children.  Before he offered up sacrifices to the gods to ask them for children, he marked out a small furrow in the earth.  It was from this furrow that Sita was born, fully formed and the most beautiful woman on earth.

The archery contest. Wikimedia Commons.

The archery contest. Wikimedia Commons.

As such a beauty, Sita had many suitors, so many that it was impossible for her father to simply choose one.  But he had a bow that had been given to him by Shiva himself, so he decided to use that bow to pick his daughter’s husband-to-be.  A contest was set up so that each suitor should try to string the bow.  The one who succeeded would get to marry Sita.  Many tried, but only Rama, the son of King Dasaratha, was able to string the bow.  (This, no doubt, was the bow’s intention, for — though no mortal realized it — Rama was an avatar of Vishnu, and Sita was an avatar of Vishnu’s wife Lakshmi, and it would have been most wrong for her to marry anyone other than Rama.)

Rama’s father wanted to step down and make Rama the next king, but his second wife tricked him into exiling Rama and making her own son king instead.  Rama and Sita left the kingdom obediently, but when Dasaratha died, Rama’s half-brother declared that he was only regent, for Rama was the true king.

But Rama didn’t hear this news right away, and continued in his exile.  During his exile, he met a demon named Surpanakha, who fell madly in love with him, and begged to become his wife.  Rama explained to her that he was satisfied with Sita, and needed no additional wives.  When Rama’s friend Lakshmana also rejected her, Surpanakha became enraged and attacked them, though her primary target was poor Sita.  Rama and Lakshmana drove off Surpanakha’s attacks, leaving her mutilated but alive.

That was their greatest mistake, for Surpanakha went to her brother Ravana, a monstrous demon with ten heads, desperate to avenge herself.  But her anger was still more at Sita than at Rama, so she filled her brother with desire for Sita’s beauty.  Soon enough, Ravana felt he had to have Sita for his own, and he used trickery to separate Sita from her husband and his friend, then he carried her off to his palace, despite that Jatayu the vulture king tried to stop him.

Despite being mortally wounded by Ravana, Jatayu managed to live just long enough to tell Rama what had happened.  Then began an epic quest to regain Sita from the monstrous Ravana.  Rama had no human army, but gained an army of monkeys, led by the powerful Hanuman, and after much difficulty, he and his army made their way to the island where Ravana’s palace lay.

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Words Crush Wednesday; Y is for Yikes!

Published April 29, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Since Greek doesn’t have Y, either, trying to find a quote to use for today’s Words Crush Wednesday was tricky.  I could have found a modern author/translator with a Y-name on the subject of Greek myths, and quoted them, or I could have talked about a concept like Youth or…uh…Young Love, or I could have looked for the ancient equivalent of a “Your Momma” fight.  (Thought about doing the latter, actually, but…since the insults in the Iliad tend not to be retorted, especially not succinctly, the closest I could think of was the argument between Teukros and the Atreidai in Sophocles’ Aias, and…it just didn’t feel right.  The setting is too terrible and serious for a “Your Momma” fight.)  But then I stumbled across a passage in Early Greek Myth by Timothy Gantz that made me say “Yikes!” and I thought, “Hey, I could use that as my Y-word!”

So, there you have it.  My Y entry for the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge is on the theme of “Yikes!” in ancient Greek myth…with a decidedly satyric bent.

We’ll start with the one that inspired the theme, discussing the parentage of the god Pan.  (For the purposes of making it a little easier to read, I’ve removed all the parentheses where he makes direct references to the work or fragment that he’s talking about.  Most people aren’t going to get much out of things like “1F371: note emendation”, after all.  So just keep in mind that every author named below has such a parenthesis behind his name.)  After relating the best known version, Homeric Hymn 19, where Hermes fathered Pan on a daughter of Dryops, Gantz goes on to talk about rather different takes on Pan’s origin:

Other references to him in Archaic literature are rare, but it does emerge that his parentage was quite disputed:  Hekataios and Pindar apparently make him the son of Apollo and Odysseus’ wife Penelope, while for Herodotos, Cicero, Loukianos, Apollodoros, and Hyginus, he is the son of Hermes and Penelope, and the Theocritean Syrinx makes Odysseus himself the father;

Yep.  Some ancient authors had Odysseus cuckolded by a god, resulting in the goat-footed god Pan.  And given that one of the potential cuckolders is Odysseus’ great-grandfather…!

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