Monday, January 27, 2014

Mythology Monday: Echidna

I thought I’d do something fun on here for once.

It would be easy to start with some hotshot like Zeus if I wanted to start talking about Greek mythology, but that’s not how I roll. Main characters are great, but it is the adversary who sets the tone of the epic. Echidna sets the tone of Greek mythology. Her offspring and her deeds are some of the greatest challenges mankind has to face, and by existing lead heroes to their destiny.

Flickr Credit: Pietro Izzo
Echidna, the mother of monsters, was the spouse of the infamous Typhon, the deadliest monster of them all. After her husband was defeated, she and her children were allowed to live as challenges for the heroes, and are therefore littered throughout all the stories. Her brood includes Ladon, the Colchian Dragon, Scylla, the Hydra, Orthus, and Cerberus. Also she carried people off and ate them herself. Her legacy is of evil, and that is why she is so important.

Why I Love Her
Echidna was one of my favorite mythology figures for a long time. The Myth-o-Mania series, of which I am very fond, depicts her as a down to earth mom. She proved the best of babysitters, and when it came down to it was simply a practical woman caught in a bad marriage. She cared for her children, kept an eye on them as they grew up, and responded kindly to those who treated her the same way. She took no nonsense, and that was awesome.

I love her characterization in the Hercules TV show, as well. (The Disney one based off of the movie with only five Muses and a winged horse that should have come from Medusa’s severed head and no mention of the Furies.) Sure, she comes into a room with the line, “Tremble before mighty Echidna!” but when she gets going, you can be sure that she takes being a monster seriously. She compares the successes of her kids and demands greatness. Pita delivery boys are junk food—monsters need to concentrate on the real stuff. And who doesn’t love a mother who looks out for her children’s best interests?

(By the way, I do actually love Hercules. I watched it yesterday, and it was as good as ever, but I do not think they hit all the characters spot on.)

When I was later alerted to Echidna’s actual characterization in mythology, I realized that she was quite a bit more sinister, but that never really diminished her character for me. You still have to be a pretty tough lady to mother that many children, monsters or no, and despite all I’ve read and know, I still feel like she was probably the shoulder all the monsters came to cry on whenever things started going downhill. But that’s just me.

Why I Don’t Love Her
Regardless of my soft spot for the bad guys in mythology, Echidna still mothered a line of monsters capable of wiping out humankind. It’s their thing, and I get it, but still. Mass murder is one of the more inappropriate things one could ever hope to do.

Why She’s Important
Monsters are really important. Adversity creates adventures, and adventures are the stuff of stories. Echidna is the mother of the monsters, but she’s also the mother of growth, in a twisted sort of way. Without monsters, people would become complacent. Heroes would never hone their strengths. And some would never realize the full extent of their capabilities. People would forget the value of pain and struggle in their lives.

Echidna shows up nowadays in less conspicuous ways. Calculus homework, despicable neighbors, and learning to ride a bike are all daily trials, and some I myself have suffered through. But that’s the thing. Unless we face a mountain, we’re never going to climb.

That being said, I think Echidna’s pretty cool. Definitely a M.O.M. worth remembering.

What do you think about Echidna? Love her? Hate her? Leave a thunk below!

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