Friday, April 15, 2011

grrrk mythological creatures

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Greek Mythological Creatures

The Greeks created myths to both entertain and to explain the unexplainable. The stories told of great heroes, immortal gods, and fierce monsters. I think that the latter are the most interesting and entertaining of the three, and I am going to tell you about five of the biggest, deadliest, and meanest creatures to ever appear in mythology.

The Cyclopes were very interesting creatures. They appear mainly twice in mythology, once in the creation story and once in homer’s The Odyssey. Theses two stories show the Cyclopes as very different creatures. In both of the stories, the Cyclopes were giants with one huge, round eye in the middle of their forehead.

In the first story there were only three Cyclopes. They were sons of Gaia (earth) and Uranus (sky). Their names were Brontes (thunder), Steroes(lightning), and Arges (brightness). After birth, they were imprisoned below earth by Uranus, and later by Cronus. They were skilled blacksmiths, and their fiery workshops were found deep under the earth, thought by some to be beneath mount Etna. Zeus freed the Cyclopes when he rebelled against the titans, and they repaid him by making some things to aid him and his brothers in their fight. For Zeus, they created a magnificent thunderbolt. For Poseidon, they made a mighty trident. Finally, for Hades the conceived a helmet that made its wearer invisible, so he could surprise his victims. The Cyclopes and some other creatures helped Zeus to a triumphant victory over the titans. They were allowed to stay on earth from then on and were thought of as Zeus’s loyal blacksmiths.

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In The Odyssey, the Cyclopes were portrayed very differently. In this story, they were horrible cannibalistic monsters. There were many of them and they lived in caves scattered across the island of Sicily. They did what they pleased, and cared only for themselves. They had no society nor any respect for the gods. Polyphemus, the Cyclopes that terrorized Odysseus and his men displayed this when he says, “ We Cyclopes care not a jot for Zeus with his aegis, nor for the rest of the blessed gods, since we are much stronger than they.” (Dibbley 6).

Even more astounding than the Cyclopes were the Hundred � Handers. Also known as the Hekatonchires, these three giants were truly amazing. They were huge and strong beyond all telling; from their shoulders sprang one hundred arms terrible to behold and each had fifty heads upon its shoulders, growing from sturdy bodies (March 05). They were sons of Gaia and Uranus, and therefore were brothers of the Cyclopes. Their names were Briareos (or Agaeon), Cottus, and Gyges (or Gyes). When they were born, their father was so repulsed by the sight of them, he tried to push them back into their mother’s womb. They were imprisoned in Tartarus, and like the Cyclopes, were released by Zeus when he rebelled against the titans. After the titans were defeated, and Zeus threw them into Tartarus, and he gave the job of guarding the gates of Tartarus to assure that none ever escaped, to the great Hundred-Handers. Later, when the gods of Olympus tried to overthrow Zeus, Briareos, the mightiest of the three brothers went to help him. The mere sight of the Hundred-Handed giant was enough to stop the gods.

The great beast called Typhon may very well be the biggest, scariest, and most deadly creature of them all. He was the last challenge of the power of Zeus. The Typhon’s origin differs; depending on which story you read.

One story tells that he was the child of Hera alone. It says that she was jealous when Zeus produced Athena from his mind, so she prayed to Gaia to make a creature even more powerful than the king of the gods himself, and Gaia heard. Not much later hera gave birth to the monster. In the other story, the Typhon was the child of Tartarus and Gaia.

Either way, this creature was very, very disturbing. On his shoulders were a hundred hideous snake heads, all with black tongues and glaring eyes. These heads could produce every sound thinkable (lion’s roar, stampede of bulls, etc.). The Typhon was taller than all the mountains; his head was said to have touched the stars. His mouth shot flames, his body was winged, and instead of fingers he had a hundred serpents heads on each hand. From the thighs down he was nothing but huge coiling serpents. When he stretched his hands out, one touched the east, and one touched the west.

Amazingly, Zeus defeated this horrible monster, although it was no easy task. The Typhon cut off Zeus’s hands and feet and put them in a leather bag. The Typhon flew the helpless god off to his cave. Zeus found the bag in a corner of the cave and put them back on. He then threw mount Etna on top of the beast, ending the ordeal. The volcano is supposedly caused by the Typhon struggling to escape.

Another amazing creature, the Sphinx, comes from a particularly gruesome family. Her mother was Echidna the half women, half serpent monster. Its siblings were the horrible multi � headed Hydra, the three headed dog Cerberus, the great Nemean Lion, and the fire breathing chimera.

The bloodthirsty Sphinx had the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, a serpent for a tail, and the face and breasts of a woman. Hera sent the Sphinx to punish the people of Thebes. It lived atop a mountain just outside of the city and would ask all the people who walked by a perplexing riddle. It went like this “What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening?”(Dibbley 18) If the person answered incorrectly, as everyone did, the Sphinx would strangle him or her and eat them immediately. The sphinx continued to kill people since no one could answer this odd riddle. Finally, one day, the hero Oedipus came across the Sphinx, and answered the riddle correctly (The answer was a human). When the Sphinx realized that her riddle had been solved, she was so enraged that she jumped off the mountain onto some jagged rocks, killing herself.

The last creature I am going to talk about is the Chimera. The Chimera is a sibling of the Sphinx and another child of Echidna. The Chimera was a truly bizarre monster. It had two heads, one a lion’s, and one a goat’s. It had the body of a lion and a serpent for a tail. To top it off, this deadly monstrosity breaths fire. The Chimera was killed when Bellerophon, riding Pegasus, jammed a chunk of lead into its throat. The beast’s fire breath melted the lead, causing it to drip down her throat, scorching its insides.

Those are just five of the amazing creatures used in Greek mythology. I didn’t even mention the snake-haired gorgons, the soul eating harpies, the half bull, half man Mintaur, or the graceful flying steed Pegasus. As you can see, the Greeks were some very imaginative people and it seems like the myths never end.

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