Welcome to Mythology Mondays, where I highlight a different Greek myth or an aspect of mythology that has influenced the Turning Creek series. The first two books, Lightning in the Dark and Storm in the Mountains are out now.
The Sphinx has the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the breasts and head of a woman. The sphinx is a well known mythology figure and appeared frequently in both Greek and Egyptian art. The Egyptian version of the Sphinx, the most well known of which is the Giza Sphinx, has no wings, only the body of a lion and the head of a woman. It is believed that the Egyptian version appeared first and was, like many other things, accepted and absorbed into Greek culture.
In Greek mythology, the Sphinx in the daughter of Typhon and Echidna. There are some versions where she is the offspring of Orthus and Chimera or Typhon and the Chimera. Either one of those scenarios required some incest to happen, but Greek mythology never shied away from pairings we would find strange.
The Sphinx was sent to Thebes to punish them for crimes against the gods. The exact crime depends on what version of the myth you read. She could have gone to punish Thebes because:
- Surprise! Hera was hacked off at Liaus, who was the king of thieves and the father of Oedipus. Yep, that Oedipus.
- Ares was mad at Cadmus for the slaying of his son.
- Dionysus was mad.
- Hades was annoyed.
- Some women went crazy and turned into monsters.
All the reasons boil down to either the gods were angry or some women were have some epic PMS. All of these things were bad news for the Thebians.
The Sphinx was ordered to guard the road to Thebes, there was apparently only one, and told to pose a riddle to every traveler. If they gave the correct answer, they were allowed to travel into the city. If not, the Sphinx had a nice second breakfast and waited for the next poor soul.
The riddle is a famous one now, but it was new to the Thebians.
What is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?
The riddle went so long unanswered that no supplies could go in or out of Thebes and the people began to starve. A young man, an orphan named Oedipus, approached the city and was stopped by the Sphinx. He gave the correct answer which was a Man, as a baby, as a man grown, and as an old man with a cane.
The Sphinx, her duty complete, then fulfilled the rest of her prophecy. She threw herself off a cliff and died. The town of Thebes was so happy they made Oedipus king and he married the late king’s wife. Unfortunately, the queen was also his mother and in doing so he fulfilled the prophecy of his own family. That is a story for another time.
In Turning Creek, Pearl Nasso moves in with her family in Storm in the Mountains. Pearl is the Remnant of the Sphinx. She does not speak in riddles, yet, but she is young yet and her story has not yet been written.