Mythology Mondays: Echidna

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. They make great Christmas gifts. 

I am not, sadly, going to talk about this Echidna, also known as the Spiny Ant Eater.

echidna animal
Look at that cute face!

Instead, we are talking about Echidna,  known as the Monstrous Mother of Monsters, who was both prolific in her fecundity and frightening in what she produced. The myths of Echidna and Python are frequently the same stories.

Her parentage is much disputed, but all stories hold fast to the tale that she was born of slime and rotting things. In one version, she springs from the leftover sludge from the great Deluge. Yes, that one that Noah rode through in his ark. Echidna had the head and breast of a woman and the body of a serpent or dragon. She needed those breasts, apparently, for all the horrible children she would eventually bear.

Echidna was given in marriage to the horrible Typhon, the one hundred headed dragon beast. You know they saying, “There’s someone for everyone”? It turns out, Echidna took one look at all of Typhon’s scaly heads and fell head over dragon body in love with him. Typhon, likewise, was quite taken with his new bride. So taken that they spent much of their time engaging in marital relations because their list of offspring was both impressive and frightening.

Their children included:

  • Orthus – the two-headed hound
  • Cerberus – the three-headed hound
  • The Sphinx – the half feline, half woman who ate men who could not answer her riddles
  • Nemean Lion – who could only die by strangulation
  • Ladon – the dragon
  • Lernaean Hydra – a dragon who lived in water and spit acid
  • Chimera – a fire breathing  lioness with a snake tail
  • Caucasian Eagle – who ate the liver of Prometheus every day
  • Crommyonian Sow – a vicious pig who terrorized the region around Crommyonian
  • The Gorgons – fierce female monsters who ate men and whose number included Medusa
  • Colchian Dragon – guarded the Golden fleece and never slept, ate, or wavered
  • Scylla – sea goddess with the head of a woman and the body of a snake
  • Harpies – in some versions the harpies spring from the loins of Echidna and Typhon
  • Other various serpents and plagues on mankind

I wonder what their family gatherings were like when they all sat around the table for dinner together.

Echidna: Sphinx darling, what did you learn today?

Sphinx: I learned fat, stupid men taste delicious.

Echidna: That sounds lovely, my dear.

In most of the myths, Echidna is an ageless horror. There are two accounts of her death. In one, Apollo slays her to rid the Earth of her foul presence. In another, she is slain by Argos, the hundred-eyed giant at the behest of Hera because Hera had grown tired of Echidna’s foulness.

Echidna and some of her most famous offspring come to Turning Creek but to tell you more would spoil the fun.