E is for…Echidna

Echidna is another of the Greek monstresses, a snake-woman hybrid and The Mother of Monsters. She and her mate Typhon, a fearsome giant, are the parents to Chimera, Cereberus, Scylla, and many other canonical Greek beasts.

But part of the trouble with Echidna is that, despite being mentioned over and over in Greek Emythology, even appearing in multiple sources, she’s rarely discussed outside of her position as a mother. Most stories only mention her in connection to her offspring, and few actually describe her.

The appearance of Echidna varies. In once source, she is a fearsome monster with over a hundred heads. More often, though she is depicted as a beautiful woman with long flowing hair, and then at the waist begins the long tail of a snake that makes her monstrous. In these instances, she’s a juxtaposition of revolting and alluring.

Echidna is of the monstrous feminine. Her position in mythology is intimately bound up in, in fact is almost exclusively reliant on, motherhood. It is her position as a mother of many other monsters that makes her with noting in most sources, not something she has done.

That her offspring are all monstrous, however, suggests that monsters beget monsters. And, conversely there’s a suggestion that if a child is a monster, its mother must be a monster, too. We know so little about Echnida aside from her appearance and who her children are–but we assume that she must be quite awful.

And perhaps she would’ve been. One of the only other things sources say about her is that she lived in a cave, and that the cave was also her father-in-law. Talk about a complicated relationship with the in-laws…



*Echidna image via Gods and Monsters



Leave a Comment

  1. This is a really interesting one for me. When you become ‘mother’ it hijacks your identity for a long time. For this monster, that seems to have lasted for all time. And we are judged as mothers by the behaviour of our children – that’s certainly true. The great thing about mythology is how it works as metaphor for human society. Enjoying these posts – thanks for the work you’re putting into them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I look forward to your posts every day. Loved this. I bet she wasn’t as bad as everyone thinks. The cave situation = complicated for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are on my list to check if you are being part of the A to Z Challenge.

    THANK YOU for being up to the letter “E”…
    Jeremy [Retro]
    AtoZ Challenge Co-Host [2015]

    There’s no earthly way of knowing.
    Which direction we are going!

    Come Visit: You know you want to know if me or Hollywood… is Nuts?


    1. Glad you stopped by! This is my second time in the challenge, and I’m part of Heather Gardner’s minion team, so I’ve been trying to crank out the posts on time—plus it’s just plain fun to write about lady monsters. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. They’re all complicated relationships, aren’t they? The gods and goddesses were such an incestuous bunch! I always found Echidna interesting, probably because the myths vary so much with regard to her origins. Some say she was the ‘granddaughter’ of Poseidon and Medusa, which would certainly account for the serpent in her bloodline!

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  5. Have you seen the movie Beowulf with Angelina Jolie? Her Angelina plays a kind of monster like the one you described. 🙂

    I’m loving your monster posts. awesomeness. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your point about monsters giving birth to monsters certainly seems to be one of the ways the ancients viewed things, but it also raises even more questions. Poseidon had a number of rather monstrous offspring, despite being one of the Olympian gods, which always makes me wonder if he started out as something a bit less palatable, and only became a human-like Olympian after various other traditions were thoroughly set.

    There’s also the question of how/why non-monstrous males sometimes impregnated monstrous females, and why the offspring were so often horses: Poseidon fathered Pegasus and Chrysaor on Medusa, Zephyros fathered Achilles’ horses Xanthos and Balios on the harpy Podarge… (Chrysaor himself, of course, is just as big a mystery. Like Echidna, he’s only known for having children. In fact, he’s one of the three pairs sometimes attributed as Echidna’s parents. I think the timing might be a bit off for that to be the case, though.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you’re right on about Poseidon, and it’s funny that you mention him. In some stories, Echidna is his granddaughter.

      I’ve wondered about the monstrous horses and dogs a lot, too. They’re fairly common motifs, even cross-culturally. And I think the monstrous/non-monstrous is often about the power-play, especially when a monstrous woman is with a mortal man.


    1. Thanks!

      It varies—some I’m writing about from memory, and others I’ve found info about in some of my old books from my thesis writing days. I’ve got a lot of books on fairies and monsters from working on a Peter Pan thesis.

      Liked by 1 person

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