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 mythology, 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