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Manticore Kumbhakarna
Scylla - Mythical Monsters
1920    Dibyendu Banerjee    18/07/2020

According to Metamorphoses, one of the most important sources of classical mythology, written by ancient Roman poet Ovid, Scylla was a ravishing nymph, who lived among the sea nymphs and created havoc in the hearts of the young men. With her milky skin, silky hair, full figured body, innocent face and irresistible magnetic charm, she could easily and instantly make a man fall in love with her. Unfortunately, her beauty became a curse and doomed her to become an object of jealousy.


However, the parentage of Scylla is not very clear. According to Homer, she was a daughter of Crataeis, while later traditions represent Scylla as a daughter of Phorcys or Phorbas and Ceto. In some other version she was also described as a daughter of Triton or Poseidon and Lamia.

Scylla and Glaucus, by Peter Paul Rubens
Scylla and Glaucus, by Peter Paul Rubens

One day, while she was combing her hair, seating naked on the shore, after her bath, a sea god named Glaucus, caught sight of her and was captivated by her beauty. But as he tried to approach nearer, Scylla fled on her dainty feet, without giving him any chance to propose. Glaucus was disheartened and told the story to Circe, the daughter of the sun god Helios and ocean nymph Perse, who was known for knowledge of potions and herb.


Glaucus also requested Circe to do something, so that he could win the heart of Scylla. However, Glaucus was not aware that Circe cherished a secret infatuation for him. On hearing his request, she became jealous of Scylla and while Scylla was bathing in the sea, she poured a terrible potion into the sea water, which caused Scylla to transform into a monster.


As soon as Scylla entered the poisoned water, she became a horrendous creature with four eyes and six long necks equipped with grisly heads, each of which contained three rows of sharp teeth. Her beautiful legs turned into twelve tentacles, while four to six dog-heads ringed her waist. When Glaucus saw the transformed Scylla, he became horrified, left her to her fate and cursed Circe for her jealous rage. However, in Homer’s Odyssey, Scylla is described as a monster with the torso of a woman and a fish’s tail from which six dogs emerge, each with two legs ending in heads with three rows of teeth.

Scylla and Glaucus, by Peter Paul Rubens

After her transformation, Scylla took shelter in a cave high up in the cliffs on one side of a strait and whenever a ship sailed too close to the cliff, each of Scylla’s heads seized a member of the crew and devoured them in her grotesque mouth. Scylla would have been delighted to devour Odysseus, Circe’s lover. Unfortunately, as he hid below deck as advised by Circe, she had to be satisfied with devouring six of his crew members.

Scylla and Glaucus, by Peter Paul Rubens

Finally, to stop the bloodbath, the gods added her to the twelve labours of Heracles and the great hero slaughtered the monster by cutting off each of its heads, one by one.

Scylla and Glaucus, by Peter Paul Rubens
Manticore Kumbhakarna
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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