art, fantasy, horror, Story prompt

Story Prompt Sunday #5: E is for Echidna

Echidna means ‘viper’ in Greek and is the name of the half woman, half serpent mother of all monsters from Greek mythology.

It’s hard to know when people first started talking about Echidna, I’d say she has been around a long time, but the first written records date from Hesiod’s Theogony, around 7th or 8th century BC. He described her as half beautiful woman, and half terrifying serpent. The serpent half seemed to eat flesh, and the woman half was irresistible to men. Altogether she was ageless and undying.

Over the centuries her parentage, appearance, husband and offspring all varied, depending who wrote about her, and she became more hideous in appearance and behavior.

Obviously it’s impossible for a snake woman to exist, but snakes and snake people are an important part of religion and myths worldwide. There are many possible explanations for this. When it comes to Echidna, could she have once been a powerful ruler who was considered both beautiful and deadly? Did people talk about her in riddles, until her venomous bite became a literal snake tail?

There is another famous Echidna, however. The very rare and very cute monotreme from Australia and New Guinea. In case you didn’t know, monotremes are mammals that have beaks and lay eggs. So, they’re warm blooded, have hair, and produce milk (the necessary requirements to be part of the mammal club), but they also have beaks and lay eggs. I’m going to say this again because it is so incredible – they’re mammals that hatch from eggs!

There are only two monotremes in existence today (that we know of!) – the Echidna and the Platypus.

Why is an Australian spiny anteater named after a Greek monster?

French naturalist Baron Georges Cuvier suggested the name because of the properties of both mammals and reptiles present in the monotreme, similar to the Greek monster’s woman/snake physiology. Seems like a stretch to me. Birds are warm blooded, lay eggs and have beaks, shouldn’t the Echidna be called the Gryphon? Anyway, despite other names being suggested, Echidna is the name that stuck.

So here is the mother of all monsters, in the Hesiod tradition with her pretty face and hungry snake tail, talking to the cute monotreme that bears her name.

Drawn with colouring pencil.

Which version of the legend do you prefer? And did you know that baby Echidnas are called puggles? You do now!

17 thoughts on “Story Prompt Sunday #5: E is for Echidna”

      1. I thought all women had the capability of turning into snakes at a moments notice…. shows what I know. In all seriousness, I wonder if there’s a connection between this and the story of Eve and the Serpent.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Well, darn, I haven’t been receiving notices of your blog posts. I’ll have to try unsubscribing and resubscribing. (This has happened on other blogs I follow, too. Wp doesn’t like me sometimes!)

    I didn’t know what a Echidna was. “Puggles,” that’s cute!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! I hope resubscribing fixes the issue. I know wp has randomly unfollowed blogs I follow, so it can be a bit glitchy.

      Puggles is such a cute term! You should look up a picture of them, they’re so cute! Thanks, Priscilla 😊

      Liked by 2 people

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