Skip to Main Content

Scylla: The Myth and Magic

Scylla: Patroller of the Strait

Who is Scylla?

Read, Watch, or Listen to more about Scylla

Link to The Odyssey by Homer in the Catalog
Link to Monsters of Greek Mythology by Bernard Evslin in Hoopla
Link to Ulysses by James Joyce in the Catalog
Link to The Illustrated Book of Myths by Neil Philip in the Catalog
Link to Cursed by the Sea God by Patrick Bowman in Hoopla
Link to Greek Mythology by Kevin Tembouret in Hoopla

The Story of Scylla and Charybdis

Scylla and Charybdis, in Greek Mythology, two immortal and irresistible monsters who beset the narrow waters traversed by the hero Odysseus in his wanderings described in Homer’s Odyssey, Book XII. They were later localized in the Strait of Messina.

Scylla was a supernatural female creature, with 12 feet and six heads on long snaky necks, each head having a triple row of sharklike teeth, while her loins were girdled by the heads of baying dogs. From her lair in a cave she devoured whatever ventured within reach, including six of Odysseus’s companions. In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Books XIII–XIV, she was said to have been originally human in appearance but transformed out of jealousy through the witchcraft of Circe into her fearful shape. She was sometimes identified with the Scylla who betrayed her father, King Nisus of Megara, out of love for Minos, king of Crete.

Charybdis, who lurked under a fig tree a bowshot away on the opposite shore, drank down and belched forth the waters thrice a day and was fatal to shipping. Her character was most likely the personification of a whirlpool. The shipwrecked Odysseus barely escaped her clutches by clinging to a tree until the improvised raft that she swallowed floated to the surface again after many hours. Scylla was often rationalized in antiquity as a rock or reef.

Both Scylla and Charybdis gave poetic expression to the dangers confronting Greek mariners when they first ventured into the uncharted waters of the western Mediterranean. To be “between Scylla and Charybdis” means to be caught between two equally unpleasant alternatives. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

Link to Monsters in Literatures Resource Guide Series