Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Leto in exile

It's interesting to see what details of a background myth Ovid chooses to highlight. This can be seen more clearly than usual in his handling of the tale of Leto (Latona), since her story is one of the simpler tales told of the Olympians.

Wikpedia's article on Leto notes that she apparently had been an early mother goddess of Lycian origin. Both before she gave birth to Artemis and Apollo, and after -- in the tale of her encounter with the Lycian peasants that Ovid tells -- she is a goddess that is under banishment, an exile from stable land (i.e., earth rooted in earth, rather than floating on the sea) by order of Hera, and in Lycia barred by the peasants from drinking water.

Above, Breughel's image of that scene offers us a peasant undergoing metamorphosis into a frog.

One recurrent motif in Book 6 of the Metamorphoses seems to be the distancing/diminishing effect that results from a god or goddess's tranformative anger. The humans who incur the god's wrath are scaled down: Arachne becomes a tiny spider; Niobe a remote rock; Lycian peasants frogs; Tereus, Procne and Philomela, small birds. Is Marsyas an exception?

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