Saturday, December 1, 2012

More on Daphne and Leukippos

Ok, so remember last time?  The story of Daphne and Leukippos?  (If I did that right the second link should take you straight to the story in question.)

Not kidding about the "What the hell happened to Leukippos?" question.

The oldest surviving version of the myth, that I know of, actually comes from one of Vergil's tutors (so they say.)  Parthenius of Nicaea was a Greek grammarian and poet and whatnot in the first century BCE and his one surviving work is Erotica Pathemata.  (Loose translation: Love stinks.)

Now this is not stuff that Parthenius made up himself, this is retellings and whatnot.  The story in question draws from "the elegiac poems of Diodorus of Elaea and the twenty-fifth book of Phylarchus."

If not for the citation the elegiac poems of Diodorus of Elaea would be unknown.  Phylarchus's works are mentioned elsewhere but also do not survive.

So there's a tradition that this is coming out of and Parthenius is just pulling out the part that interests him: the love story going wrong.  So we have Daphne first hunting alone, getting blessed by Artemis, crossing paths with Leukippos, Daphne and living-as-a-woman Leukippos growing close, Apollo getting jealous, putting in in the mind of Daphne and her attendant maidens to bathe, Leukippos being exposed as male, deadly weapons sent his way, Leukippos disappears by the will of the gods and that's the last we hear of him.

Why have him disappear and not just die?  A couple centuries later someone does just that, but the early stories don't (and Ovid, in the middle, doesn't even mention Leukippos.)  Apparently Leukippos has some larger later role to play and so cannot die there, thus the gods provide a last minute escape.

Except that story is not told, not remembered.  Lost to time.

So, 'round about hereish, I asked a muse to help fill in the gaps.

Kalliope, I'm going to asking for some help again.  Clearly there's a bit more to tell.  (It was the last thing I wrote before finally going to sleep, of which I got about 3 hours.)

Leukippos sat beside the laurel tree that had been Daphne.  Looking across the river at the spot where everything had gone wrong.

"I'm sorry," she finally said.

A tear formed in her left eye.  "I'm sorry that I lied to you.  I'm sorry that I never told you the truth." The tear became too large for her eye and dripped down her cheek.  "I just- I never- I didn't-" tears were coming out of both eyes now.

"I didn't know how to tell you I'd been lying from the beginning because... because it meant that everything between us was built on a lie and I was worried that..." she had to catch her breath.

"I thought that if you learned about the lie you'd think that everything true was a lie too and you'd never forgive me, and I'd never see you again and that would be unbearable."

There was a long silence.

Leukippos looked at the laurel, "And now you're a tree."

Another silence.

"Can you forgive me?  Because it's not a lie anymore, and that was the only lie I ever told to you."

The tree said nothing.

Eris' voice intruded, "...and did you get the-"

"Yes!" Artemis interrupted.  "Whatever you were going to ask, yes.  I got everything on your list of ingredients."

"Prometheus' list."

"Whoever's list.  Stop acting like I don't know what I'm doing."

"Did I miss anything," the Elder Eros asked, descending from the sky on golden wings.

"We're ready to start," Eris said, kneeling down and beginning to gather loose earth and clay. "Assuming silver bow here," she gestured to Artemis, "got the right ingredients."

"How is that even when you're helping you're still an ass?" Artemis asked, joining her on the ground, and helping to form the growing pile.

"An ass is a noble animal."

Eros joined them, saying nothing.  Artemis and Eris continued.

"You just bray bray bray all the time hoping that if you do it enough someone will snap and-"

"Prometheus was very specific about how he-"

"He didn't create women, only men. It was my family that-"

"Don't you dare suggest that I've forgotten Pandora," Eris snapped.  The shape they were creating began to take on a vaguely recognizable form.  "She freed many of my children when she opened that jar.  Some of my siblings too.  Pandora will always be honored by the line of Nyx."

"Only you could see opening the jar as a good thing."

Eris rolled her eyes, but ignored the statement.  "The thing about Pandora is that she was created by all the Olympians working in unison, we're just three."

"This was your idea."

"More than that the most important to the task was the lame god."

"He has a name."

"Your father's wife's son.  With whom you share no relation.  Both of you bastards, after all."

"Hephaistos." Artimis' voice was sharp.  "His name is Hephaistos."  Beat.  "And if you think he's necessary I could have convinced him to come."

"No, start telling others and soon we'll have the whole of Olympos knowing, your twin will find out, he'll come after Daphne again, she'll have to be turned into a tree again, and we'll be right back where we started."

"Bray, bray, bray."

The figure they were working on was now distinctly human in shape, and along the way Artemis and Eris had been adding ingredients from 

"My point is not that we should have more company, Prometheus created man by his lonesome, it's just that we should be very careful to get things right."

"Your point is to be annoying."

Eros got up and walked over to Leukippos, who hadn't moved at all or made a sound.  "Are you ok?" the god asked.

"What if she doesn't-"

"She does," Eros answered.  "If you want something to be worried about, be worried about this working.  Not feelings.  She feels for you as you feel for her.

"And be worried about those two," Eros gestured with a wing toward Eris and Artemis.

"She can't feel the same way," Leukippos said.  "She never betrayed me."

Eros considered describing how many successful relationships had begun with a bit of dishonesty, but decided it would teach the wrong lesson.  That good can come of bad is true, but it can be seen to excuse the bad.  Instead he simply put a arm and a wing around Leukippos, and warmed the young woman with the friendly embrace.

The constant back and forth between Artemis and Eris washed over them unnoticed.

They stayed there until Eros said, "It's almost time.  Stand with me."

The stood and walked toward the clay figure the goddesses were molding, now almost an exact replica of Daphne.  Eros said, "You know, if there's anything about her body you'd like to change-"

"I just want her the way she was."

"That's the plan anyway. I remember exactly the way she was," Artemis said.

"Taking a peek under the maiden's clothing were we?" Eris asked.

Artemis didn't even use words to express her disdain for Eris.  A rough exhale was enough.  The finishing touches completed Artemis walked to the bay laurel.  "You understand, Daphne, that this might not work, and if it does part of you will always be in contact with this tree, while the rest of you will live a mortal life in that body.  Are you sure you want to go through with this."  She placed her hand on the bark of the trunk.

If you've ever felt a tree give assent with the fullness of it's being, you know what Artemis felt when she placed her hand upon the trunk.  If you haven't, it's one of those things you just have to experience first hand.

"Of course she won't age." Eris said.  "This recipe for human being predates old age.  I'll have to ask Geras leave that one," she pointed at Leukippos, "alone, otherwise they'll be terribly mismatched in the end."

"You can do that?" Artemis asked.

"One of the benefits of being an ass is that asses can have children unlike certain other beings."

"I can have children, it's just that-"

"Like my ability to sprout rainbows from my fingers you've never felt the need to show it off."

"I took an oath of chastity!"

"As I recall you also were granted the right to change you mind which calls into question the validity of any oath you swear."

"You don't get to question my integrity!"

Eros had finally had enough.  "If the two of you don't stop bickering I swear by Khaos whence I came that I will make you both fall in love," neither goddess seemed to notice, "with each other."

Eris and Artemis' attention immediately snapped to Eros.  Then to each other.  Finally they said, "Truce," in unison.

"Now," Eros said, "Let's do this."

"Once we do the Moirai will know," Artemis said.  "In essence we're creating a mortal life, and they are present at the beginning of every mortal life.  That doubles the amount of gods who know."

"They're my sisters, they can be trusted," Eris said.

"And my relatives can't?" Artemis pushed the anger from her voice and quickly said to Eros, "Sorry."  Eris' eyes grew wide with fear when she realized why Artemis had felt the need to apologize to Eros.

Eros smiled, "You haven't crossed the line."  After relief settled over the two goddesses he added, "Yet."

"I'll separate the soul from the tree," Eris said, "I'm good at driving things apart."

"I'll put the soul into the body," Artemis said.

"And I'll breathe life into the body," Eros said.

"What do I do?" Leukippos asked.

"Carry the body closer to the tree," Artemis said.

"And stand her upright," Eros said.

The body, a clay duplicate of Daphne, was naked.  Leukippos had been trying, rather hard, not to look at it.  She stammered at the gods, "I... I'm... it's not my place..."

Eris giggled when she realized what the problem was.  "You've seen her naked before.  You must remember.  Your clothes torn from you, deadly weapons rushing toward you, and then the three of us saved you." Beat "In different directions and inelegantly, but we did save you."

"I'll conjure up some clothes," Artemis said.

"I still shouldn't..."

"How many times have you handled each other when hunting together?  To help one through difficult terrain, to pull one out of the way.  All you have to do is move her from the good clay, to the tree."  She knelt beside the body, placed a hand upon it and clothing appeared.

"You made them match," Eris said in disgust, looking at the clothing of Leukippos and the clay Daphne.  Artemis locked eyes with Eris, then turned her eyes toward Eros, then looked back at Eris.  Eris hastily added, "Which is a perfectly wonderful thing to do."

Leukippos picked up the body and carried it to the tree.  The gods silently prepared themselves.  Eris placing one hand on the tree and the other in Artemis' hand.  Artemis placing her free hand on the body, Eros getting ready to breathe life in through the body's nostrils, took the longest to prepare.  When he was ready he took the body from Lukippe, who took a few steps back.

Leukippos would never be able to describe what she felt, but everything around her was somehow charged for a few moments, then Eros stepped aside,and where the clay body had been stood Daphne.

Daphne exhaled, then opened her eyes.

She ran to Leukippos and hugged her.  Eros smiled and then turned his attention to a newly arrived god.  Neither Daphne nor Leukippos noticed.  Suddenly, still embracing Leukippos, Daphne exclaimed, "I have a voice!"  There was a pause then, "Thank the gods-"

"Three in particular," Leukippos said.

"There's been so much I've wanted to say.  I forgive you, how are you not dead, when did your sex change, I love you too, why those three gods?"  The sentences ran together she spoke so fast.

"Um... Those three because Artemis likes you, Eros likes our relationship, and Eris wanted to screw up Apollo's plan.  I don't know when I became female, but my body did when Artemis made it that way.  I didn't die because all three tried to spirit me away to different places, and I uh, were there other questions?"  Leukippos said.  Then Daphne silenced her with a kiss.


Meanwhile, the gods were dealing with a new visitor.  The Moirai did indeed notice the creation of a new mortal.  Only Lakhesis made an appearance.  Eris and Artemis went to greet her immediately, Eros soon followed.

After greetings were exchanged Lakhesis said, "Interesting project you've got here."

Eris said, "We were hoping to keep it quiet.  There's only one god we don't want finding out, but the fewer who know the less likely it is he'll find out."

"That's not a problem."

"Thank you," Artemis said.

"The only reason I came was to ask how long you wanted the thread to be."

"As long as the other mortal girl's," Eros said.  "Let them both pass at the same time, whenever that may be."

"Simple enough to do."

"Thank y-" Eris started, but Lakhesis silenced her with a gesture.  She looked Leukippos, with a growing sense of confusion and recognition.

"Wasn't she a baby boy when I saw her last?" Lakhesis asked.

"It's a long and boring story," Eris said.

"Not that long," Artemis said.

"We've been here before."

"Yes, we have."

Then, as they prepared for a bout of verbal sparring, they simultaneously remembered Eros's threat.  The said, "Sorry," in unison.

"I turned her body female," Artemis explained.   That seemed to satisfy Lakhesis.

"Thank you sister," Eris said.  And then Lakhesis was gone.

The three gods returned to the two mortal women.

"You'll have to leave your old lives behind," Artemis told them.  "If my brother finds out you're still alive he'll come after you again."

"No one will recognize your equipment," Eris said.  "Which is, for the record, exactly where you left it."  She gestured to the opposite bank of the river.  "But you'll need new names."

"Stay together and you should be fine." Eros said.  Then he took to the air on his golden wings.

"Keep up the hunt," Artemis said, before leaving herself.

"And promise me that after you've lived out your lives I get to be the one to tell Apollo that he lost his great love to another woman," Eris said.

"Why are you helping us?" Daphne asked.

"Two young women running off into the woods together, loving each other and shunning male society?  You stand in opposition to everything that the dominant culture says is the way things should be.  You practically are me.  I hope you live a long happy life, I really do."  With that Eris walked off.

The two women were now alone by the river.

"Bathe with me," Daphne said to Leukippos.  And Leukippos did.


Artemis materialized beside Eris and said, "Wait a minute.  Geras isn't your son.  He's your brother."

Eris burst out laughing, finally managing to say, "It took you this long-"

"Why you little-"

Both suddenly froze in place.  Then they looked around frantically and when they spotted Eros flying high above shouted, "Sorry!" in unison.

Eros idly wondered how long the two would remember his threat.


[Rewriting Greek Myth Index]

1 comment:

  1. It's the way you've captured the soap opera sensibility of much of Greek myth that I particularly enjoy.