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Echidna the Monster Mother of Mythology

Updated on August 23, 2017

Echidna, the Mother of Monsters

Somewhere in the world, every eight seconds, a mother is throwing her hands in the air and declaring that her child is a little monster.

But for Echidna it was the literal truth!

Echidna was called the Mother of all Monsters but she had no more than a dozen or so children, and many were exemplary offspring and a pride to any parent.

They may still roam the earth in the quiet unseen places, waiting the day when a new Hero will come to challenge them. What the bleep do we know?

AnneMarie Fahmer

Half Nymph, Half Serpent

Obviously the result of a mixed marriage

There are many arguments about Echidna's exact lineage, but who amongst us can vouch for every union in our own background? Suffice to say she was the daughter of powerful mythical beings.

Sources agree though, on her appearance. She was a

... half fair-cheeked and bright-eyed nymph and half huge and monstrous snake, a snake that strikes swiftly and feeds on living flesh.

Hercules - The Legendary Hero

detail from Hercules Clubs the Hydra, Antonio del Pollaiolo

Herakles, whom the Romans called Hercules, killed many children of Echidna. here he is, savagely clubbing the Hydra.

Children of Echidna

Another mixed family bag

As an arresting combination of beautiful woman and deadly serpent, it was to be expected that the children of Echidna were also unusual.

Her first born was Orthus, a hard-working cattle dog on an island beyond the pillars of Hercules. Orthus guarded these unique red cattle for Geryon, the strongest man alive at that time.

Another of Echidna's daughters was the fierce Crommyonian Sow, who played a leading role on the life of the Hero Theseus, who rose to fame after killing the poor Minotaur.

Echidna also produced the Caucasus Eagle that keeps gnawing away at the liver of Prometheus, the Nemean Lion and the riddle-loving Sphinx.

Perhaps her favourite child was the shining dragon that guarded the Golden Apples of Hesperides, the apples which may really have been quinces.

Those magical apples!

Apples of Legend, Tales from Mythology
Eve is reported to have bitten into an apple, or perhaps it was a quince. Hera gave some apples to her husband for a wedding gift, or maybe they were lemons.

Cerberus, Son of Echidna

The three-headed dog


Cerberus, her next son and another fearsome dog, guarded the entrance to the Underworld and very sensibly kept the living from entering the world of the dead.

This brazen-voiced hound of Hades was a strange mixture of creatures: he had three heads of wild dogs, a serpent for a tail, and heads of snakes all over his back. It was alleged that he devoured raw flesh.

. . . A monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, relentless and strong.

Hercules had to go to the Underworld and kidnap the beast, an impossible task, but not for a Hero.

After capturing Cerberus, Hercules let him go again with no lasting damage to anyone.

Hydra, Daughter of Echidna

Another victim of the Hero, Hercules

Another serpent was the nine-headed Hydra, who liked to sun herself on rocks overlooking the sacred wells in the swampy regions of Lerna.

She was afflicted with bad breath from sulphurous water -it was said one exhalation could kill a man - and her blood was venomous.

Hercules was sent to destroy her as one of his twelve labours, but for each of her heads that he decapitated, two more sprang forth. So he applied burning brands to the severed stumps, cauterizing the wounds and preventing regeneration.

Then he cut off her last head and buried it.

Chimera, Daughter of Echidna

The victim of another Hero

The Chimera was another marvelous combination, displaying the multi-headed family trait with three of them. Not only did she have the head of a lion, a goat, and a snake, her body was in three distinct parts. The top was leonine, the middle like a goat, and the whole ended in the long lashing tail of a serpent.

Breathing fire, the Chimera terrified all of Lycia, killing cattle and scorching the countryside until she was slain by the Hero Bellepheron with the help of Pegasus, the Winged Horse.

Chimera or Pegasus?

Pegasus - Tales of the Ancient Greeks
Pegasus, the white winged horse, is the result of a close encounter between Medusa the Gorgon, and Poseidon the dishonourable God of the Sea.

Whispers of Human Children

Echidna and Hercules - could it be true?

Echidna may also have borne human children. It has been whispered that the Hero Hercules fell in love with her and engaged in an affair that produced three future kings. But it's somewhat doubtful that a mother would stoop to dalliance with the murderer of so many of her children.

Whatever the truth is, it's now lost in time, but Zeus did decree that the children of Echidna would remain on earth for always, to test the mettle of future Heroes.

A fitting task for such marvelous monsters and a credit to their long-maligned mother.

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth

Just about every monster from ancient history to modern times - and from just about every culture from the Far East to the Americas.

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth
Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth
Descriptions of each creature, its activities, region, culture, and historical period. Each entry is both cross-referenced and referenced to a selected bibliography.

What do you think?

Should Echidna be sterilised immediately if not sooner?

Not too monstrous, I hope


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