Colleen Houck


“Chapped rats and bats' wings, brandied worms and adders' stings, Goat's wool and owl's hoot, fish's tongue and dog's foot. Into the potion, all you go, add clockwork hearts, positioned so…" The Lantern's Ember

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  • Sirens, a Mythological Tale

    June 26, 2015


    cover pic sirens

     

    We all know and love Houck’s twist on Indian mythology in her Tiger’s Curse series. Just WAIT till you read her new Egyptian book REAWAKENED! I’ve read her book and I’m still geeking out over how AWESOME it is!  I love the way Colleen intricately weaves the mythological creatures and history into her stories and it is what attracted me to the books and sets her apart as one of my favorite authors. I feel like I’m truly escaping with every turn of the page, fully enraptured by the thrill of Kelsey’s adventures. It’s been awhile since I’ve devoted a blog to mythological creatures/places but I’m sure you’ve enjoyed reading all about Colleen’s new REAWAKENED book soon to be released! So, back to the subject of mythology. I’ve already shared some history on dragons, the Kappa, the Phoenix, and El Naddaha (female sea nymph-like genie), to name a few, in some of my earlier blog posts. Today, I’m featuring the Siren!

    So sit back, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself as you step aboard Captain Odysseus’ ship heading out to sea.

    Friends best beware, for it be here where ye be enterin’ the world of Sirens!

    An Introduction

    According to Greek Mythology, the Sirens were three, Pisinoe, Aglaope, and Thelxiepi (although various versions have different names), all daughters of the river god, Achelous. They were dangerous, they were beautiful and they were very musical. Legend has it they were companions of the young Persephone when one day she was captured by Hades, the god of the underworld. Her mother, Demeter, the goddess of fertility and harvest, gave the sirens wings to search for her. When they failed, she cursed them.

    pic 1 sirens

    pic 2 sirens

    They have been described as half human half bird. In early depictions, they have the body of a bird and a head of a human. However in later versions, different parts were human such as torso and chest. The more modern versions describe sirens as having a mostly human form that is quite seductive.  It has been said that the sirens competed with the Muses in a singing contest and lost. The Muses plucked all the siren’s feathers and made a crown out of them.  As a result, they were unable to fly and turned half of their body into a fish tail. Another version explains the loss of feathers by choice. They would shed their feathers and change their form to half fish to be more mermaid like and be more attractive to men.

    pic 3 sirens

    pic 4 sirens

    They have been called the Muses of the lower world. Sirens are commonly portrayed as seducers of the water, luring mariners by their sweet melodies to treacherous rocky waters. Some say the men fall captive to the sirens, even to their death just to be closer.

    So the story goes

    The most famous telling of the sirens is Odysseus and his voyage across the seas. The story goes that Odysseus had heard of the enchanting melodies sung on the sea air and he was desirous to hear of this for himself. He ordered his crew to tie him to the mast and for his crew to plug their ears with bees wax. Then he warned them not to release him no matter what his request. So, as they neared the sirens, he heard their sweet melody, and just as he was warned, he begged to be untied. The crew, having their ears plugged, could not hear and were not affected. They did not untie him and waited  until they were a great distance away from the sirens and they could no longer be heard. They say that if a person were to escape the sirens after  hearing their song, they were fated to die.

    pic 6 sirens

    Powers

    Sirens have also been described as “sea-sirens”, whose beauty reflected the wondrous treasures and power of the sea itself. They could enchant with their music and control the minds of men. They are immortal but cursed.

    Folk Tale

    There is a poem written by William Gilmore Simms, called Siren of the French Broad, written in 1845. Here is retelling of it, (found at northcarolinaghosts.com)

    “As twilight descends into night, the young man doesn’t go inside of his tent, but still sits by the side of the river, staring into the deep waters of the pool. As night comes into its own, the young man hears the sweet singing once again, more indescribably beautiful than any voice he has ever heard. And as the voice grows louder it seems to be coming from the pool of dark water by his feet. And as he looks into the pool, he seems to see the form of a beautiful dark-haired woman rising out of the water towards him. She is naked and more perfect than he could have imagined, the smooth curves of her body seeming to repeat the slow, smooth curves of the river. And he knows that she is singing to him.

    Unable to resist, the young man reaches into the water to touch the woman, but as her hand wraps around his it is not warm flesh that he feels, but cold, rough and slimy scales and claws that dig painfully into his arm before he can pull away.Before he even has a chance to scream, the cold grip pulls him into the dark water and he disappears below the surface and to his doom, another young life lost to the Siren of the French Broad.”

    Below is a section of the original poem by Simms,

    “The murmur thus rose in his secret soul
    As beside the stream  he lay,
    And watch’d its billows, that, bounding
    With the rocks kept fearful play.

    But soon ‘midst the din a song rose,
    The fainting heart to cheer,
    A song as sweet as the evening bird,
    Still sings in the flowret’s ear.

    He look’d, and lo! in the foaming wave,
    That plays with the rocks below,
    A maiden glides without stretching arms
    And a bosom white as snow.

    A glimpse he sees, a sudden gleam,
    From an eye that shone as bright,
    As the single star that at midnight streams,
    Alone from the mountain height.

    Dark as the night her tresses float,
    Outflung by her bouyant arms,
    And, spread o’er her bosom, now half conceal,
    Now half betray her charms.

    And sung she then, with a pleading voice:
    “Thou faint’st with the noonday heat
    Thy brow is sad, thine eyelids droop,
    And sore with toil thy feet.

    Then come to me, -in a sweet embrace,
    I’ll soothe thy heart to rest,
    While thy burning cheek, as the wave flows by,
    Is pillow’d on my breast.”

    The syren thus-“oh! come to me!”
    And, won by her maiden charms,
    He sought the wave, but shudd’ring rushed,
    From the clutch of her death-cold arms.

    To the shore he fled, but alas! too late,-
    And this his dying sense could hear,
    The cruel notes of that syren song
    That late had won his ear.

    A plaintive strain of love no more,
    It rose with a fearful glee;
    “And death,” she cried “to the stranger bold,
    Who seeks embrace of me!”

    So there you have it, a feature on the mythological creature, the Siren. I hope you enjoyed learning a little about it and reading some folk lore that went with it. If you decide to do a little research on Sirens for yourself, you will find there are many versions out there.
    Let me know what you think about this creature and for fun, share an idea of a power or characteristic you’d give the Siren if you were writing your own version of the mythological creature. Just leave a comment for everyone to enjoy!

    If I were to write a Siren into an adventure story, I’d have her with wings and fish tails I think. Since they were cursed by Persephone’s mother out of grief and anger, I’d build off that. My Sirens would shed tears and it is in their tears their songs are heard across the waters, sad lullabies that lull men . The men would be under their spell upon first sight, willing to do whatever bidding the Sirens asked. The Sirens, wishing to be free of their curse,  and being cold and unfeeling creatures, would bid them to swim to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve  treasure. The men would drown in their attempts and the Sirens would continue to cry. Here’s a picture I think would sort of fit with my idea,

    pic 7 sirens

    I look forward to hearing your ideas.

    Till next time ~ Linda

     

    This entry was posted in Mythology.

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    Linda
    Linda

    I’m Linda Louise, one of the bloggers on this website and Colleen’s little sister. I’m just a girl in her mid-thirties who feels thirteen when I play outside with my boys, fifteen when I sing my heart out listening to tunes while driving by myself, and sixty five when I go out past ten at night. I have a thing for junior mints, Mt. Dew, shrimp and kale (though not all at once) and I have a crush on Superman. I still get girlish butterflies when I read Twilight, cry when I read These is My Words, and smile from ear to ear when I read Anne of Green Gables. I have nightmares about aliens on a regular basis and I have a bad habit of midnight snacking. I love everything sports, except golf (although can that honestly be considered a sport??), and I hate anything that slithers, hisses, or stings. I have a problem with giggling at inappropriate moments and I sometimes wish life was a musical. I love science, hate math, love Dr. Seuss, and hate olives. My family is my world and my joys come from their happiness. I’ve learned I don’t know much about anything and I live for a good adventure, naps, cuddles, stories, exceptional food and The Shire.