Io

This is a post for my March book challenge, #marchmonthofmythology.

This is a story about the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (where ‘the wrong place’ is with Zeus, and ‘the wrong time’ is when his wife comes along).

That awkward moment when you turn your girlfriend into a cow

Io was a beautiful princess, who had caught the eye of Zeus. One day he came down from Mount Olympus to woo her. He didn’t want anyone (read: Hera) to notice what he was up to, so he covered the whole area with clouds. Zeus and Io were having a great time together, when Hera noticed a very suspicious cloud cover…

She hurried down to earth to scold her husband, but when she found him underneath the clouds, there was no one with him. No one, except a rather beautiful cow. Zeus was lounging casually under a tree, trying to act like nothing strange was going on, but he couldn’t fool his wife. After he evaded her questions about what he was doing here and what was up with the clouds, she asked him about the cow.

“That’s a very beautiful cow you’ve got there,” she said sweetly.

“Hm? Cow? Oh, I hadn’t noticed it. It’s not mine, I guess it just happened to be here.”

“Then you don’t mind if I take it?”

Zeus had no choice but to agree, or he would have had to admit the truth. So Hera took poor little Io, which was of course the cow’s true identity, and had her guarded by Argos, a giant with a hundred eyes all over his body. His eyes took turns sleeping, and so he never lost sight of whatever it was he was guarding.

Hermes to the rescue

Zeus could not reach Io while she was being guarded by Argos, so he sent Hermes to free her instead. He put Argos to sleep by telling him stories (and possibly transcripts of the council of the gods), playing the pan flute, and finally by using the sleep inducing powers of his caduceus. Once the giant was asleep, Hermes killed him, and Io was free.

Hera was not about to give up, however. After transferring the eyes of Argos onto her favourite bird (the peacock) as a sign of thanks, she sent a gadfly (a type of fly that bites livestock) to torment poor Io – who was still a cow! The fly chased Io all around the Mediterranean, until she reached Egypt and was finally restored to her human form by Zeus. She ended up giving birth to two children by him, a boy and a girl, standing at the root (or top? I’m not sure how this works) of a family tree with many famous heroes and other lovers of Zeus.

Io – caught in the middle

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Just as Io was caught in the middle of an argument between Hera and Zeus, there are many characters who end up in trouble that was either not at all or only partly their fault. Take the Baudelaire orphans:Β they get into the most terrible situations all because their late parents happened to be rich (and part of a secret organisation).

The other books in the picture also have characters who got caught in the middle, but they’re mainly there for other challenge prompts (apparently it’s St. Patrick’s Day).

 

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