31 OCTOBER

THE CANNIBAL KING'S

DAUGHTER

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL · PART II

‘Young Odysseus,’ said Autolycus. ‘Do you know your mother birthed you against my wishes? 

 

She wanted me to call you Polyaretos, as one who had been ‘much prayed for’. But that was not a fitting name for men of our vein. I said, since I am one who wishes suffering to many men and women on this rich earth, let this child be named Odysseus. For we are all men and women of suffering in this family: and yet we will suffer no one.

 

Such a man am I; and such a woman was your grandmother. Her name was Mestra; and her father was a monster...'

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For the second part of our Halloween special, we revisit the story of King Erysichthon, sometimes called King Aethon, which we heard briefly in our last episode of the main series, The Dreams of Kings.  This episode is called The Cannibal King's Daughter.

 

 

This telling of the tale dives into and elaborates upon a part of the tale we skipped over in our first version: the story of King Aethon's daughter, Princess Mestra.  Cursed by the spirit of Hunger or Famine in a dream, King Aethon is possessed by an insatiable hunger which causes him to spend the wealth of his kingdom until he is on the edge of destitution. Our ancient sources tell how in order to afford more food, he sold his own daughter Mestra into slavery.  But Mestra had been either seduced or raped by Poseidon, and he gave her the gift of shapeshifting to escape her imprisonment. But when Mestra returned to her father, he continued to sell her into marriages with foreign Kings, so that he might take the bride price, and pull the trick again when she transformed and escaped from her new husband. According to Ovid, her final and lasting husband was Autolycus - the grandfather of Odysseus, who lived in mountains of Parnassus above Delphi, and was known as the King of Thieves.

Our version of this tale takes these last details of Mestra's story and expands and elaborates on them, by asking several questions. If Mestra was raped, which is in keeping with much of Greek mythology, did Poseidon help her simply because he had feelings for her?  Why did Mestra keep returning to her father, knowing that he would mistreat her? What relationship did she have with Autolycus, if he came finally to be her husband? And if King Aethon was willing to eat himself, why didn't he try to eat someone else? 

From these questions have been woven this elaboration of the tale of King Aethon and Princess Mestra beyond the story told in Ovid, a tale in which Mestra is pregnent by Poseidon, an outcast from respectable society, and where her fortitude, intelligence and supernatural ability catches the eye of an initially mocking Autolycus, making her the perfect candidate to become his consort, the Bandit Queen of Parnassus.  And at the heart of the tale, the horrifying answer to that final question... in The Cannibal King's Daughter.

THE ANCESTRY OF ODYSSEUS

​​We've called Mestra the grandmother of Odysseus in this episode, but Odysseus' mother Anticlea was actually said to be the daughter of Autolycus and Amphithea. We didn't find much information about her, however, and Mestra is a much more interesting character. Several of Autolycus' children (including Polymede, the mother of Jason) might have been born either to Amphithea or Mestra.  Perhaps, if there was no surviving ancestry for her, we might surmise they are both the same woman?

The frame of this story also explores different and conflicting traditions about the ancestry and parentage of the greek hero Odysseus. In our episode, Autolycus recounts the history of Odysseus' grandmother to him when he is visiting his grandfather's home, and returns home from a boar hunt in which he has been gored in the leg. This is a famous episode recounted in the Odyssey, which explained the origins of the distinctive scar which his old nurse Eurycleia recognises while bathing Penelope's strange guest - really a supernaturally disguised Odysseus.  The Odyssey also explains how it was his grandfather who named Odysseus when he was born to Anticleia and Laertes, when Autolycus was visiting his daughter on Ithaca.

 

But there was a competing tradition that Odysseus was not really the son of Laertes, but was in fact the bastard of King Sisyphus of Corinth, who had raped Autolycus' daughter as an act of revenge - because the King of Thieves had the audacity to steal from him.  Sisphyus was another famously crafty and trickster-like figure in Greek mythology, so linking Odysseus to both Sispyhus and Autolycus (as well as Autolycus' father, the god Hermes) must have been an idea with some appeal.

In our telling, Odysseus' birth and naming is translated from Ithaca to the caves of Mount Parnassus, before his mother Anticleia met and married Laertes - or 'the Islander' as Autolycus calls him. Mount Parnassus, a high mountain close to the abode of the gods, could not be more different than Ithaca, whose people are close to the wildness and lawlessness of the sea, qualities integral to the character and the myth of Odysseus. It is an irony which Autolycus does not let pass unobserved.

Please be aware that there are some disturbing ideas, imagery and soundscapes presented in this episode, so listener discretion is advised.

Content Warning: Horror, Body Horror, Sexual Violence, Rape, Disturbing Sounds & Scenes

Rick Scott
STORYTELLER

EPISODE CREDITS

Story interpreted by Rick Scott.
Sound editing, audio design and original illustrations by Rick Scott.
Podcast hosting by Anchor. Video and audiogram creation using Headliner.

Additional sound and effects sourced from the community at Freesound.org.

AUDIO CREDITS

 

Licensed/Approved Music

'Hidden Oceans of Europa' by Michael Levy on Album: Ascension of the Lyre
'Lampades (Nymphs of Hades)' by Michael Levy on Album: The Lyre of Hermes
'Lost in the Dark Forest of Questioning' by Michael Levy on Album: New Ancestral Music

'The Enigma of Existence' by Michael Levy on Album: New Ancestral Music

 

MICHAEL LEVY: https://ancientlyre.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/beautifullyre
Twitter: @ancientlyre

 

'Judas, Through Death, Pugatorio and Inferno (Biblical Ambient)' by Caleb Henessey on Album: Mediterranean

CALEB HENESSEY: https://calebhennessy.bandcamp.com/music
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calebhennessyscompositions

'ΨYXOΠOMΠOΣ' by Seikilo on Album: τo Káλεσµa τnς Moύσaς 

SEIKILO: https://seikilo.com/
LUTHERIOS MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: https://luthieros.com/

 

Incidental music, background ambience and sound effects by multiple authors sourced from Freesound.org. See below for the full list of audio files and attribution credits:

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