Mythology Monday: Pygmalion and Galatea

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Once upon a time, there was a woman made of stone. She was beautiful and perfect and strong. Until one day, she was found by a lonely man who could not find a woman to love him.

Blind to her beauty, Pygmalion took a chisel to her and reshaped her to better fit his desires. Though her flesh softened and her shape changed, she remained strong and unchanged within.

Frustrated, the man appealed to the gods. “The women of Cyprus are all poor and whores and unsuited to a man of my station. Breathe life into this stone, and I shall build a great temple in your honor.”

“The city of Cyprus is filled with women made of flesh and bone,” The goddess of wisdom reasoned. “Perhaps the problem does not lie with them.”

“Do not blame the prey when you are not worthy of the hunt,” said Artemis.

“Never.” Ares’s eyes glittered with disdain.

“Build me a temple that touches the sky and the woman is yours,” decreed the God-King.

Pygmalion agreed and when the last stone of the temple was set into place, Zeus breathed life into the statue, hollowing out her insides, removing every trace of who she once was and replacing her very essence with what Pygmalion wished her to be.

According to the myth, she was beautiful, dedicated, and obedient to her husband’s every whim. The perfect wife.

But I know better than anyone that perfection has a price.

~@~

I’m going to be honest, I *hate* this myth. I hate the message it sends. I hate that it’s so popular. Everything about this myth makes me feel kind of sick. So be warned, my distaste WILL be reflected in my tone. But it’s important in my next book. So…mine it for spoilers.

Pygmalion was a skilled sculptor who grew tired of he local prostitutes (technically these women pissed off Aphrodite, so she cursed them into prostitution). Apparently every woman he met, ever, was unworthy of his love, so he made one of his own. He carved a beautiful, pure, clean woman, and fell in love with it.

Like, really in love with it.

At Venus’ next festival, Pygmalion made a sacrifice on the alter and prayed for a girl who was like his statue. He later returned home, began to make out with his statue, and noticed its lips were warm.

Let’s pause there for a minute. Pygmalion did not go home assuming his statue would be alive. He didn’t check it for a pulse or anything. He didn’t even ask Aphrodite to bring his statue to life. He asked for a girl *like* his statue to appear on his doorstep (where he likely would declare she was unworthy, slam the door, and start a war of epic proportions). The idea that his statue could come to life had not actually occurred to him before he started making out with it.

Take from that what you will.

Anyhow, the statue comes to life and Pygmlion names it Galatea, or Galathea, or Elise. That last name you may want to remember when you read Venus and Adonis. Just sayin.

They get married and have a daughter named Paphos, who had the Island of Paphos named for her, near the rock of Aphrodite (where Aphrodite was born). They also had another daughter named Metharme who married King Cinryas, who had a daughter named Myrrah, who slept with her father and had a child named Adonis. More on him next week.

As much as I hate this myth, it’s become a major part of Aphrodite’s trilogy.  My favorite part of studying mythology is seeing where the myths intersect. They’re all connected, which makes my job of rewriting them a lot more fun.

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