I wanted to thank Raye Wagner, and her version of Artemis for hosting today’s Mythology Monday. Raye is the author of a novel called Curse of the Sphinx and it’s prequel novella, The Sphinx. To see my review of the novella, click here.
The Origin of the Sphinx is a tale that haunts like a somber lullaby; the ache lingering even after the melody has faded.
I’ve tried to be understanding, sympathetic even; after all Apollo is my brother. He’s always been a bit rash, impulsive… impetuous. And there can be good in that at times. But not in this story.
It was said by some that Hera created the beast. That she was responsible for setting the Sphinx at Thebes to cause horror and loss to the city and its populace. Hera’s infidelity was nothing if not retaliation, and giving birth to your daughter is hardly the creation of a monster.
Phoibe, born of Hera, was the result of a dalliance with a Greek shepherd. She was raised by her father and his wife for only a few years before being entrusted to a humble weaver-woman. The woman loved the young demigod, and watched over her carefully…tenderly.
Are you familiar with the tale of the Judgment of Paris? It illustrates both Hera’s beauty, and her power. She is like a bright rose nestled amongst sharp thorns. Or lightening that strikes a blackened sky; Hera is a dazzling presence that commands attention. The mortal tongue lacks words to describe her exquisiteness, and her daughter was similarly blessed. Or cursed? She was every bit as magnificent as her mother in appearance, but Phoibe’s sweet vulnerability set her apart.
Of course, she would attract attention of the gods.
Apollo saw her first and made his claim. He swore he would destroy anyone or anything that harmed her. I have never seen him so enamored. His eyes lit up when he spoke of her, and his happiness radiated until it was nearly palpable. The sun shone brightly that year; the summer was much longer than it should have been. He would leave Olympus in the middle of counsel meetings, sneak out from his temple – even when worshipers were present – just to be with her. He laughingly told me of a time that a petitioner was making a sacrifice to him and he just disappeared: Phoibe had called his name.
Apollo was reckless in his love. Phoibe was his air, his song, his sunshine.
She refused him. She had never been in love with him, or if she had, it was not of the lasting persuasion. Mad with grief, Apollo fled, and buried himself in… only the gods know what. But immortality kept him from utter destruction.
His love turned sour, and Apollo festered in his agony. Drunk with bitter jealousy, he appeared the night Phoibe gave birth to her first child. He killed his rival and again begged Phoibe to be with him. When she refused, he lashed out. His pain was a weapon and he cursed the young daughter that should have been his. That should have loved him. That should have called him father.
Apollo’s curse transformed the cherubic baby into an immortal monster. Part human, part eagle, part lion. Still breathtaking. The Sphinx.
The weaver-woman raised the creature. She gave her the love of a mother, but this love could not erase the bitterness of Apollo’s curse. She has travelled much, this cursed one. Egypt, the Far East, Thebes…
It was in Thebes that she found happiness; a sense of belonging. It was in Thebes that the Sphinx fell in love.
Love. It is gentle and warm as soft candle glow. Yet the flame has power to become an inferno, capable of consuming even the gods.
The dawn of the Sphinx? It is a tale filled with love.
Raye has spent half her life immersed in books (reading not swimming), but stopped believing she could write fiction after the sixth grade. Her teacher thought her writing was “disturbed”, and, at a parent-teacher conference, asked her mother to seek counseling for her.
Years later, with both Bachelors and Masters degrees in nursing, Raye reduced her practice to be at home with her family. Her children would say she read more, which is probably be true. One afternoon, as she sat out on the patio watching her boys play in the kiddie pool, inspiration struck, and she began recording the legend behind the Greek myth of the Sphinx.
Raye lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, a pair of kids she claims as her own, and a dog named George.
Origin of the Sphinx is her first publication, and the beginning of the Sphinx series.
Incidentally, she didn’t get counseling all those years ago.
She might still need it.