Greek Mythology in Sun, Moon, and Talia

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Sun, Moon and Talia is an Italian fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 book, Pentamerone. It is one of the earliest and more sophisticated versions of Sleeping Beauty, following adult themes of rape, sexuality, infidelity and murder – far different from the later and softer versions of the tale (Hallett & Karasek, 2009). In Sun, Moon, and Talia, Basile uses various references to figures in Greek mythology. These references offer sophisticated portrayals of his characters’ personalities. Through examining these Greek figures, their identity, history and position in Greek mythology, one can draw parallels between the characters and their plights in Basile’s tale. In Basile’s story, Scylla and Charybdis are mentioned by the Queen when she says to the King’s secretary, “Listen, my son, you are between Scylla and Charybdis, between doorpost and the door, between the poker and the grate” (Hallett & Karasek, 2009). Historically, Scylla and Charybdis were sea monsters situated across one another on the banks of the narrow Strait of Messina. Scylla lived in a cave facing the west and was a gruesome sight with twelve feet, six longs necks and heads with three rows of close-set teeth. She would capture sailors from every ship that passed by with each of her mouths. On the cliff opposite her resided Charybdis. Three times a day she would absorb and regurgitate the water of the passage creating a dangerous whirlpool (Keightley, 1838, p.271). The Queen’s mention of Scylla and Charybdis is grouped with other harsh and narrow conditions. The phrase ‘between Scylla and Charybdis’ is a Greek idiom used to describe two equally perilous alternatives, neither of which can be passed without encountering and probably falling victim to the other. It is used similar to the English idiom ‘between a rock and a hard place’. The Queen uses the harsh words to compel the King’s secretary to give testimony to the activities of her husband. Another Greek figure mentioned in...
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