Calydonian Boar

Variations: Kalydonian Boar

Calydonian Boar

The tragedy of the Calydonian Boar started when King Oineus of Calydon made a sacrifice of firstfruits that left out Artemis. The vengeful goddess sent a monstrous boar to ravage Aitolia. This Calydonian boar was the size of a bull, with red eyes, a high stiff neck with bristles rising like spears, tusks as big as an elephant’s, and fire and lightning flashing from its mouth. It gored people and livestock, plundered the crops, burned the fields, and ruined the harvest.

Oineus begged all the heroes of Greece to save him from the boar. They responded. The team that was formed to hunt the boar included Oineus’ son Meleager, the twins Castor and Polydeuces, Theseus of Athens, Jason of Iolcos, Iphicles of Thebes, Eurytion of Phthia, and Atalanta of Arcadia, among many others. The presence of Atalanta, a woman and a skilled hunter, ruffled a few feathers; some of the men thought it beneath them to hunt with her. Meleager made sure to silence dissent before heading out to find the boar.

Althaia, mother of Meleager and wife of Oineus, watched her son leave without fear. Why would she be afraid for his life? Did the Moirai not foretell that he would only die once a certain log was burnt up – a log that she kept safely locked away in a chest? What could the boar possibly do to him? Her brothers, the sons of Thestios, also went with the party, but she had faith that nobody would come to harm.

It wasn’t hard to find the Calydonian boar. Its spoor was a wake of death and destruction. The sight of the hunting party drove the boar into a furious rage, and the hunters quickly became the hunted. Enaesimus tried to turn and run, but was hamstrung. Nestor narrowly escaped death by using his spear to pole-vault to safety. Hippasus’ thigh was gashed open. Peleus accidentally killed Eurytion with his javelin in the heat of battle. It was Atalanta that drew first blood with an arrow behind the boar’s ear, an action that earned Ancaios’ scorn. “A man’s weapons will always be better than a girl’s! Watch this!” Ancaios hefted his axe just in time to get disemboweled by the boar. Finally Meleager himself stabbed the boar’s flank, killing it.

In due course the boar was skinned and its magnificent hide taken, to be offered to the most valorous of the party. Meleager gave it to Atalanta without hesitation. The sons of Thestios, his uncles, were furious. “A mere woman does not deserve such a prize”, they grumbled. “If Meleager won’t take it, it is ours by right”. Tempers flared. The uncles took the skin by force, provoking Meleager to draw his sword and kill both of them.

Althaia did not take the news well. When she heard her brothers were dead, she seized Meleager’s log and tossed it into the fire in a fit of rage. Meleager was burned up from within and died in agony, envying Ancaios’ swift death at the boar’s tusks. Althaia went on to kill herself in a fit of conscience. Meleager’s sisters wept bitterly until Artemis transformed all but two of them into guineafowl.

So it goes.

References

Buxton, R. (2004) The Complete World of Greek Mythology. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London.

Ovid, Humphries, R. trans. (1955) Metamorphoses. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.

Smith, R. S. and Trzaskoma, S. M. (2007) Apollodorus’ Library and Hyginus’ Fabulae. Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis.

Erymanthian Boar

Erymanthian Boar

The Erymanthian Boar was a monstrous boar that made its home around Mount Erymanthos in Arcadia. It ravaged the land of Psophis, killing people and livestock and tearing up crops.

Heracles was commanded to bring the Erymanthian boar alive for his fourth labor. Along the way the demigod had an unfortunate and tragic encounter with the centaurs, one which would have severe repercussions in the future. Eventually Heracles found the boar and scared it out of its thicket with a mighty shout. After a long chase, the boar was tired out and and forced it into a snowdrift, where it was easily captured and brought back to Eurystheus. In a comic scene that graces many a Grecian urn, the cowardly king hid in a large storage jar until Heracles took the boar away.

After that the boar presumably met its demise, either at the hands of Heracles or elsewhere. The tusks of the Erymanthian boar were on display at the sanctuary of Apollo in Cumae, Italy, but Pausanias believed this claim to be highly dubious.

References

Buxton, R. (2004) The Complete World of Greek Mythology. Thames & Hudson Ltd, London.

Pausanias, Levi, P. trans. (1979) Guide to Greece, volume 2: Southern Greece. Penguin Books, London.

Smith, R. S. and Trzaskoma, S. M. (2007) Apollodorus’ Library and Hyginus’ Fabulae. Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis.

Bingfeng

Variations: Ping-feng, Pingpeng, Chuti/Ch’ou-t’i

Bingfeng final

The Bingfeng is an odd creature from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. It looks like a black pig with an elongate, tubular body, and it has two heads, one at each end. It may be found in the land of Shaman Xian. Borges, who referred to it as the Ping-feng and sourced it from the T’ai Kuang Chi, located it in the land of Magical Water.

Guo Pu speculated that the presence of two heads would have made the bingfeng extremely stubborn. Wen Yiduo, on the other hand, believed the heads were symbolic of hermaphroditism, representing the separate sexes.

A number of other two-headed Chinese animals have been recorded, but they have not been described in much detail. Their symbolism is assumed to be the same.

The Pingpeng, found on the mountain of Aoaoju in the Great Wilds to the West, is very similar but has two heads left and right, instead of front and back. It is probably the same animal as the Bingfeng.

The Chuti, or Ch’ou-t’i according to Borges, is found in the Great Wilds to the South between the Red River and the Desert of Shifting Sands. It also has two heads left and right, and is depicted with doglike features.

References

Borges, J. L.; trans. Hurley, A. (2005) The Book of Imaginary Beings. Viking.

Strassberg, R. E. (2002) A Chinese Bestiary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. University of California Press.

Puaka

Variations: Puwaka, Puaki

Puaka

The Puaka (“Pig”) is a Dusun demon that guards water in eddies, and resembles a pig with a razor-sharp tongue. Puakas like to feed from trees, and stand on each other’s backs until they reach the branches.

When you meet a Puaka, it will attack if you move, and come to a halt if you stop. If it catches up with you, it will lick your bones clean. To lose the Puaka it is recommended to cross a stream; the creature may follow you across the stream, but once on dry land it will pause to lick itself dry, licking the flesh off its bones in the process.

“Puaka” and similar terms have meant pig in a number of languages – puaka in Rarotongan, Mangarevan, Rotuma, and Malay, vuaka in Fiji, puwaka in Malay, pua’a in Samoan, puaa in Tahitian, Marquesan, and Hawaiian, buaka in Tongan, and poaka in Maori. While this has been alternately compared to the Sanskrit sukara, the Latin porcus, and the English porker, the word seems to have had its own unique Polynesian origin. In some areas puaka has come to denote the pig-like demon; sometimes it loses its meaning as “pig” altogether, possibly due to the influence of Islam.

References

Mackenzie, D. A. (1930) Myths from Melanesia and Indonesia. Gresham Publishing Company, Ltd., London.

Boongurunguru

Variations: Bonguru

Boongurunguru

According to the mythology of the Solomon Islands, there was once a time when the waters flooded the Earth. This great flood, the Ruarua, engulfed all of the islands, even the 4,000 feet high San Cristoval hills; those drowned in it turned into stone pillars, which can still be seen at Mwata. It was Umaroa, leader of the Muara clan, who saved his people by taking them, a sacred stone, and pairs of all the animals on board a great canoe. When the waters receded, Umaroa made landfall at Waimarai in the Arosi district, and offered a sacrifice in thanks. From there an adaro descended from a rainbow and guided them to their new home.

Umaroa is now buried there, and his sacred stone was laid on top of him. The area is now rich with magic, and visitors have to observe certain rules to avoid bad luck. Any trees cut down and left there will cause the lumberjacks to wander in circles, always returning to the cut tree. If there is a rainbow above the river, it cannot be crossed without making an offering to the adaro first. Names have particular strength there; ropes cannot be called ari but instead must be referred to as kunikuni (“to let down”), otherwise snakes will be summoned immediately.

Of the spirits there, the most terrifying is Boongurunguru, the “pig-who-grunts”, the demon pig of Umaroa. He takes the form of a huge boar with ‘ama’ama ferns growing on his flattened head, and a buzzing nest of hornets located under his chin. He leads a herd of boars, all of them Boongurunguru, through the forest, goring and trampling anyone in their path. The appearance of a Boongurunguru foretells death; if the entire herd enters a village, everyone there will die. The boars get smaller and smaller as they approach a village, finally sneaking in at the size of mice, but they are no less deadly at that size.

If one hears Boongurunguru grunting and mentions that there must be pigs nearby, they are immediately surrounded by hundreds of venomous snakes – in front, behind, on either side, and falling out of the air.

This is because Boongurunguru has standards, and objects to being called a pig.

References

Fox, C. E. (1924) The Threshold of the Pacific. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., London; Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Mackenzie, D. A. (1930) Myths from Melanesia and Indonesia. Gresham Publishing Company, Ltd., London

Ragache, C. C. and Laverdet, M. (1991) Les animaux fantastiques. Hachette.