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Callisto Summary

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

  • Surprise, surprise: Zeus gets all hot and bothered about the beautiful nymph, Callisto. The trouble is that Callisto is a follower of Artemis, which means she has sworn to stay a virgin all her life. To get around this little hiccup in his plan of seduction, Zeus disguises himself in the form of Artemis and seduces Callisto.
  • Next thing you know, Callisto is pregnant. Though she tries to hide it, Artemis finds out and transforms her loyal follower into a bear.
  • In the end, Zeus finally does something almost nice and prevents his and Callisto's son, Arcas, from killing she-bear Callisto.
  • The king of the gods then places both mother and son in the sky as constellations, where they shine to this day as Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.
  • What's the verdict: tragedy or happy ending?

The Less Short Story

  • The beautiful nymph, Callisto, is living the good life in the forests of Arcadia.
  • (Just FYI: Some versions of the myth say she was a human princess, daughter of the Arcadian king, Lycaon.)
  • Callisto spends most of her days hunting and frolicking in the woods with Artemis and all the goddess's other nymph followers.
  • Like the rest of Artemis's chaste clique, Callisto is sworn to stay a virgin just like her patron goddess.
  • Zeus spots the gorgeous nymph and thinks she's prettiest thing he's seen since, well, the last innocent young maiden he seduced.
  • Knowing that Callisto would never break her vows to her beloved goddess, Zeus decides to seduce the girl in the form of Artemis herself.
  • Callisto is chilling alone in a little grove, when "Artemis" approaches her and gives her a big ol' kiss.
  • The nymph thinks this is kind of uncharacteristic behavior for her virginal goddess, but what can she do? She's supposed to do whatever Artemis says.
  • At the last moment, Callisto figures out that it's really Zeus in disguise, but it's too late. Callisto's virginity has been taken.
  • Oh, and to make matters worse, Callisto soon figures out that she's pregnant.
  • Horrified at what Artemis will do, Callisto tries to hide her pregnancy as long as she can.
  • One day, though, Artemis decides it'd be fun for Callisto and the nymphs to all bathe together in a forest pool.
  • Callisto is all like, "Skinny dipping, huh? Aw sorry, goddess, I just ate. Wouldn't want to get cramps or whatever."
  • Artemis doesn't buy any of Callisto's excuses, though, and has the other nymphs strip Callisto to see what she's hiding.
  • Everyone is shocked and horrified to see Callisto's condition.
  • Callisto tries to tell her goddess what happened, but Artemis doesn't buy it. And next thing Callisto knows, she's been transformed into a she-bear.
  • (In some versions, Artemis transforms Callisto. In other versions, Artemis transforms Callisto and then shoots her. Um…yeah. And in others, Hera transforms Callisto. Just mixin' it up.)
  • The she-bear formally known as Callisto eventually gives birth to Zeus's son, a kid named Arcas (who evidently came out as a human even though his mom was a bear).
  • Eventually, some hunters spot the toddler hanging out with a she-bear and take him to be raised in the court of King Lycaon.
  • The years go by and Callisto is still a bear, shambling around the woods doing whatever it is that bears do.
  • One day, her son goes hunting and spots his Mama Bear rustling in some bushes.
  • He was too little when he left his Mom to remember his bear-y beginnings, so he raises his spear to skewer what he thinks is any old wild beast.
  • At this moment, Zeus looks down and says, "Man, it would be really messed up if I let this go down, since it's all kind of my fault."
  • So Zeus waves his godly hand and transforms Mama Bear and Baby Bear into constellations. These days, Callisto shines in the sky as Ursa Major and Arcas twinkles as Ursa Minor. In the US of A, the brightest stars of these constellations are called the Big and Little Dipper. We bet you've heard of 'em.

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