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The Metamorphoses

The Metamorphoses


by Ovid

The Metamorphoses Transformation Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation, but these citations refer not to the lines in Mandelbaum's edition, but to the original Latin.

Quote #4

And here, as Pentheus spies
the sacred rites with his profaning eyes,
the one who is the very first to sight
Echion's son – just as she is the first
to rush against him madly, and the first
to hurl a thyrsus at him – is his mother.
"Come, come, my sisters, both of you!" she shouts.
"A giant boar is roaming on our slopes:
I must tear him apart." Against him rush
all that mad crowd, attacking from all sides (3.710-715)

As you're probably starting to notice, the only thing Ovid loves better than stories about transformation is transforming his definition of transformation. That sneak. Here he shows us a couple of new ways of thinking about it. First of all, you have the transformation of the women of Thebes into wild, raving monsters, once they become devotees of Bacchus. At the same time, you have the transformation of Pentheus into a boar – though of course, this only happens in the imagination of his mother. Unfortunately for Pentheus, the truth doesn't do him any good. Even though he isn't really a boar, the women treat him as one, and tear him limb from limb.

Quote #5

What happened then was most incredible:
the wefts turned green; and all the hanging cloth
began to sprout with boughs, as ivy does;
a part became grapevines; where threads had been,
now twining tendrils grew; along the warp,
vine leaves began to sprout; the purple hue
that had adorned rich fabrics passed into
a purple hue that colored clustered grapes. (4.394-398)

This is another case where Ovid tries to show a connection between how something is now and how it was before. Here, he argues that the purple color of grapes comes from the purple dye of the daughters of Minyas's weaving, before it was transformed by the god Bacchus.

Quote #6

She gave herself to tears and then dissolved
into the very pool of which she had –
till now – been the presiding deity.
You could have seen the softening of her limbs,
the bones and nails that lost solidity.
Her slender hairs, her fingers, legs, and feet –
these were the first to join the waves. In fact,
the slenderest parts can sooner turn into
cool waters. Shoulders, back, and sides, and breasts
were next to vanish in thin streams. At last,
clear water flows through Cyane's weakened veins,
and there is nothing left that one can grasp. (5.425-437)

We didn't want to give the impression that all of Ovid's descriptions of transformation have some deep, philosophical meaning. Some of them are just plain cool, like this account of a water nymph turning into water. Here, Ovid is clearly enjoying giving us the creeps.

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