Study Guide

The Calydonian Boar Hunt Summary

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How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

When King Oineus of Calydon forgets to make sacrifice to Artemis, the goddess sends a gigantic boar to ravage the land. The king rounds up a big group of Greece's most famous heroes to slay the beast and places his son, Meleager, at the head of the hunting party. The beast is slain, but when Meleager awards the boar's hide to the huntress, Atalanta, who drew first blood, trouble erupts in the party. Meleager's uncles try to take the hide from Atalanta, but Meleager kills them. When Meleager's mother, Althea, hears of this, she causes Meleager's death by throwing a log on a fire. (Weird death, right? It's a magic log. You'll see in the long version.)

The Less Short Story

  • The story starts out happily enough when King Oineus and Queen Althea of Calydon have a bouncing baby boy named Meleager.
  • It gets ominous pretty fast when the Fates show up in person to tell Althea that her son will die on the day that the log burning in the hearth is totally consumed.
  • Althea jumps up, extinguishes the log, and hides it, thinking that she's saved her little munchkin.
  • "We'll see about that," say the Fates and disappear.
  • Meleager grows up to be a famous hero, probably helped by the fact that the hidden log makes him invulnerable.
  • Some say that he joins the crew of the Argonauts and is involved in all kinds of awesomeness while on the journey.
  • Some also say that Atalanta, the famous huntress, was on the voyage as well, and that the two had a thing for each other the whole time.
  • Wait, isn't this story supposed to be about a boar?
  • Oh, yeah, we're getting to that.
  • Back in Calydon, King Oineus is getting a little sloppy with his sacrifices to the gods.
  • After a sweet harvest, he forgets to make sacrifice to Artemis, who gets majorly ticked off.
  • The goddess of the hunt sends a gigantic boar to wreak havoc in Calydon.
  • See, we told you there'd be a boar.
  • This boar is seriously crazy too.
  • It's said that it's bigger than a bull, has huge sharp tusks, and thick sharp hairs that jut from it like spears.
  • Oh, and also it breathes fire.
  • (Dude.)
  • The Calydonian Boar's favorite pastimes include ripping up crops, tearing fruit trees up by the root, and goring anybody who tries to do anything about it.
  • Actually, most everybody is afraid to do anything because this monster is just too darn intense.
  • King Oineus decides it's time to call in the big guns.
  • He drafts his heroic son, Meleager, as well as a bunch of other famous Greek heroes to make bacon out of this mean piggy.
  • The list of heroes goes on and on, and it differs depending on who's telling the story.
  • Some of the more famous members of the hunting party include:
  • Laertes, father of Odysseus
  • Peleus, father of Achilles
  • Telamon, father of Ajax the Great
  • Nestor, a hero of Trojan War
  • Caeneus, who was once a woman
  • Theseus, king of Athens
  • Pirithous, Theseus's BFF
  • Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Zeus
  • Also included were several of Meleager's uncles, Plexippus and Toxeus, from the nearby land of Curet, and everybody's favorite huntress, Atalanta.
  • Well, Atalanta definitely wasn't a favorite of anybody but Meleager, who had a major crush on her, despite the fact that he was already married to a lady named Cleopatra.
  • (Not to be confused with the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.)
  • The rest of the men grumble about having a woman along for the trip, especially Meleager's uncles.
  • "Pipe down," Meleager tells them. "Atalanta is awesome, and she's going whether you like it or not."
  • So, the heroic hunting party sets out into the woods to track down the ferocious beast.
  • Eventually they find the monster, but at first things don't go well at all.
  • Try as they might, nobody can seem to pierce the boar's thick hide with their spears, and several of the hunters are injured.
  • The boar tries to make a break for it into the trees, but Atalanta fires an arrow that sticks it right behind the ear.
  • (Ouch.)
  • Meleager cheers for Atalanta, which ticks off the men of the hunting party.
  • One guy named Ancaeus rushes at the boar swinging some axes, but the boar jabs him in the bowels with its giant tusk.
  • (We imagine the results looking like any of several Walking Dead episodes we've seen.)
  • Just then, Meleager releases a mighty war cry and pierces the boar with his javelin.
  • With that thrust, the vicious boar is slain.
  • Everybody cheers for Meleager as he triumphantly cuts the boar's hide from its carcass.
  • (Um, gross.)
  • The hunting party's joy swiftly turns to anger when Meleager declares that Atalanta should be awarded the hide of the boar since she drew first blood.
  • Plexippus and Toxeus, Meleager's uncles, are particularly insulted, saying that it's just totally wrong for a woman to get the prize.
  • Together the two rip the hide from Atalanta's hands.
  • Meleager sees red and kills his uncles on the spot.
  • "Anybody else got a problem with it?" growls Meleager, as his uncles' bodies thump to the ground.
  • Everybody else kind of just shifts awkwardly and stares at their sandals.
  • "That's what I thought," says Meleager, and everybody heads back to the palace.
  • The Calydonians are super happy that the boar is dead, but when Althea sees the bodies of Pexippus and Toxeus, who were her brothers, she gets angry.
  • Like really angry.
  • She marches to the place where she hid the log at Meleager's birth and throws it on the fire.
  • Just as the Fates predicted, Meleager dies as soon as the last bit of the log falls into ash.
  • After the death of her son, Althea feels so bad that she kills herself.
  • Some say that Meleager's wife, Cleopatra, kills herself as well out of grief.
  • In the end, the beast is slain, but there's no doubt it leaves a bloody path in its wake.
  • Artemis has had her revenge.

Alternate Versions

  • The version of the story above is taken from the writings of later writers like Ovid and Apollodorus.
  • An early version, which pops up in Homer's Iliad, actually doesn't mention Atalanta or the Fates' flaming brand.
  • Instead, Meleager and his uncles fight over the head and hide of the boar, each wanting it for themselves.
  • This starts a war between the Calydonians and the Curetes in which Meleager eventually dies.

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