Study Guide

Glaucus and Scylla

How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

Glaucus, a fisherman turned sea god, spots the beautiful nymph, Scylla, walking naked on the shore and is totally smitten. When he goes to ask her out, though, she's all like, "Ewww, yuk," because he's a slimy, fishtailed merman. Reasonable reaction.

Not one to take no for an answer, Glaucus swims to the sea witch, Circe, and begs her for a love potion to bend Scylla to his charms. Circe, however, thinks fishtailed Glaucus is mad sexy. She tries to get him to forget snobby Scylla and be with her, but Glaucus is just too hung up on the nymph.

The sea witch isn't good with rejection, so she gives Glaucus a potion that she says will make Scylla fall in love with him. When Glaucus pours it into a pool where Scylla likes to bathe, the lower half of the nymph's body is transformed into a pack of vicious, snarling dogs, and she must live out the rest of her days as a horrible monster. Hopefully that potion came with some kibble coupons.

The Less Short Story

  • Glaucus is a fisherman.
  • He likes it. It's kind of nice being a fisherman.
  • One day he catches some fish (as fisherman tend to do).
  • He sets all the fish, who are well past dead at this point, down in an untouched grassy meadow.
  • Suddenly, the fish come to life again and flip their way back into the sea.
  • (In some versions, Glaucus rubs them with an herb for seasoning.)
  • Glaucus has never seen any fish come back to life before so he's a little confused.
  • He guesses that the greenery the fish were laying in might have had something to do with it, so he decides to give it a taste. This may have been an experimental phase in our hero's life.
  • As soon as the juice of the herbs hits his bloodstream, Glaucus starts to feel funky.
  • For some reason, he has an uncontrollable urge to jump in the sea.
  • After plunging into the waves, he begins an incredible transformation.
  • His skin turns blue-green, he grows scales, and his legs morph into the tail of a fish.
  • "Holy moly," says Glaucus. "Those herbs turned me into a merman."
  • Glaucus starts swimming around his new watery home and runs into a school of sea gods like Oceanus and Tethys.
  • The sea gods think Glaucus is awesome, and they have a big welcoming ceremony for him.
  • They also let him know that the herbs made him immortal, along with turning him into a merman.
  • He's now a sea god like the rest of them.
  • "Well, that's cool," says Glaucus, and he goes on to an illustrious sea god career.
  • Glaucus becomes mad skilled in prophecy (some even say he teaches Apollo his skills).
  • In one of his most famous appearances, he helps out Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece.
  • One day, though, Glaucus emerges from the watery depths to see a beautiful nymph named Scylla walking naked down the beach.
  • Even though the sea god can see the future, he never saw the arrow of love coming for his heart.
  • Glaucus swims over to Scylla and tries to ask her out.
  • Scylla, who has a reputation for being a little snobby, is all like, "Ewwww, yuk. Go away. I'd never go out with a scaly merman like you."
  • Glaucus is like, "No baby wait! I'm not an ordinary merman. I'm a full-fledged god," and he fills her in on his whole back-story.
  • Still, Scylla is not impressed, and Glaucus swims away, rejected.
  • "We'll see about this," Glaucus grumbles to himself.
  • The sea god swims his way to the island of the notorious sea witch, Circe.
  • After telling her the whole story of Scylla's rejection, he begs Circe for a love potion to bend Scylla to his will.
  • (No means no, Glaucus!)
  • Circe has something else in mind, though.
  • She thinks Glaucus is super sexy, either in spite of the scales or because of them (whatever you're into, girl.)
  • Circe tells him to forget that snobby nymph and be with her.
  • Glaucus says he can't get over Scylla, though, and tries to let Circe down easy.
  • "Oh, alright," says Circe, blinking her eyes innocently. "I'll whip up that love potion for you in a jiffy. You just take it and pour it into a pool where this Scylla chick bathes, and she'll be yours in no time flat."
  • Glaucus swims away from Circe's island feeling great.
  • "Oh boy!" he says. "This stuff will really do the trick."
  • So, Glaucus pours it in a pool of water where Scylla likes to bathe and waits to claim his love.
  • (In some versions, it's Circe who pours the potion into the pool, muttering magical incantations as she does so.)
  • Soon, gorgeous Scylla comes along and slips naked into the pool.
  • (Does the girl ever wear clothes?)
  • The water starts to bubble all around her, and the lower part of her body that's submerged in the pool starts to feel a bit freaky-deaky.
  • Suddenly, a pack of vicious dogs thrust their heads from the water, snapping and snarling.
  • Scylla screams and pulls herself back on the shore, trying to get away from the monsters.
  • As she pulls her body out of the water, however, she realizes the dogs are growing out of her.
  • The monsters she was trying to get away from will be part of her forever.
  • Upon seeing Scylla's horrible transformation, Glaucus realizes what Circe has done, but he can't do anything about it.
  • Sadly, he swims away, leaving Scylla to her monstrous fate.
  • (Man, Glaucus, you could've hung around and kept her company or something.)
  • Afterward, Scylla spends tons of years sitting on a rock across from the whirlpool Charybdis, munching on whatever sailors passed through the narrow straight between them.
  • Some say, that eventually she turns into a deadly coral reef, that sinks any ships that get too near to it.