Study Guide

Minerva and Arachne Summary

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How It (Supposedly) Went Down

Summary – Brief

Minerva (Athena) hears a disturbing rumor while hanging out with the Muses. According to the rumor, a young girl named Arachne has recently boasted to her village that she is a better weaver than Minerva. Arachne has even issued a challenge, claiming that she will beat Minerva in a weaving contest if the goddess has the courage to accept. Outraged, Minerva disguises herself as an old woman and visits Arachne. She tries to persuade Arachne to take back the challenge. She argues that old age has made her wise, and that Arachne should heed her advice. Arachne, feisty as ever, grows angry at the old woman and ignores the advice. Again, Arachne demands that Minerva appear to accept her challenge. Minerva sheds her disguises and agrees to the contest. Oh yeah, it's on, baby.

The two set up looms and get crackin'. When the weaving is finished, a dumbfounded Minerva is forced to admit that Arachne's work is top-notch. This only makes Minerva angrier, and she begins whacking Arachne with a piece of wood from her loom. Minerva continues to beat Arachne until the young girl can't stand it any longer. To escape the beating, Arachne hangs herself. Seeing the poor girl dead, Minerva has a moment of pity. She brings Arachne back to life and then transforms her into a spider, so that she can continue her weaving. Nice one, Minerva.

Summary – Detailed

  • Minerva and Arachne begins while Minerva is chilling with the Muses. The muses are the nine daughters of Mnemosyne, goddess of memory, and it's their job to bring inspiration to artists around the world.
  • During her visit, the Muses tell Minerva a story about nine sisters who challenged them to a singing contest and got womped.
  • This story reminds Minerva about a rumor she recently heard while passing through Lydia. According to the rumor, some young upstart girl from Hypaepa has recently begun boasting that her skill at weaving is better than Minerva's.
  • The girl, Arachne, has become famous through all of Lydia for her talent. It's said that nymphs and other forest creatures will actually stop what they're doing to go and check her out. In fact, the girl is so sure of her skill that she's even challenged Minerva to a one-on-one weaving contest. Or so the rumor says.
  • Just in case you were curious, goddesses don't like it when you claim to be better than them. At anything. It makes them cranky. The more Minerva thinks about it, the more she realizes that she's ticked off at Arachne.
  • The Muses finish explaining how they turned their challengers into Magpies as punishment. Minerva decides that she kinda likes the idea of punishing mortals who challenge the gods.
  • With a wicked cackle, she sets out for Hypaepa.
  • The moment she arrives in Hypaepa, Minerva disguises herself as an old woman.
  • By "disguise" we mean she literally transforms herself into an old woman with grey hair and a limp. Goddesses can do that sort of thing.
  • Then she drops by Arachne's pad. She could have just dynamited Arachne's house into a glassy, smoking hole, but she's got trickier tricks up her sleeve.
  • So, old-lady-Minerva limps into Arachne's house and right away starts giving the young girl some unsolicited advice.
  • She explains that old age and experience have made her a wise old girl, and that wisdom suggests it's not smart to taunt the gods.
  • She counsels Arachne to confine her boasting to mortals only.
  • But Arachne fails to recognize the subtle warning in Minerva's words. She becomes outraged with the old woman, nearly slapping her.
  • If comparing herself to the gods wasn't enough to give Minerva conniptions, the prospect of tasting the back of a mortal's hand certainly is.
  • Arachne hollers at Minerva: "You know what, hon? Your problem is living too long." Sort of like saying, "you should just go away and die now." Kind of takes "sassy" to a whole new level.
  • She tells the old woman to go share her advice with someone who gives a flying fork.
  • Finally, she demands to know why Minerva hasn't answered her challenge. If the great and powerful Minerva is so awesome, why doesn't she come and prove it?
  • At this point Minerva discards her old woman disguise. Thunderdome time.
  • The two weavers set up their looms. (Looms are weaving devices. They're big, made out of wood; you might have seen one in a movie. They make nice antiques.)
  • They choose their wool and set it to their looms.
  • Then the weaving begins.
  • Minerva chooses to weave a tapestry depicting her victory over Neptune (Poseidon) during the battle to decide who would name the city of Athens.
  • In the four corners of the tapestry she weaves in pictures showing the terrible things that have happened to mortals who challenged the gods.
  • One corner shows Antigone, whom Juno (Hera) transformed into a stork.
  • Another corner shows Cyniras, whose daughters jumped off a cliff and were turned into birds.
  • Other stories grace the two remaining corners.
  • Arachne also chooses the gods as subject matter. But her tapestry shows the many crimes that the gods have committed, especially those against women. Jove (Zeus) is shown beside all the many women that he's deceived by transforming himself.
  • To fool Europa he turned himself into a bull.
  • For Antiope he was a satyr.
  • For Aegina he appeared as a flame.
  • ...and the list goes on.
  • Neptune (Poseidon), Apollo, and Saturn (Chronos) are also shown alongside the women they've deceived and mistreated. (The gods aren't very nice people when you think about it. But then again, they're not people. So there ya go.)
  • When the weaving is finished Minerva is forced to admit that Arachne's work is flawless. Unfortunately, admitting this only serves to make her angrier. And the subject matter of Arachne's weaving enrages her even more.
  • How dare this puny mortal display the crimes of the gods for everyone to see? (Gods always think of us as "puny" mortals.)
  • Minerva snatches up her shuttle (part of the loom, made of wood) and starts beating the livin' daylights out of Arachne.
  • Arachne tries to hide from the blows raining down on her like a sack full of Jenga Blocks but can't escape the angry goddess.
  • Eventually, when she can't stand it any longer, Arachne fashions a noose and hangs herself from a rafter to escape Minerva's wrath.
  • When Minerva realizes that the girl is dead, she's suddenly filled with pity.
  • Dropping the shuttle, she raises her hand and waves Arachne back to life. Then, she sprinkles her with hell-bane (an herb) and watches her shrink down into an itsy-bitsy spider.
  • She tells the spider that her punishment is to hang for the rest of her life, weaving her webs.
  • This punishment will be passed down to all of her children, forever.

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