You may know that I am reading the novels of Iris Murdoch in sequence. I’m currently reading The Bell (for the third time) and enjoying it a great deal. Some say it is her most approachable novel. In any case, the more versed you are in mythology, Plato, Buddhism, and the like, the more deeply you can appreciate her novels. To that end, I bought myself a nice reading copy of The Metamorphoses, written by Ovid. My intent was to read all of these myths and become a better Murdoch reader as a result. I acquired it last fall, and I haven’t gotten through the introduction yet.
But never mind about that.
One of the stories that has always interested me is that of Daphne, a nymph who was being pursued by the rapacious, salacious Apollo. About to be subdued, she begs for deliverance from various sources (her father, who is a river god, and others) and is transformed into a laurel tree.
And so much for today’s mythology lesson. What interests me is how this transformation has been depicted in art through the ages.
You get the idea.
It’s fascinating (to me, anyway) what the sources of these myths are, how the ancients understood their worlds by telling these stories. What seems consistent in these depictions is that Daphne is transformed in an upright position. What might have inspired that understanding?
I think those are all bogus, PG-13 depictions and that the real inspiration for this myth was something a bit more . . . graphic. Behold this tree in a park not far from my house: