You would imagine that a goddess who was the very picture of love, beauty and all things lovely in the world would live by certain rules that made sure to spread those emotions and feelings wherever she went. Yeah, no. Just like the rest of her Olympian family, Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, could be just as jealous, vindictive, nasty and vicious as any of the rest of them, completely dropping all of the window-dressing in return for some all out get-back when she felt the need.
And in a very obscure and seldom-told tale, the true colors of what lay behind the stunning good looks and talk of love for all came to the front of the line; let's talk about a young girl named POLYPHONTE (poll-ee-fon-tay), daughter of Hipponous and Thrassa (whose father was Ares and mother was Tereine, a daughter of the minor river god, Strymon! Talk about some godly blood running through her veins!)
Polyphonte was a beautiful yet plainspoken young lady who, when she became an adult, decided to venture up into the mountains in hopes of becoming a follower (and maybe even a priestess) of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. She wasn't all into the giggly, man-crazy baloney that many of her sisters and friends were into and really believed that following Artemis around on the eternal hunt sounded more to her liking.
The fact that Polyphonte had no desire to jump into the whole dating-and-glamour game back home came to the attention of the "source of love's" attention, and for whatever reason it must have SERIOUSLY tee'd Aphrodite off (it's never said why exactly and we can only guess!), because she vowed personal revenge on the poor, unsuspecting girl.
Being an Olympian meant that Aphrodite was quite keen on coming up with unusual ways to "get even" with someone for crossing her and screwing up her plans. It would never be easy enough to just off someone and call it a day; no, there would have to be some original thought and some style to revenge for it to be GOOD revenge. And in typical creepy Greek mythology fashion, Aphrodite had picked out a doozy for her vengeful plan.
Setting loose her son, Eros, with his magical "make you fall in love" arrows, she made Polyphonte get the hots for a nearby mountain bear (who probably had NO clue what the heck was going on with the whole situation and was pretty surprised by the whole thing.). One event led to another, and for the sake of not having to explain the activities involved, the bear had given Polyphonte a nine-month-long gift. Yes, she was now pregnant with Mr. Bear's unborn children (yes, plural, children.) Talk about a rough way to find out that the goddess of love was hating on you fairly fiercely (and for a really lame reason, as far as anyone could see!).
Oh, but it gets infinitely worse, as things tend to do in these tales. Artemis, who at first was pretty cool with Polyphonte coming up the mountain to join her, caught wind that the poor girl had been making time with one of her woodland buddies, and SHE got flaming hot mad at Polyphontes (she had no clue that Aphrodite was behind the whole thing...). Artemis was no better (and in a lot of ways, far worse) in the need for revenge for even the slightest annoyance, and now SHE decided to unleash some rather unfair punishment on the girl.
She turned all of the forest animals against Polyphonte so that the poor, frightened young girl had a stampede of moose, bears, deer, skunks, chipmunks and every other animal you might find in the deep woods out for her blood and heading her way in a mad rush for revenge! Her feet never touched the ground as she ran back down the mountain, ahead of the rabid crew of forest creatures, all the way back to the house of her father and relative safety.
Nine months later was when the worst of the punishment came to bear...literally. Polyphonte gave birth to two twin boys, yet these were certainly no ordinary bouncing baby bundles of joy; the twins were squalling half-bear, half-human monsters! She named them Agrius (ag-ree-us) and Oreius (Oar-ay-ee-us), and you can bet that their childhood was anything but normal, as they grew far faster than a normal human baby would, outgrowing clothes and eating Polyphonte and her father out of house and home.
But that wasn't even the worst of it; these two bear-headed nightmares were going to eventually grow to giant-size and gain a taste for human meat and blood in the process, no matter how many vegetables their mom trued to feed them at dinner. They paid absolutely NO attention to anything Polyphonte or granddad tried to tell them, ignored the angry shouts of the villagers, and simply dug right in to the buffet of human food that they found all around them, with no sad feelings about doing so, either.
They even told the gods to go shove things, and went so far as to feast on some of the priests and priestesses for the various Olympians which had temples in the area, and you just know THAT wasn't going to go over well, or go unpunished.
Sure enough, Zeus, the king of the gods, had had his fill of the rude, belching, farting, man-eating, temple-destroying bear-faced giants, and brought his son Hermes, the messenger god, into the throne room of the Pantheon on Mount Olympus. He informed Hermes that he was to punish the living crud out of the two bear-monsters in any way he saw fit or in any way that made him laugh and enjoy himself.
"Just get it done," Zeus said impatiently. Hermes nodded, a growing grin on his face, his original jokester's brain already filling up with zany ideas on how he was going to toast the two overly-rude beasts. A good many things raced through Hermes' head as he made his way down to the village; Dismemberment? Could be fun pulling the giants apart, body piece by body piece...
But then, as if out of nowhere, Hermes was intercepted by the god of war, Ares, who told him (in as menacing and as rough a way as only he could) that he wasn't too cool on Zeus' plan to wipe out his great-grandsons, and that he himself would personally stand in the way of any such destruction (and, Ares admitted, the idea that he was related to two huge, bear-faced manglers was kind of an honor as the giants WERE pretty unstoppable!).
Hermes and Ares verbally duked it out with each other until they came to a compromise; Hermes wouldn't kill them, and Ares would allow the messenger god to transform them into some less-threatening creatures. Agreed on that, Hermes busted out his magical transforming staff, the caduceus, and went ahead and mutated Orieus into something called an "eagle owl" (you know them as "horned owls) and then changed his brother Agrius into a vulture (per Ares' special request, since the vulture was a sacred bird to him!).
Just because he was feeling a little let down by not being able to take out his frustrations on and have his fun with the two bear-twins, Hermes (rather unfairly) zapped their mother, Polyphonte, and turned her into a small owl called a strix. Why? Who knows. It's Greek mythology! Why do the gods do anything half the time?
Hermes even went one further when a servant of Polyphonte's father stepped up and begged him not to transform Polyphonte; she got morphed into a green woodpecker for standing up to a god. Bad day for humans, great day for the worldwide family of birds!
Polyphonte in owl-form supposedly never ate or drank, spent her life hanging from the underside of a branch, upside-down, and made her whole mission in life announcing when war and horrible things were coming in the future. Her future owl/strix descendants (plural version; striges) would live on the outer edges of Tartarus, crying out when nasty wars and other awful catastrophes were about to happen.
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