Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 9: Alcmena and Galanthis Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Hercules becomes a god, Iole marries his son Hyllus on Hercules’s instruction, and she becomes pregnant. Alcmena, Hercules’s mother, tells Iole that she hopes the gods will be kinder to Iole in childbirth than they were to her.
Alcmena, as a mortal woman pregnant with a god’s child, understandably has a difficult time giving birth. The gods do not help her, likely because Juno is angry that Jupiter has cheated on her again.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
When Alcmena went into labor with Hercules, the pain was unbearable. Alcmena prayed to Lucina, the goddess of childbirth, begging for assistance. Lucina sat with her legs crossed, ignoring Alcmena. One of Alcmena’s loyal servants, Galanthis, realized that Queen Juno was cursing Alcmena. So Galanthis went up to Lucina and lied, saying Alcmena had had her baby. Lucina sprang to her feet to greet the new baby, and the spell on Alcmena was broken: Hercules was instantly born. Furious that Galanthis had tricked her, Lucina turned the servant into a weasel.
The story of Alcmena and Galanthis is an example of a time when a human being is more helpful and merciful than the gods. Galanthis, realizing that Alcmena is being cursed, deceives Lucina in order to ease the pain of her labor. From the gods’ perspective, Galanthis is viewed as disrespectful and arrogant for deceiving the gods, but from a human perspective, Galanthis is a kind and heroic savior.
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon