The Penelopiad


Margaret Atwood

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Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) Character Analysis

Penelope’s mother is a Naiad (a Water Nymph, or kind of minor goddess), wife of King Icarius of Sparta, and a Queen of Sparta. Characterized as neglectful and cold, Penelope’s mother shows little to no interest in Penelope’s life, preferring to spend time swimming in fresh water. She does, however, give Penelope the advice to “be like water” in order to get what she wants, leading to Penelope’s weaving scheme.

Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) Quotes in The Penelopiad

The The Penelopiad quotes below are all either spoken by Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) or refer to Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Canongate Books edition of The Penelopiad published in 2006.
Chapter 7 Quotes

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.

Related Characters: Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) (speaker), Penelope
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) Character Timeline in The Penelopiad

The timeline below shows where the character Penelope’s Mother (The Naiad) appears in The Penelopiad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: My Childhood
Storytelling, Textual Authority, and Falsehoods Theme Icon
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity vs. Greek Religion Theme Icon
...the reader that her father was King Icarius of Sparta and her mother was a Naiad (a river spirit). Penelope goes on to recount the story that, when she was a... (full context)
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Christianity vs. Greek Religion Theme Icon
Since Penelope is the daughter of a Naiad, however, drowning her was not a smart plan. Her connections to the water and its... (full context)
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Penelope goes on to describe her mother, who was beautiful but coldhearted. Penelope’s mother would slide away from Penelope if she tried to hug her. Penelope hopes that her... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Scar
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
Penelope’s mother attended her wedding, sitting on the throne next to Icarius with a pool of water... (full context)
Chapter 12: Waiting
Class, Womanhood, and Violence Theme Icon
...left Penelope to manage Odysseus’s estates herself, a task for which she was woefully unprepared. Penelope’s mother , who had not spent much time in the palace, never showed Penelope how to... (full context)