By Alex Espinosa
In the video game “Smite,” we are introduced to a truly terrifying monster, far worse than any nightmare, named Scylla. Few people believe that true evil exists; scholars believe that evil is nothing more than an opposing moral view point. They are wrong; evil does exist, and she waits just beneath the ocean waves. They call her Scylla, “Horror of the Deep,” for no ship that dares to sail through her waters goes unscathed and those poor few who cling to life tell tales of enormous tentacles tipped with slobbering hound heads, tearing ships to pieces with pitiless precision.
It is her laughter, they say, that is most horrible; childlike, reveling in blood soaked murder, as men are dragged into the abyss. Poets have tried to romanticize her and to provide some humanity to her monstrosity. They write that she was once a beautiful naiad (water nymph) that was cursed by a jealous priestess and transformed.
They are wrong, however, for she was born this way, born from the spilled blood of god, filled with jealousy and hate that fell into the sea. Yet, she did not remain in the sea; evil has come ashore, dragged by dog headed tentacles. Now Scylla wanders the streets, plucking us from our homes, filling the night with terrifying laughter. Scylla has come, and not even the gods can help us.
In “Smite,” Scylla is depicted as a little girl with dog headed tentacles coming from beneath her. In her mythology, however, she is depicted as either an older and beautiful woman with her dog headed tentacles coming from her back or as a massive sea living hydra. “Smite” has taken some creative liberties with her depiction.
As for the rest of her mythology, “Smite” is spot on. In the lore, poets tell that she was a nymph who was cursed by a jealous priestess.
In her mythology, Scylla really was indeed a beautiful naiad who was claimed by Poseidon, but jealous Amphitrite turned her into a monster by poisoning the water of the spring where Scylla would bathe. The lore also states that ships that sail through her waters never come out unscathed.
Scylla lives on one of the sides of the “Strait of Messina” between Sicily and the Italian mainland, with her counterpart Charybdis residing on the other. While Scylla is a giant sea monster, Charybdis takes the form of a giant whirlpool and sailing too close to either side would spell death to the sailors foolish enough to make the journey. In the mythology, avoiding Scylla would mean sailing too close to Charybdis and vice versa; it’s actually where the term picking between two evils comes from.
The video game does a great job recreating Scylla. Whether it’s in the game, mythology or in real life, one thing is for sure, Scylla is always waiting, ready for her next victim.