Why did Nisus curse Scylla?

Scylla cutting off the magical lock from her father’s head, photo taken from https://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/scylla.html

Literature is such a delight to feast upon that a reading and rereading of old texts reveal us a new perspective in seeing them.

It was in November 2020 when I published my digest of the myth of Nisus and Scylla. It was my report topic for my Mythology and Folklore class. I consulted two translations of the book, and that endeavor shall never be forgotten.

Briefly, why did Nisus curse Scylla?

Women are hysterical sometimes that their psychology is permeated by nothing. Scylla, reading the condition of the war, made her bargain. She couldn’t resist her desire for Nisus. Basically, she has lost her mind. Right at the top of the castle, she concluded that by giving him the “magical lock,” Nisus will finally win, because the magical lock was the only thing that protects their city from external aggression. She would do it by getting it from her father’s head, at his chamber while he is asleep. Of course, the lady is focused on her goal: she will bargain with Nisus that his victory shall only happen should he marry Scylla.

But her plan was ruined with an unanticipated response from Nisus — he cursed her for her unforgivable betrayal.

Three things can be taken from here:

The language of war is glory

First, Nisus is a warrior. That means he understands war. War can never be won ingloriously. The language of war is glory. Though the war has been going on endlessly, as long as the two opposing troops are not complaining, there is no way that a single woman can intervene and say, “I want it to end,” out of her own frustration and boredom as she watches from the top of the castle. Men who go to war are not like that. For them, there is honor in going into a war. Moreover, glory in a war cannot be possible when one troop has an advantage the other neither knows nor possesses. More likely, these men take war for fun. Basically, men’s way of having fun can never be understood by a narrow-minded woman like Scylla.

It will be shameful for Nisus and his men to win war without glory.

Marriage is a means to end a war

Second, marrying Scylla is problematic. Marriage in those days was simply a means to end a war. Fusion of powers. If no one can beat an enemy, tame the enemy by making an alliance. Befriend the enemy. This sounds quite appealing, but there was a magical lock. If marriage alone serves its purpose for the cessation of war, then it might be a plausible alternative for Nisus. But there was a goddamn lock, which again leads us to the previous point: winning war not with might.

Nisus was simply turned off

Third, Nisus cannot simply afford to marry a woman who can betray her father and her people. This is the lack of moral compass for Scylla which Nisus vehemently disapproves of. And, who knows? Scylla might be utterly ugly as well.



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When you’ve read it, write about it. An English major. Interested in psychoanalysis, ideology, and literature. Reach me at cbryankrister@gmail.com