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Recap / The Metamorphoses: Arachne

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The tale of Arachne as told in Ovid's The Metamorphoses is one of the most widely recognized versions of the myth.

The story tells of a poor village girl who becomes famed for her skill in weaving. She created amazing tapestries, but refused to admit that she had learned from the goddess Minerva; she even boasted that she was more skilled. Athena came to her in the form an old woman and told her to take back what she had said about the goddess, and to ask Minerva for forgiveness. Instead of complying, Arachne became angry and asked why Minerva herself would not come and answer her challenge.

Minerva revealed herself and the two immediately begin their contest of weaving. Pallas Minerva's tapestry is a beautiful homage to the gods, depicting them in all their glory. In each corner, she includes an example of a mortal who dared to challenge a god and then faced the consequences.
Young Arachne's tapestry was quite different. She illustrated near twenty accounts of the gods deceiving, seducing, and raping mortals while in disguise. Most commonly portrayed is Jupiter, who is shown 9 times in the act of tricking women.note 

Despite its off-putting content, the tapestry was gorgeous. Arachne's victory was unmistakable. Enraged by her loss, and the gall of a human girl to so blatantly mock the gods, Minerva destroyed the tapestry and began to beat Arachne with one of her shuttles. Desperate to end the pain, Arachne hung herself. Minerva saw this and immediately began to feel pity for the girl. She let Arachne live, but then sprinkled her with a potion from Hecate. Arachne was immediately transformed into a spider. She and all her descendants were cursed to this form as punishment for Arachne's hubris, but in this form they would be allowed to weave for all time.

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Tropes in "Arachne":

  • Baleful Polymorph: Arachne, having been involuntarily transformed into an animal.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Arachne making the same dumb mistake as every other character in Classical Mythology.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Guess what? I AM Minerva!
  • Famed In-Story: Arachne, known for her work.
  • Hereditary Curse: Arachne's poor descendants, though innocent, must live with the consequences of her pride.
  • List of Transgressions: Arachne's whole tapestry is a comprehensive list of some of the rudest things the gods have done. (Not including "revenges" and "punishments," these are only the offenses that were purely self-initiated.)
  • Post Game Retaliation: Minerva's tantrum when she loses and makes Arachne almost kill herself.
  • Secret Test: Minerva's approach as an old lady was her giving Arachne a chance show humility.
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  • Sore Loser: Minerva, but let's be honest, all the gods are.
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