Continuing the trend of snake-like creatures in our bestiary, today we will visit the myth of the Lamia.
Not such a common name for the casual fantasy fan to hear, but a fan favorite for some fans, especially those who ventured into Molag Bal’s realm in the Elder Scrolls Online.
Like the Basilisk, the Lamia is depicted in a variety of different forms. Elder Scrolls players who have encountered the creature in the game know it as a giant snake with human-like torso and arms.
Mythology enthusiasts might know the Lamia better by a famous painting by Herbert James Draper. In Draper’s 1909 painting, the creature is pictured as a woman with snakeskin around her waist. Aside from the skin on her waist, however, this Lamia maintains its human features like the torso, legs, and face.
The most common depiction of the Lamia is a mix of the two. Much like a mermaid, the creature has the bottom half of a serpent’s body and the likeness of a woman from the waist up.
The myth of the Lamia dates all the way back to Greek Mythology. According to the lore, Lamia was Zeus’s mistress. The god’s wife Hera found out about her husband’s affair with Lamia and here is where the story gets confusing as there are two interpretations as to what happened next.
One of these interpretations is that Hera murdered all of Lamia’s children in a jealous rage, and still not satisfied with that, the goddess transformed Lamia into a beast that seeks and devours other people’s children.
A second interpretation is that Hera steals Lamia’s children. In this second scenario, Lamia herself turned into a monster that, powered by envy and grief, hunts down other people’s children and kills them to sooth the pain of the loss of her own children.
Lamias or Lamiak (plural) also feature in Basque Mythology. The Basque Lamia’s nature and appearance, however, could not be further from the Greek myth.
The Basque Lamia is often portrayed as a woman with duck feet. And instead of stealing children and murdering them, the Basque Lamiak are known for helping common folk in finishing their tasks for as little as a meal. In this instance if a farmer gifts a Lamia by leaving food at the river shore he’ll find whichever task he left unfinished in his field done by the time he awakens the next morning.
They are even credited with the construction of some bridges that have been built overnight.