Mythology and Literature: Lamia

In Ancient Greek mythology, Lamia is a child-eating daemon. She was the daughter of Poseidon, and a queen loved by Zeus. When Zeus’s wife, Hera grew jealous, and accounts vary, saying that she either killed all of Lamia’s children or stole them away. Lamia is driven mad and is transformed into a monster by devouring other children in revenge.

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Lamia was the influence of the poem by John Keats, entitled Lamia. In the poem there is no mention of Lamia being a children-eating monster, rather she is trapped in the form of a snake with a woman’s mouth and human teeth. Lamia desires to have the form of a woman and manages to become human through a deal with Hermes. The only possible link is that it is never explained why Lamia is in the form of snake, so Keats could be implying she is there in punishment for eating children.

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