Ὑλοτόμος, ὑποτάμνον, and a new interpretation for lines 227-230 and the Demophon episode
[Homeric phraseology; myths of Demeter, the Norse god Baldr, and the Vedic Sun-god; the folktale type ATU410 "Sleeping Beauty"]
By Ricardo Ginevra In: A. Porro and S. Barbantani (eds.), Δόσις δ'ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε. Studi offerti a Mario Cantilena per i suoi settant'anni, 2019.
Continue reading... (Academia.edu)In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (hereafter HDem.), the goddess, after learning about her daughter Persephone’s abduction by Hades, leaves the company of the gods and takes the shape of an elderly mortal woman, eventually arriving at the palace of the kings of Eleusis, Celeus and Metaneira. The couple, concerned for the safety of their newborn son Demophon, asks the disguised goddess to nurse him into adulthood. Demeter promises to protect the child from three dangers, namely ἐπηλυσίη ‘witchcraft’, ὑλοτόμος ‘the one who/which cuts wood’, and ὑποτάμνον ‘that which cuts under’ (...)
In the present contribution, I will argue for a new analysis of both ὑλοτόμος ‘the one who/which cuts wood’ and ὑποτάμνον ‘that which cuts under’ as poetic terms referring to [axe] or [metal], an interpretation supported by lexical and phraseological parallels in texts in both Ancient Greek (Homer, Hesiod, and the Septuaginta) and other Indo-European (IE) languages, namely Vedic Sanskrit, Old Norse, and Classical Latin (§2.1-2). On the strength of it, a new reading of Demeter’s speech in HDem. 227-230 will be advanced, namely as a promise to make Demophon invulnerable, a reading which finds support in the narrative of the HDem. itself (§2.3). This interpretation of the passage will further prove to fit into a system of parallels between the Demophon episode and two other IE mythical traditions, namely the Norse myth of Baldr’s death and the Vedic narratives of the Sun’s abnormal birth and wounding (§3), as well as between these three ancient myths and the modern European folktales of the type ATU 410 ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (§4).