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Greek Mythology

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What is a Harpy?

In Greek mythology, Harpies are winged monsters with the face of an ugly old woman and crooked, sharp claws. However, earlier versions of Greek stories described Harpies as beautiful winged maidens. The name Harpy comes from the Greek word "snatcher." They were hungry, filthy creatures who snatched food, objects and even people. Yikes!

What Does a Harpy Look Like?

Usually winged female monsters are associated with Sirens. Most pictures of Harpies are of women with wings but Harpies actually had both the wings and the body of a bird. There are three Harpies whose names come up a lot in stories. They are the daughters of Electra - Aello, Celaeno and Ocypete, although they are known by other names as well. Harpies would snatch people, then torment and punish them. These people were never seen again.

What Did Harpies Do?

The three Harpies are best known for tormenting King Phineus who was rescued by the Argonauts. They stole from the king (mostly food) but were driven away and lived on Stophades Island. Aello, Ocypete and Celaeno were also the mothers to Achilles' talking horses. Besides tormenting innocent people, Harpies were probably the cause of wind storms. Aello means storm, Ocypete means swift-flier and Celaeno means black cloud. Legends blame them for rough seas and the bad weather that comes with it.

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