Relationship Portrayal Similarities in The Two Brothers and Metamorphoses by Ovid
Given the list of readings for this course, the two that I enjoyed most were “The Two Brothers” and “Metamorphoses” by Ovid. What stood out to me was both readings were similar because they were about transformations, relationships and love/lust. Even though they are alike in that sense they are different in the type of relationships and transformations that each character experiences throughout each text.
The beginning of the poem reveals how ‘bodies are changed into different bodies.’ (pg. 1209) This defines that this poem would have a context of transformations, hence the name “Metamorphoses”. Transformation can be found throughout this poem, from the abstract transformation of Chaos into the Universe to physical transformations, to the physical rising and falling of cities, and even emotional transformations. In other words, this poem examines transformation as a divine extortion in the universe.
The first transformation, Chaos into the Universe, highlights a few general characteristics about these events. Transformations are never truly exciting or spontaneous. It can be argued that chaos does not transform itself into earth, but rather a powerful being transforms it. There is always something which does the transforming and something which is transformed. In Phaethon’s episode, for instance, the death of Phaethon sets the stage for the transformation of his sisters into trees and the transformation of Cycnus into a swan. Phaethon’s death transformed the earth and the sky as both are threatened by Pheobus’ chariot, and incites attenuated transformations as well in Phaethon’s grieving parents. “Grief and remorse flooded his father’s soul, and bitterly he shook his glorious head: ‘Rash have your words proved mine! Would that I might retract my promise, Phaethon!” (pg. 1211)
To compare, in “The Two Brothers”, I believe that the transformation and the relationships are combined as one. In this story, it is the relationships of the characters that are being emotionally transformed. Anubis acts like Bata’s father and has taken him under his wing to raise him. One day Anubis’ wife tries to seduce Bata, but he very willingly rejects her. He says: “You are like a mother to me and your husband is like a father….” (pg. 155) This shows how unfaithful Anubis’ wife is and that she cares very little about their relationship. She wanted Bata to keep a secret about what happed, so Bata, faithful to a fault, he promised not to tell of her shame.
When Anubis returned home that night, his wife twisted the story and told him that Bata tried to seduce her and that he beat her. Anubis was infuriated, and she told Anubis that he needs to kill Bata. This was the first transformation in Anubis’ and Bata’s relationship. They were once so close, like father and son, and now Anubis wants to kill Bata. After Anubis had went for Beta with his spear with the intentions of killing him, the youth rebuked his elder brother saying: “What is your coming after to kill me wrongfully, without having listened to my words? For I am yet your young brother, and you are like a father to me, and your wife is like a mother to me. Is not so that when I was sent to fetch seed for us your wife said to me: ‘Come, let us spend an hour lying together’? But look, it has been turned about for you into another thing.” (pg. 156) After this confrontation, Bata’s and Anubis’ relationship undergoes another transformation. Bata then let Anubis know everything that had happened between him and Anubis’ wife. Bata then says to his brother: “As to your coming to kill me wrongfully, you carried your spear on the testimony of a filthy whore!” (pg. 156) Anubis felt bad for believing is wife over his brother. He felt terrible for wanting to kill someone over a false truth without hearing both sides of the story.
This argument proves that Bata should have told his brother what had happened immediately instead of allowing Anubis’ wife to make up a lie that could’ve ruined the brothers’ relationship, resulting in death. Lastly, the relationship between Anubis and his wife was transformed when he went back home and killed her. “Then he went away to the Valley of the Pine; and his elder brother went to his home, his hand on his head and smeared with dirt. When he reached his house, he killed his wife, cast her to the dogs, and sat mourning for his young brother.” In the beginning, Anubis was very much in love with his wife and was willing to believe her story over is little brothers. The transformations in this text go from love and close relationships, to being rebellious and unfaithful, back to being forgiving and loving again.
Similarly, book of Metamorphoses is also about relationships. These types of relationships are mainly between who is getting transformed and who is the person doing the transformation. I noticed this relationship happening the most between the gods and mortals. The first section of Metamorphoses suggests that people are often transformed for wrong-doing. “Of bodies changed to other forms I tell; You Gods, who have yourselves wrought every change,” (pg. 1208) For example, Jove destroys all of humanity because the entire race is disobedient as a whole. “Save I. Even he whose hand hurls thunderbolts, Olympus’ mighty lord, may never drive. My team—and who is mightier than Jove?” (pg. 1211) But it can be argued that Ovid merely suggests that just because the gods are capable of punishing human sins that doesn’t mean that they themselves are virtuous and honorable. For instance, a mortal may perform some abominable act, but the preponderance of unethical and violent actions is done so by the gods. In my opinion, one could argue that the gods aren’t virtuous, they’re simply powerful. They are immortal and constant, therefore, they have the power to effect metamorphosis in mortals. I agree that Ovid’s view of the virtuousness of authority is quite contemptuous.
Lastly, both stories compare with the valid argument of lust. Undoubtedly, throughout the poem, I read of a woman who wishes to live with purity, with no chains to men, but is oppressed and raped by a god. Zeus’ went through series of rapes; women are raped and then changed into trees and animals, and then used without permission. (pg. 1213) In all of these examples, love is the main transformative cause. Apollo’s unreturned love for Daphne results in her transformation into a tree and then he symbolizes her branches. Zeus also constantly changes himself into an animal or another form in order to facilitate his rapes, which result in transformations in the women, such as Io’s metamorphosis into a bull. Not only does this demonstrate the concept of lust within the story, but also supports the argument of transformations not only with just relationships, but physical transformations.
In the same way, lust was demonstrated in “The Two Brothers” when Anubis’ wife asked Bata to lay down with her. Here is where one could argue that she either was wanting to sleep with him or just “cuddle”. There isn’t really enough evidence in the story to prove which one it really was. But I believe that she meant it in a more sexual way, wanting to cheat on her husband with his own brother.
In conclusion, both stories were very similar in the terms of love, relationships and transformation, yet they were very different in the way it happened. “The Two Brothers” transformation was more of an emotional change and the transformation in “Metamorphoses” was more of a physical change. Transformation means changing and both stories had a copious amount of change in relation to emotional and physical metamorphosis.
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