What's a Nymph? | Nymphs by Association | Nymphs by Name | A List of the Nereides
What's a Nymph?
Nymphs by Association - the well-known (and more obscure) groups of Nymphs:
So the most obvious metaphor is the Fairy metaphor. Nymphs are like fairies in that they were unpredictable, a little scary, and often showed up in folktales. But, seeing as they are from a different culture, they are also entirely different. For one thing, the nymphs are all women. This is definitely significant in the way they were scary. One of the things you might
(and should) notice is the common theme of women's sexuality = scary and women's chastity = good. Noticing that, it should not shock you that these somewhat scary spirits are at their scariest to mortal men when sex enters the picture (Hylas is a lovely example). It should also be noted without surprise that these nymphs are spirits often personifying nature. (See below for the groups of nymphs) As Sue Blundell so awesomely points out, women are often associated with nature and wildness as things beyond the control of "civilization" (need we point out that this civilization is extraordinarily patriarchal?). It is usually said that this is because of the whole XX chromosomal ability to bear children. I argue that this is merely
an excuse and the real reason is that you're dealing with a patriarchal society and "wildness" and "nature" and such things are seen as Outside of Culture, just as women are. However, they also show up from time to time as the wives of heroes and (often spurned) lovers of gods. Nymphs, like all female deities, are beautiful. When they aren't inhabiting some specific part of nature, they are often
the attendents of more important deities. I like nymphs. In many ways they seem far more human to me than any of the human women. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
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