The Difference between Harpies and Sirens
Sirens always evoke the image of beautiful mermaids luring sailors to their deaths with their song. Although the last part is true, the original sirens were not exactly mermaids. In Greek mythology, they had more similarities with harpies. So, what is the difference between harpies and sirens?
Harpies are creatures with the body of a bird and the head of a woman. Sirens look like harpies but they have a human torso, birdlike legs, and wings of a large bird. Their brains are more human whereas harpies’ brains are more like a bird’s.
The harpies of Ancient Greece were terrible monsters who stole food from humans and screeched incredibly loud, not letting their victims eat or rest. They were created by Zeus and were unleashed with the force of the wind.
Theoretically, they were spirits of the wind who later took shape as half-human half-birdlike creatures.
Incredibly cruel, they brought chaos to Earth, would find pleasure in torturing humans, and they killed their victims by tearing them limb from limb. They were among the most feared creatures in Greek mythology.
Sirens lured people to their deaths with their song. People were defenseless against their beautiful voices and left everything and everyone behind to follow them, which always led to their deaths. As soon as their human victims were in the sirens’ grasp, they would eat them alive.
Sirens are dangerous creatures and they are often described as brutal and merciless.
In movies, these creatures are portrayed as mermaids. However, in Greek mythology, sirens were birdlike women, and they also appeared in Homer’s Odyssey.
The hero Odysseus stopped the ears of his sailors with wax to prevent them from hearing the sirens’ fatal song. He, however, was curious about their song and wanted to hear it. So, he tied himself to the mast to remain safe and stop himself from steering their ship to their destruction.
According to Ovid, sirens were human companions of Persephone, who was the goddess of agriculture and the daughter of Zeus. After she was kidnapped and kept prisoner by Hades, the sirens looked for her everywhere and asked for wings to aid them in their search. The gods granted them their wish.
Another version of this story (by Demeter) reveals that they were turned into birds as a punishment for failing in their duty to protect Persephone.
In conclusion, there aren’t many differences, except for their appearance, killing methods, and strengths. Both are formidable beings and equally dangerous and deadly.
Stories take liberties with each creature, as did I in mine. I think that my harpies physically resemble sirens more – with a personal touch from the author 🙂 Mine are also as deadly as the ones from Greek mythology, but they are still very much in touch with their human side and do not have a birdlike but a human brain.
Greek mythology continues to fascinate many readers. It is something that never seems to lose its allure. Harpies seem to be a little under-represented in modern literature – as far as I have seen – and I hope that my harpies in The Path of the Stone and The Rise of the Stone will do justice to these fantastic beings. 🙂