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Erysichthon, son of Triopas, was a King of Thessaly.

One day, Erysichthon ordered all the trees in the sacred grove of Demeter to be cut down. One huge oak was covered with votive wreaths, a symbol of every prayer Demeter had granted. Naturally, his men refused to touch it, so Erysichthon, whose name means “Earth-tearer,” grabbed an axe and felled it himself, killing a dryad nymph. With her dying words, the nymph cursed the king.

deforested owl

Demeter heard the dying nymph’s curse and entreated Limos, the spirit of unrelenting and insatiable hunger, to place her in Erysichthon’s stomach. The more he ate, the hungrier he got. He sold all his possessions to buy food, but nothing could fill him, with every bite, he wanted more. And more. And more. Insatiate, he soon had nothing with which to bargain. All he had left was his daughter Mestra, so he sold her into slavery.

Now Poseidon had once been Mestra’s lover and he came to her rescue. The sea-god freed her and gave her the gift of shape-shifting at will into any creature so she could always escape her bonds. She was an obedient girl and allowed her greedy father to use her shape-shifting ability to sell her numerous times to make money to feed himself. Yet no amount of food was ever enough.

In time, Mestra, Erysichthon’s generous and suffering daughter, could no longer fetch enough to satisfy Erysichthon’s ravenous appetite. So finger by finger, limb by limb, Erysichthon ate himself.

Moral: Don’t cut down the forests.

eryschithon eating himself