Charybdis was born as the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia, and faithfully served her father as the goddess of the tides. She aided him in his feud with Zeus by helping him engulf lands and entire islands in water. Angry over the land she had stolen from him, Zeus cursed Charybdis into the form of a monster like a bladder, with flippers for arms and legs, and an unquenchable thirst for the sea. This forced her to drink the water of the sea three times a day in an effort to sate her thirst, only to belch it back out, creating enormous whirlpools in the process. Living under a rock, Charybdis stayed on one end of a narrow channel, with another monster, Scylla, living across from her on the opposite side, forming a strait.
The sides of the strait were within an arrow shot of each other, and any sailors attempting to avoid the reach of one of them would be unable to avoid that of the other. "Between Scylla and Charybdis" thereby became a phrase referring to having to choose between two dangers, either of which would bring harm.
Charybdis first featured in the ancient Greek story of The Odyssey, a tale of the hero Odysseus and his long and arduous journey from the Trojan War back to his homeland. This story was originally recited by poets and minstrels during a period when Greece had no written language. At around 800 BC, the Greek scribe Homer put the story down in writing for the first time.
Charybdis was known as a mythological sea monster, but was later rationalized as a whirlpool that was considered a shipping hazard in the Strait of Messina.
Major Story Arcs
At many points within this epic poem, Odysseus is hindered by the efforts of Poseidon and his sea monsters throughout the ocean. Odysseus faced both Charybdis and Scylla while rowing through their narrow channel. He ordered his men to avoid Charybdis so as not to lose their entire ship to her, forcing them to pass near Scylla, resulting in the death of six of his men.
Later, stranded on a raft, Odysseus finds himself swept back through the strait to face Scylla and Charybdis once more. This time, Odysseus passes near Charybdis, causing his raft to be sucked into her gaping maw. He managed to survive by clinging to a fig tree growing on a rock over her lair. When Charybdis expelled the water back out, his raft came back out as well. Odysseus recovered it and then paddled away safely.
Jason and The Argonauts
The Argonauts were able to avoid both the dangers of Charybdis and Scylla because they were guided by Thetis, one of the Nereids.
Powers & Abilities
Charybdis was originally a goddess before being cursed into her monstrous form by Zeus, and so presumably possessed the immortality and divine powers inherent to the Gods of Olympus, as well as the power to control water like her father, Poseidon.
As a sea monster, Charybdis was an enormous aquatic creature capable of swallowing massive amounts of water. The exact size of Charybdis remains unknown, but in order to consume ships, the whirlpool she created when she fed could be estimated to be at least about 23 meters (75 feet) wide.