The Sphinx changes the Rules

Artwork details: gouache, 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm), 2008.

This is my version of 'Oedipus and the Sphinx' - a scene that's been depicted since antiquity...

Oedipus and the Sphinx: The Sphinx changes the Rules

It was the Sphinx who menaced the ancient city of Thebes (the one in Ancient Greece), lurking by the road and asking every traveller to and from Thebes a certain riddle. When her victims couldn't answer the riddle, she ate them. Monsters do this kind of thing for fun.

Oedipus, however, answered the riddle correctly and apparently the Sphinx was so upset she threw herself off a cliff and killed herself. Well that's what Oedipus says happened. It's not very likely, though, I mean, one single riddle? Don't you think she would try a bit harder than that? This is a terrifying ancient monster after all... who eats people. And another thing - she has wings. Jumping off a cliff is hardly a convincing way to commit suicide if you have wings, is it?

So, this is my version of the story... the one where the Sphinx really isn't fatally upset about Oedipus' ability to answer the one poxy riddle... oh no... Oedipus is gonna have to work much harder than that if he wants to show how bright he is!

For the whole story about Oedipus (and the riddle, if you're interested) have a look at the painting of 'Medusa and Oedipus' - scroll down and you'll find I've put the whole story there, underneath the pictures - click the thumbnail to go there... On second thoughts - I will leave you with the riddle, and you can guess it yourself, if you've never heard it before. This is the version I prefer - though I have heard a slightly different one the answer is the same in both cases:

"What animal goes on four legs in the morning, two at midday, and three in the evening?"

All images and prints are © Nancy Farmer. Please email me if you wish to reproduce any of these images, or see my permissions page in the 'info' section.

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