I'm trying to recall a Greek myth in which a human is told to appeal to a Greek god by holding onto his or her feet. The human is warned that the god will morph into many shapes, but the human is told that the shapes are harmless.

It's, of course, a story of how appearances are harmless.

  • Hmm... don't seem to find anything
    – user6252
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 22:37
  • 2
    This sounds more up Ovid's alley.
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


This sounds like Menalaus' encounter with Proteus. Menelaus narrates it in Homer's Odyssey (book 4). Proteus' daughter advises Menelaus to go grab Proteus and not let go even though he changes his appearance. Menelaus goes as he was advised, and seizes him, and Proteus changes into many forms, but Menelaus and his men don't let go, and in the end he is forced to provide Menelaus with the information he wanted.

"'First he [Proteus] will look over all his seals, and count them; then, when he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach your home over the seas.' (Odyssey 4.411-424)

  • Couldn't Proteus use his powers to zap the men?
    – user6252
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 21:58
  • @FuzzySquid You're right that it seems a little strange that an immortal god would let himself be captured so easily, the story doesn't really go into the reason why this works
    – b a
    Commented Aug 26, 2019 at 22:11

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