I’ve had this idea kicking around in my head for a while: I recall somewhere hearing a myth (possibly greek) about a person who was fed poison their entire life so that their own blood would become poisonous. I can’t, however, for the life of me, figure out who it was, or where the myth originated. I’m not talking about Nessus or the hydra. A friend suggested Chrysaor, but I see no evidence of him -having- poison blood, just -coming- from it. Anyone have any ideas, before this drives me completely batty?
I don’t know about being fed poison so his blood would be poisonous, but Mithradates is described in fiction and fable as having deliberately built up his tolerances to various common poisons of the era.
I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.
A. E. Housman, “Terrence, This is Stupid Stuff,” from A Shropshire Lad
My turn! My turn!
Would this work with iocane powder?
It sounds like you’re talking about the Poison Maiden. You can find out about her in Adrienne Mayor’s book Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World
I’ve tried, but I can’t find an excerpt from this online. Searching on “Poison Maiden” gives you a huge number of hits on things with that title, not the legend.
By the way, Chrysaor was one of the children of Medusa, and he didn’t have poison blood, but the blood of Medusa was said to have fallen on the sands of Africa and given birth to poisonous serpents, which might be where that came from.
The blood of Nesses was poison, and a robe soaked in his blood killed Hercules. The story (along with other poisoned cloaks) is recounted in Mayor’s book.
I seem to recall a short story on this theme that I read years ago, but of course can’t remember the title or author. The title, I think, was the name of the poison woman.
The narrator looks out the window of his house into the walled garden next door, and sees a beautiful young woman, who he falls in love with. Later finds out that her father has been feeding her poison all her life to make her toxic to potential lovers.
It wasn’t Poe, but had somewhat the same pseudo-medieval or Renaissance flavour as some of his works.
You’re thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Rappaccini’s Daughter
It was made into one of the segments of the movie Twice-Told Tales with Vincent Price (!) as Rappaccini (they undoubtedly made this, especially with Price, because it WAS so Poe-like, as you suggest. This was at the height of Roger Corman/AIP’s Poe cycle)
Edited to add: Here’s another film version, which I was not familiar with:
That was quick! It would have bothered me all day. Thanks!
Don’t forget the poison heroine (NOT heroin!) of Ninja Scroll anime.
The blood of the hind was poison to the Greek gods.
Wasn’t that little tidbit just made up for TV, though?
There’s an episode of The Invisible Man where Darrien describes the Catevari pretty much the same way- a baby is fed small doses of poison which build up in its body until even touching the Catevari is lethal. I can’t find any reference that doesn’t link to the show though, maybe the writers created it?
I dug out my copy of Mayor’s book last night. There’s much less on Poison Maidens in it than I thought, and few footnotes. Most of her information seems to come from another book, Norman Pensers’s Poison Damsels and Other Essays in Folklore and Anthropology (1952, London), which I don’t have and haven’t read. She notes an account from the Indian Katha Sarit sagara, circa 1050 AD, saying that King Brahmadarta sent poison maidens as dancing girls to his enemy’s camp. In another axccount, the seventh century historian Visakhadatta descreibed how someone planned to assassinate King Chandragupta with a Poison Maiden. Another story relates how the King of India tried to assassinate Alexander the Great with a Poison Maiden. The book dates from about 1050, and is based on an Arabic translation of a Greek original, but the age of the story is unknown.
It seems the earliest accounts are associated with India and are surprisingly late, being reliably traceable back to the first millenium after Christ. As far as I can tell, the stories here don’t elaborate on exactly what a “Poison Maiden” is, although Mayor notes folk belief that you can gain immunity by ingesting poisons, and Penzer quotes a similar belief that the bite of one immune to snake poison is itself deadly (which isn’t true.
One can’t heklp but think – Penzer and Mayor bring it up, and it occurred to me long before I got to that part, as I’m sure it occurs to the reader now – that you can easily have an effectual “poison Maiden” whose deadliness comes not from ingesting poison, but from having a disease (especially venereal disease), and Mayor cites an incident from 1494 where the Spanish, fighting the French at the Campaign of Naples, sent infected French prostitutes into the eneny’s camp.
So – no Classical Greek and Roman accounts of such Poison Maidens, but the idea was there, and possible “in a way”.
In the James Hogan “Giants” series of pulp scifi, an intelligent race had developed with zero agressive instincts or behavior, since their evolutionary path was based on having two circulatory systems. IIRC, their two types of blood were harmless. But when mixed (being wounded by a predator) they turned into a deadly toxin. This allowed them to evolve in a predator-free world.
It’s been decades since I’ve read them, but I recall it being an enjoyable series of books.
Does Ripley from Alien Resurrection menstruate? Seems to me she’d need ceramic underwear a few days a month.