Fury by Elizabeth Miles: The Furies of Classic Mythology

Fury by Elizabeth Miles, in stores this week, offers a modern twist on the idea of the Furies from Greek and Roman Mythology. So today, we thought we’d take a look at these classical roots — both to give you some background to the book, and to give you an excuse to use this book in the classroom!

“Hell hath no fury …”

Some concept of the Furies appear in both Greek and Roman mythology, though often under different names. Sometimes called the Furies, they are also known as the Erinyes (“the angry ones”), the Eumenides, or the Dirae.

They are defined, quite universally, as female “deities of vengeance” — or “supernatural personifications of the anger of the dead.”

Sometimes known as “goddesses of vengeance,” the Furies were a sort of ancient justice force:

Without mercy, the Furies would punish all crime including the breaking of rules considering all aspects of society. They would strike the offenders with madness and never stopped following criminals. (Source)

However, some definitions state that the Furies were more specific in their pursuit of justice, only acting out when called upon through traditional rituals, or concerning only specific crimes:

They are first and foremost the protector of women, and will ruthlessly avenge the crimes of rape and murder commited against women. (Source)

In almost all tellings of the myth of the Furies, the goddesses exact vicious punishments and are only satisfied when they feel that justice has been served. They are ruthless in their pursuit of this end:

The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harbouring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease. The wrath of the Erinyes could only be placated with the rite ritual purification and the completion of some task assigned for atonement. (Source)

In some cases there is no known number of Furies, Virgil and Dante both identified three Furies: unceasing, grudging, and avenging murder. In Miles’ Fury, there are also three “Furies.”

The Furies have appeared throughout Greek and Roman mythology. Here are some of the classic works you’ll find them in:

For the comments: Have you studied the Furies at all in mythology? What stories do you know about them?

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