Women Who Weave Synopsis

A Greek mother, calling for her daughter, Atalanta, finds the girl in distress, crying alone in her room. When pressed, Atalanta, an athletic and spunky child, explains that while she and her best friend Meleager were playing ball, Meleager was invited to join in a boar hunt with the men of the village. Atalanta, far more eager to join in, was not invited because she was a girl. Meleager abandoned her in favor of the company of the village boys. Now, Atalanta is convinced that being female means giving up any chance at being heroic.

Her mother tells her that it is very possible for a woman to be a hero and recites the story of the Fates, the three goddesses who weave the destiny of all human beings. Unconvinced, Atalanta falls asleep and drifts into a dream that takes her to the loom of the Fates, which resembles an enormous tree. She meets the Fates, the optimistic Clotho, the nurturing Lachesis, and the cantankerous Atropos, figures of the maiden, the mother, and the crone. When she asks them to change her fate, however, to make her a boy so she can participate in the boar hunt, the Fates send her on a wild journey through the lives of three great Greek heroines.

First, Atalanta takes on the role of Penelope. Separated from her husband Odysseus and hounded by greedy and vain suitors, Penelope fights to maintain her autonomy. A messenger delivers her news of the end of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ clever Trojan Horse ploy, but the years go by and still Odysseus does not return. The suitors grow impatient and demand that Penelope choose a new husband for herself. Determined to stall them off, Penelope promises to choose only after she weaves a burial shroud for her husband. By day she weaves and by night she unravels her work so that it is never finished.

Next, Atalanta plays the role of a Cretan princess named Ariadne. Insufferably curious about a strange cave known as the Labyrinth, she drags her sister out of bed to investigate. They’re caught by their mother who explains that their deformed brother, the Minotaur, is locked away down there. Years later, an Athenian prince comes to Crete as a human sacrifice for the Minotaur. Falling in love with him, Ariadne follows him into the Labyrinth with a ball of thread to help them retrace their steps through the maze. They confront the Minotaur, but Ariadne convinces Theseus to spare him since he is her brother.

Finally, Atalanta becomes Philomel. When her sister Procne moves away to marry a foreign king, Philomel wants nothing more than to pay her a visit. Procne sends her husband to bring Philomel, but the evil king falls in love with her and tells her that Procne is dead. The two of them marry in secret, but Philomel learns of his deceit. He cuts out her tongue to keep her from telling anyone what he’s done. Philomel sets to work on the loom and weaves the story into a tapestry and has a servant deliver it to the palace, revealing the truth to Procne. Both of the sisters are reunited and then turned into birds by a merciful Zeus.

Atalanta is returned home with her new knowledge. There, she conceives of a fantastic ploy and sets to work, weaving a net. She joins in the boar hunt and manages to catch the boar, much to the amazement of Meleager. The two of them reconcile. In the end, she’s praised as a hero, even by the Fates themselves.


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