<<According to Homer (Odyssey iv:412), the sandy island of Pharos situated off the coast of the Nile Delta was the home of Proteus
, the oracular Old Man of the Sea and herdsman of the sea-beasts. In the Odyssey, Menelaus relates to Telemachus that he had been becalmed here on his journey home from the Trojan War. He learned from Proteus
' daughter, Eidothea ("the very image of the Goddess"), that if he could capture her father he could force him to reveal which of the gods he had offended, and how he could propitiate them and return home. Proteus
emerged from the sea to sleep among his colony of seals, but Menelaus was successful in holding him, though Proteus took the forms of a lion, a serpent, a leopard, a pig, even of water or a tree
then answered truthfully, further informing Menelaus that Odysseus was stranded on Calypso's Isle Ogygia.
The German mystical alchemist Heinrich Khunrath wrote of the shape-changing sea-god who, because of his relationship to the sea, is both a symbol of the unconscious as well as the perfection of the Art
. In modern times, the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung defined the mythological figure of Proteus
as a personification of the unconscious, who, because of his gift of prophecy and shape-changing, has much in common with the central but elusive figure of alchemy, Mercurius.
Shakespeare uses the image of Proteus
to establish the character of his great royal villain Richard III in the play Henry VI, Part Three, in which the future usurper boasts:
- I can add colors to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murderous Machiavel to school.
Shakespeare also names one of the main characters of his play The Two Gentlemen of Verona Proteus
is the name of the submarine in the original story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby, which became the basis for the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage and Isaac Asimov's novelization.
John Barth's novelette "Menelaiad" in Lost in the Funhouse is built around a battle between Proteus
and Menelaus. It is told as a multiply-nested frame tale, and the narrators bleed into each other as the battle undermines their identities.
The alien character of Prot in the book trilogy by Gene Brewer and played by Kevin Spacey in the movie K-PAX, like Proteus
was said to embody, was a modernized "shape shifter" and magical type of advanced mystical ET who "walked in" to humanoid bodies, and shared wisdom and insights into the human condition.
The crew of the Jupiter 2 in the 1998 film Lost in Space
encounter and board a derelict space station named the Proteus
In the Harry Potter series, Hermione Granger casts a Protean charm (named after Proteus
) on galleons (a form of wizarding currency) to inform members of Dumbledore's Army of meetings. When she changes the properties of the original coin, the amendments are reflected on those she has given to other people to display the date.>>