Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016047, Thu, 6 Mar 2008 12:48:27 -0500

Re: Ganymede, cup-bearers, catamites
You brought up the Ganymede myth and associated references to catamites in
Ada. You then said:
"I haven't yet found other mentions to this myth in VN's other novels ( in
Pale Fire, through his phrygian cap as with the red-hiding-hood disguise,

In fact, we did have a discussion of the Ganymede/Catamite myth in PF last
See here:
where I say:

"I've noticed more so than ever the linked references to pederasty
throughout the novel. In particular, references to
catamites (a corruption of Ganymede), meaning boys kept for homosexual,
pederastic purposes. In addition to the oft-referenced Erlkonig of Goethe
(as well as Kinbote's references to boy pages and boy students), we see the


1. Oleg referred to as Charles' "ingle"--meaning catamite.
2. A reference to the tradition of "ingledom" in Zembla.
3. The reference to Gide the Lucid.
4. Kinbote's simile in C.1000, in which he compares his feelings for the
poem to the feeling "one has for a fickle young creature who has been
stolen and brutally enjoyed by a black giant..."
5. In the index, Kinbote gives us an entry for Igor II (though he doesn't
appear in the text), in which we learn that Igor kept in Bower P (see
also "Vault P" in the New Wye library) pink marble statues of his "four
hundred favorite catamites."
6. Though it's not a homosexual example, and thus not exactly catamiting,
Shade gives us that very odd simile in which he compares the feeling of his

fits to that of an innocent youth molested by a wench (see 3 above).
7. Byron was the first English poet translated into Zemblan, perhaps
because of his own reputation as a keeper of catamites. (speculative)"

To this I might add Shade's book Hebe's Cup, since Hebe succeeded Ganymede
as cup-bearer to the gods. Shade mentions, in the course of a shaving
metaphor, an "ephebe" in line 912. Ephebe comes from a combination of epi
(upon, to) and hebe (youth, puberty).

Matt Roth

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