But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance . . . Qualities that would have saved a ship’s company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water— endurance and justice, foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help. R is then—what is R?
—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
The act of being taken. Away, perhaps.
In Greek mythology, abduction precedes violation. For example, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, woman after woman is removed from a place of safety and transported elsewhere for violation, by ship or chariot, sea or land, or the ethereal machinations of the gods. Blossoms and baskets are dropped by these maidens, life interrupted.
The Metamorphoses are tales of violence and resulting human change: to trees, to animals, to birds. When I read these tales as a young woman, I imagined transformation as both punishment and safety. When the gods shape-shifted a person from human to nonhuman, it might be punishment; however, that transformation made further violence less likely.