In the British science fiction novel by H. G. Wells, "The food of the Gods", I read:

"No doubt he was among the first to discover them. They were scattered at intervals up and down the path between the near down and the village end--a path he frequented daily in his constitutional round. Altogether, of these abnormal fungi there were, from first to last, quite thirty. The Vicar seems to have stared at each severally, and to have prodded most of them with his stick once or twice. One he attempted to measure with his arms, but it burst at his Ixion embrace."

What is meant by "his Ixion embrace"?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this has nothing to do with English, but is about a mythological reference. It would work better on literature.stackexchange. – Peter Shor Feb 7 at 15:58

Looking at the Wikipedia page for Ixion,

Ixion grew lustful for Hera, Zeus's wife, a further violation of guest-host relations. Zeus found out about his intentions and made a cloud in the shape of Hera, which became known as Nephele (from nephos "cloud") and tricked Ixion into coupling with it.

So the image Wells is trying to convey is that the fungi are dissipating like clouds when the Vicar tries to encompass them with his arms.


The Vicar is measuring the size of some giant mushrooms he found, by extending his arms over one of them.

Now, Ixion was a character in Greek mythology, who was bound to a wheel for making out with Hera the wife of Zeus. As the Wikipedia page states:

Zeus ordered Hermes to bind Ixion to a winged fiery wheel that was always spinning. Therefore, Ixion is bound to a burning solar wheel for all eternity, at first spinning across the heavens, but in later myth transferred to Tartarus.

So this is the imagery Wells evokes of the Vicar measuring the bursting mushroom with outspread arms.

  • Oh wait! That's GR, though. – Kris Feb 7 at 11:04

I found this image. I think it explains the allusion. http://www.jules-elie-delaunay.fr/en/5-history-paintings/8-ixion-precipite-dans-les-enfers

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