The Fates

The three Fates spinning the web of human destiny, sculpture by Gottfried Schadow, 1790, part of the tombstone for Count Alexander von der Mark; in the Old National Gallery, Berlin.

The Fates, otherwise known as The Moirai, are a group of three sibling goddesses who are responsible for the individual destinies of mortals at birth. Their names are Clotho (the Spinner), Lachesis (the Alloter) and Atropos (the Inflexible). In some older Greek myths, they were the daughters of the goddess Nyx. However, later on, they are more often portrayed as the offspring of Zeus and Themis. In Orphic cosmogony, their mother is said to have possibly been Ananke, otherwise known as Necessity. Despite us not actually knowing who their parents are or where they came from, they are said to have such enormous power that even Zeus was unable to recall their decisions. The Fates’ symbols were the Thread, the Staff, the Spindle, the Scroll, the Shears and the Book of Fate. Clotho’s duty was to spin the thread, which determined who would be born and when. Lachesis measured the thread which determined how long that new person would live; and Atropos, the oldest, was responsible for cutting it when their time came. She also selected the manner in which the person died to send them to the Well of Souls in the Underworld. They are known to have extreme psychic abilities, knowing everything that has happened, is happening and will happen, and are an authority above the gods of Olympus. However, the one power they do not hone is the ability to kill a god. 

The Three Fates (Moirai) – A print of the original painting by Emily Balivet, 2014.

In Greek mythology, the Fates were three female deities who shaped people’s lives. In particular, they determined how long a man or woman would live. In this depiction it shows how The Fates worked forever under the moon and stars, night and day and even over the dead. This art piece demonstrates them as angelic beings, with more gentle and peaceful features. This is a visual representation of the cycle of life.

Greek sisters Clotho (Sara Porkalob), Atropos (Jessica Skerritt), and Lachesis (Lauren Du Pree) are responsible for, respectively, spinning, measuring and cutting the thread of life in Village Theater’s “String.” Photo courtesy of Village Theater. Written by Sara Hammond 2018.

This version of ‘The Fates’ is more modern and quite recent and incorporates a western world approach. In this musical the three sisters manage to upset the Greek god Zeus and as punishment he sends them into the modern world in America to work in a cubicle in the Empire State Building. Things seem to take a turn for the worst when one of the sisters, Atropos falls in love with a mortal man, who also works in the same building as the sisters. Atropos then is left to battle between her emotions and duties, as she realizes one day she will be responsible for cutting his thread of life.

The Three Fates of Hercules (1997). (The Walt Disney Company)

In this version of ‘The Fates’, Walt Disney illustrates the three sisters as “old hags” with one shared eye between all of them. It is said that this depiction of ‘The Fates’ is derived from another trio of sisters, known as ‘The Graeae’, or ‘The Gray Ones’. This mythical threesome is a band of witches by the names of Enyo (Horror), Deino (Dread) and Pemphredo (Alarm). They not only shared one eye but one tooth as well. Featured in the movie ‘Hercules’ the sisters appearance is shown to be less human; for they are seen with no feet and have more demonic and witchlike features. In this version they are depicted as snarky, know-it-alls (literally), impatient (ironically) and grumpy.

Despite the many different appearances, names and personality traits given to The Fates, they are seem to resemble or connect to the same same theme; the cycle of life. Though, they are not personally subjected to the lifestyles or tropes of life and death, they are there through each persons actions, words, steps etc. In a way, you could say that they experience the lifestyles of “mortals” or humans because they write and shape their destinies.


All-new musical ‘String’ premieres at Village in Issaquah March 15