Their parents were either Pontus and Gaia, or Tartarus and Nemesis, or else they were born from the blood of castrated Uranus along with the Erinyes. In another story there were nine Telkhines, children of Thalassa and Pontus; they had flippers instead of hands and the heads of dogs and were known as fish children.
They were regarded as excellent metallurgists: various accounts state that they were skilled metal workers in brass and iron, and made a trident for Poseidon and a sickle for Cronus, both ceremonial weapons. By some accounts, their children were highly worshiped as gods in the ancient Rhodes towns of Ialysos (Ἰαλυσός), Kamiros (Κάμειρος) and Lindos (Λίνδος).
The Telkhines were entrusted by Rhea with the upbringing of Poseidon, which they accomplished with the aid of Capheira (Καφείρα), one of Oceanus' daughters. Another version says that Rhea accompanied them to Crete from Rhodes, where nine of the Telchines, known as the Curetes, were selected to bring up Zeus.
They were believed to bring about hailstorms, snow, and rain at will, to assume any shape they pleased, and produced a substance poisonous to living things.
The gods (Zeus, Poseidon or Apollo) eventually killed them because they began to use magic for malignant purposes; particularly, they produced a mixture of Stygian water and sulfur, which killed animals and plants (according to Nonnus, they did so as a revenge for being driven out of Rhodes by the Heliadae). Accounts vary on how exactly they were destroyed: by flood, or Zeus's thunderbolt, or Poseidon's trident, or else Apollo assumed the shape of a wolf to kill them. They apparently lost one of the titanomachias, the battles between the gods and the Titans.
- Aktaios (Actaeus)
- Damon or Demonax
- Hormenius or Ormenos
- Lykos (Lycus) or Lyktos
Known female Telkhines were Makelo, Dexithea (one of Damon's daughters) and probably Lysagora (the attesting text is severely damaged). Ovid in his Ibis mentions that Makelo, like the other Telkhines, was killed with a thunderbolt; according to Callimachus and Nonnus, however, Makelo was the only one to be spared. According to Bacchylides, the survivor is Dexithea. Bacchylides also mentions that Dexithea later had a son Euxanthios by Minos. This Euxanthios is also known from Pindar's works.
- Tzetzes on Theogony 80
- Eustathius on Homer, p. 771
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 55. 5 ff
- Strabo, Geography 14. 2
- Callimachus, Hymn 4 to Delos 28 ff
- Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 19
- Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 7
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 5. 55.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 365 ff
- Strabo, Geography 14. 2. 7
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 36 ff
- Pindar, Paean 5
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 18. 35
- Servius' on Aeneid IV. 377
- Eustathius on Homer p. 772
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 36
- Tzetzes' commentary on Theogony 80
- Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Ataburon
- Hesychius s. v. Mylas
- Callimachus, Aitia Fragment 75
- Bacchylides, Fragment 1
- Ovid, Ibis, 475
- Callimachus, Aitia Fragment 3. 1
- Confirmed by the account of Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 1. 2