Transcending Hektor and Achilles: The Death of Osama Bin Laden

I try and keep these blogs topical if possible, and in light of recent events I’ve been thinking about the Iliad. The past few days have been a maelstrom emotions for Americans; relief, closure, anger, rage…etc…Two looming controversies remain. Where are the death photos? and why was his body disposed of quickly and respectfully in accordance with Islamic tradition?

Just recently, the President has made the decision not to release the photos. But what about the whole burial at sea? In my honest opinion I predict that even if the photos get released, there will be no end to conspiracy theories? Why? For the same reason that we still have groups who refute the moon landing.

One of the most significant events of the moon landing, was the first photographic evidence that the earth was round. This may seem like a small discovery, but to the flat-earthers, it was, well- earthshaking. If you truly don’t see the significance of this discovery, then go and speak with a flat-earther. You’ll find they are very passionate about their belief and will have a seemingly rational answer for everyone of your arguments! But when you provide hard evidence like a round photo of the Earth, you have them cornered. The logical answer is to say the photo is a fraud and the events leading up to taking the picture are also a fraud. Now I’m not saying that every person who thinks the moon landing was a fake believes the Earth is flat, but I do think that belief contributes to the conspiracy. But what does that have to do with Bin Laden?

We hate him. He is the symbol of all that is evil. He killed indiscriminately and he must die. Our emotions are incredibly tied up in the mans demise and for many of us, a respectful burial at sea just isn’t good enough. Just like the photos of Earth, the news that Bin Laden was laid to rest respectfully goes against what we want to believe. Some of us will actually hope he still lives, only so that he can be punished properly.  The retribution is not at sea. He should be stoned, hung upside down, put in a cage and left to rot. Maybe, just maybe, we should tear holes in his ankles, run a leather thong through them and drag his body behind a tank. Is this sounding familiar?

In the Iliad, Achilles finally defeats his arch-enemy Hektor. He takes up the body, runs a leather thong through the ankles, and drags the body around the city of Troy showing extreme disrespect. It wasn’t until the God’s interfered that Hektor’s father Priam was able to retrieve the body from Achilles. Now one thing I want to make clear.

I am NOT implying that Bin Laden is Hektor.

Hektor is a good man. In fact, this is a bit of a Mythology 101 conversation. Who has the true heroic attributes in the Iliad? Hektor. He is a warrior, he is wise, he loves his family, he demonstrates restraint; a pretty solid dude.

What I am implying is that we had an opportunity to become Achilles.

Achilles is by no means the perfect Hero. In fact he is a bit of a whiny brat! He is a fierce and powerful warrior, but he throw tantrums. He sits in his tent and pouts while a plague kills his fellow men. He continues to do nothing while his best friend Patroklus fights in his place and gets killed. And he brutally disrespects the body of the enemy.

So what am I getting at? I believe that something very symbolic occurred when we quietly slipped that body into the sea. We could have done worse, and I think it would have been generally excepted. After everything done to us, our allies would have been understanding to whatever gruesome actions we decided to take. But we didn’t. We could have, and we didn’t.

In taking the high road, we cast away the negative attributes of Achilles and took on the positives of Hektor. Amalgamating into something new! We are the powerful warriors. We are the just. We are Americans, and I am proud to be one.

I understand there is a lot of pain out there. Victims and families who have only just begun to heal. I know that not everyone will agree with me and I completely respect that. My heart goes out to each and every person who lost someone because of this horrible man. Hopefully now, some of us can begin to find closure.

Myth in Life Pt. 4 Chariots of the Gods

After the Honda Odyssey made an appearance in the last Myth In Life, I thought i might be able to sneak one or two more into the next segment. Well the more I looked, the more i found myself stumbling upon a whole theme. Buckle your seatbelts!

Avalon

We’ll start with a familiar one. Avalon has already made an appearance in the “Whining About Myths” section. Avalon, also known as Apple Island, Island of Blessed Souls, Island of Glass, is the home of Morgan Le Fay. Supposedly the sacred sword Excalibur was forged on the island by the faery folk. When King Arthur was mortally wounded, he was taken by boat to Avalon to be healed.

In other myths Avalon is the hiding place of Ogres who guard sacred Golden Apples which they have stolen from the Gods.

Titans

Those well familiar with Greek Mythology know that the Titans were the big dogs before the classical pantheon. The leader of the Titans was Chronos who rose up against his father Uranus and castrated him. Later, in fear of the same fate, Chronos ate all his children immieditly after they were born. With a little trickery, Zeus escaped this fate and was able to free the rest of his siblings who usurped their predecessors.
.

 

Chronos Devours his Children, Goya

Mazda

Mazda, or Ahura Mazda is the Zoroastrian creation God of Persian culture. When Zoroaster was in his thirties he received a vision of Ahura Mazda told him about the Good Religion. Zoroaster returned to his people and explained that Ahura Mazda was the only god to be worshipped and that his antithesis, Angra Mainyu, was the source of all sin and evil.

Mercury/Hermes/Thoth

Mercury is the Roman name for Hermes, the Greek God who in his first day of birth stole Apollo’s Cattle and created the Lyre to make piece with him. Some believe that in return for the Lyre, Apollo gave him the caduceus (the winged staff entwined with serpents), others believe Zeus gave him the staff along with the winged sandles and cap when Hermes became Harold to the Gods.

He is also known as Hermes Cthonius. This name respects his magical powers and it is said the only being more powerful was Hecate.

In the realm of scholars and alchemists he is known as Hermes Trismegistus, who has the Egyptians call Thoth.

Pleiades

Its easy to just quickly glance at the Subaru logo and not think to much about it. Its just a bunch of stars. But which stars are they? Turns out they reference a start cluster known as Pleiades, and that actually means a lot!

In Greek Mythology, Pleiades represents the Seven Sisters who were changed into seven doves to escape the relentless pursuit of Orion.

Pleiades had a "Staring" role in the Nebra Sky disk. Its the cluster in the upper right

The Inuit refer to cluster as a group of hunters and dogs who went chasing a great bear, while the Blackfoot tribe say they are lost children who had nothing here, so they went and found a home in the sky. The Cherokee say it is the home of the Anitsutsa, or star-spirits.

Pleiades is also the name given to the sisters who guarded Hera’s Golden Apples with the dragon Ladon.

Groups of UFOoligists credit Pleiades as the home of a Scandinavian Alien race.

Osiris

There are quite a few who believe that the Chrysler symbol is a reference to Osiris, the Egyptian God of the Dead. In the Egyptian Myth, A kingdom was divided between two brothers, Osiris and Set. Set wanted the whole thing, so he put Osiris in a casket and tossed him in the Nile. The body eventually found a resting place where a tree grew around it. When the tree was cut down, the body was discovered and returned to Osiris’s wife/sister Isis. While mourning, she conceived Horus.

Not liking where this was going, Set got a hold of Osiris’s body, cut it into little pieces and tossed them in the Nile. Isis recovered the pieces, all except his penis(bummer), and restored him to life. After all this, Osiris decided to retire and rule the underworld, leaving Horus in charge of both kingdoms.

*an interesting side story, Set gouged out one of Horus’s eyes. Thoth(Hermes) restored it

Well thats it for this round. As always, your own Myth in Life pictures are more than welcome at mythblogogy@gmail.com. I’ll leave you with this. Its anothe rendition of Ahura Mazda, compare it to Osiris…

An Epic Poem

One of the neat things about the set-up that wordpress has, is I can check how many people look at this blog on a daily basis. What I love even more, is that i can actually look at the what your typing into your search engines to get here. I started to notice there were some intresting phrases being used. I started to save them over the past few months and have created a little “poem” as a little experiment. I hope you enjoy it, as it is written by Mythblogogy users, for Mythblogogy users…

Hungry mythological gods,

Candies named after greek gods,

Satanic Lilith,

Faust witch,

Naked goddess,

Aegina: nymph-like daughter of river god asopus,

Boulder down the hill hell,

Faust wine cellar,

Raven on a bottle of wine,

The beggar and the faithful dog Odyssey,

Evil ship captain,

King midas has asses ears,

The joker original,

Harold Godwinson with an arrow in his eye,

Shadow pushing boulder,

Bearded bacchus,

Bugs bunny and the gremlin,

Famous norwegian pirates,

A guy pushing a rock up a hill,

Eagle with broken shackles,

Odysseus disguised as a beggar,

I‘m Sisyphus,
-Mythbologogy

Myth in Life Pt. 3

….and we’re back. Hopefully this newest myth in life segment will symbolize a kickstart with more articles to come. Enjoy!

Sprite

Obey Your Thirst!

I love sightings like this, because its right in front of you on a daily basis, with a rich mythological history. Sprite is a blanket term for fairies, pixes, brownies and goblins. This all falls into “little people” mythology. Many culture’s have stories of little people who poses some degree of magic. They can be benevolent or mischievous, sometimes depending on the ethics of the people who encounter them. In Ireland there are the Leprechauns, in Hawaii you’ll hear about the menehune, and new sprite myths have come about int he past 100 years. In World War I, Royal Air Force pilots began blaming “Gremlins” for issues with their planes.

Bugs Bunny Vs. a Gremlin in "Falling Hare"

The Odyssey

Honda Odyssey

The Honda Odyssey barrows it’s name from Homer’s story of Odysseus. His name and story have created a word that means a “grand adventure or quest.”

The Original Odyssey

Mars

God of War Bar

Mars is the son of Jupiter, the Roman God of War. Every day the Roman version of Ares is staring you from the grocery store shelf. I like to think that J.J. Abrams was inspired by the Mars Bar to create his own God candy bar in the hit t.v. show Lost.

Apollo Bar from Lost

Argonaut

The Argonaut

Argonaut refers to a member of Jason’s crew on board the Argo, the ship he used on his quest for the Golden Fleece. The crew included such Mythic Celebrities as Hercules, Orpheus, and Bellerophon.

The Kraken

A bottle of Kraken Rum, courtesy of Hawaiian Mythic Correspondent, Mike Ray

The Kraken has become very popular ever since Davey Jones commanded on in the new “Pirates” movies, and the sea beast also had a cameo appearance in the Clash of the Titan films. In the original “Clash,” the Kraken was one of the last remaining Titans who was unleashed to punish mortals. But the Kraken was never a Titan, in fact, the Kraken doesn’t have roots in Greek mythology; the Kraken is Norwegian. The original Kraken tales aren’t of a tentacled beast, bus something much larger. The Kraken is the monster you heard about in the stories of sailors landing on a mysterious island, only to have it sink out underneath them or swim away. This island sized creature was supposedly a mile-and-a-half in diameter!

Welcome to Hell, I’m Sisyphus, and i’ll be your tour-guide today…

A Blog for those who are “Wicked Smart” or have fallen in love with their Rocks

Sisyphus. He gets a bad wrap in most mythology books. We see him in the Odyssey, as well as in Orpheus’s journey to save Eurydice. But the information is brief. A man must push a boulder up a hill, but just as he reaches the hill, the boulder tumbles back down to the bottom and the task must be repeated, over and over. Usually when he is mentioned, he is paired with Tantalus.

Tantalus

Tantalus is the guy who shall forever stand up to his neck in a pool of water, with grapes hanging down above his head. Whenever he tries to reach a grape, a breeze blows them out of his reach. Whenever he bends down to drink, the water sinks away. For all eternity he goes hungry and thirsty. Tantalus was given he opportunity to hold a feast for the Gods, but in his arrogance he tried to fool the Gods. He killed his own son Pelops, cut him to pieces, boiled him, and served the flesh to his guests. (Don’t worry, Pelops is resurrected) Cannibalism is a horrible act in Greek culture, so it can be understood why he receives a harsh punishment.

But what has Sisyphus done? What horrible crime has he committed for his eternal punishment. Sisyphus was the King of Corinth. Sisyphus was a very clever king, and his intelligence was actually his undoing.

The action begins, as it usually does, with Zues not being able to keep it in his toga. The target this time was Aegina, a smoking-hot river nymph. Not having any restraint, Zues  transforms into an eagle and wisks her away to an island where he has his way with her.

Zues Kidnaps Aegina As An Eagle

The father of Aegina, the river-god Asopus, is naturally upset and he chases after his daughter. Unfortunately, he has no idea where Zues has taken his daughter. That’s where our King of Corinth first comes in. Sisyphus agrees to tell Asopus the island where the two lovers are, but only for something in return. Asopus must create a fresh-water spring for his city. Asopus agrees, creating the spring, and catching Zues red handed…

Zues, having a temper problem, decides Sisyphus’s time is up and he sends Thanatos (death, that’s right. Hades is the lord of the dead, but not death himself…) with shackles to take Sisyphus away to Tartarus. Sisyphus being extremely clever, trick Thanatos into putting on the shackles. With Death trapped, people cannot die.

This is a motif that has become very popular throughout folklore. Death is somehow tricked into a sack, a tree, whatever, and the resulting consequence is that people cannot die. This is still a popular motif today and was used for humor in a very early episode of Family Guy.

Peter Takes Over For Death

Without people dying, war loses some of its sting, so a very upset Ares comes down and frees Thanatos and takes Sisyphus to Hades. Our clever hero has a back up plan. Sisyphus instructed his wife to leave his body out, no burial, no ceremony, nothing. When Hades and Persephone learn how poorly his body has been treated, the allow him to return to the land of the living to discipline his wife and get his funeral in order. Once out of Hades, Sisyphus ignored the instructions to return, and lives to an old age. For his crimes, Zues himself takes him to Tartarus where he is condemned to role his rock. Not for cannibalism, not for killing a sun, just for being a little to smart.

I think its easy for those of us in the tourism industry, or anyone who is in a very repetitive job, to relate too Sisyphus. We say the same thing every day, or take people to the same place. What makes it difficult is the knowledge all the hard work of today will make no difference tomorrow. The rock will roll back down the hill and we are stuck saying or doing the same thing we’ve done the day before. In his poem “Sisyphus,” A.E. Stallings writes:

…the massive
machinery of hope,
the broken record of alive.
Why object?
The luck of all the draws
Is the weight of stone.

More often than not, we to find ourselves stuck on “the broken record of alive.” Not only can we relate and empathize with Sisyphus, through the work of Albert Camus, we can find a hero.

Camus

In his book, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus writes that Sisyphus doesn’t have to be damned. Tantalus is stuck, standing forever with everything he wants just out of reach. Sisyphus can take action. Camus argues that if Sisyphus pushes the rock, enjoying his burden, then it is the gods who lose and not our hero. The last sentence written is very powerful. “We must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I personally believe that the reason we “Must” view Sisyphus this way, is it is the only for us to improve out view on our own lives. If we can see this man, in hell, moving forward, undiscouraged, than the own repetitions we face in life may not be as insurmountable as we have come to believe.

But I think a lot of us get to that stage. At least some of the time. But here’s the next step, the revelation. I sometimes imagine Sisyphus happy, as Camus instructs, pushing his rock. But there is more going on there than happiness. That emotion actually covers another, anxiety. For over the eons, Sisyphus has fallen in love with his rock, and the fear of not having it runs deep.

I find this is a situation we often find ourselves, falling in love with our own rock. Most of the time we don’t eve know it. We moan and groan and complain about the dreary repetition of the work we do, but the truth is, our grumblings cover up our fear. For having no rock at all is truly terrifying at times.

Films like “Clerks” and “Waiting” are all about Camus-like hero’s, but they are also about hero’s who have fallen in love with their rock. We need to recognize when we have fallen into that trap.

I like to picture an alternative to the Myth of Sisyphus, when Zues first brings our hero to the steep hill, enormous boulder sitting at the bottom.

“All you have to do is push that boulder to the top of the hill” says Zues

“Then what?” Sisyphus replies

“I can’t tell you what comes next. You must complete this task, then you will see what comes after.”

And just like that Zues vanishes and our hero is left alone. He begins to push the stone up hill. It is a very steep hill and a very heavy rock and it takes a lot of effort and time, maybe a week, maybe a month, to get the stone near the top. And the whole time, Sisyphus is left alone with his thoughts. “Will this end once I reach the top? Will I be redeemed? Will their be a worse punishment? Will the pain stop? Can I rest? What if this is only a fraction of the pain to come?”

And just as he reaches the top, in a moment of panic and uncertainty, he lets his grip loosen and allows the boulder to role back down to the bottom. He is shocked. Months of effort, sweat, pain; gone. Does he know he let it go on purpose? Does he lie to himself, call himself stupid and clumsy? He must now begin the long journey back to the bottom.

Again he is alone with his thoughts. What does he think? “I won’t let that happen again. Next time I’ll really do it. Whatever comes next can’t be as bad as that. Next time I’ll really do it.

And so he continues until the end of time.

Myth In Life Pt. 2, “Wine”ing About Mythology

I didn’t expect to have a theme by the second posting of Myth In Life, but while walking through the wine and spirit section of the grocery store I noticed that wine labels are like a magnet for myths. So armed with nothing but my cell phone camera, I went about capturing more proof that the myths have not all gone home.

FAUST

Faust was the first bottle that really caught my eye and inspired the theme for this installment. While you could make a valid argument that Faust is not a myth (It didn’t originate through oral tradition and it has a recognized author. I feel that Faust has become a cultural obsession and we have connotatively gravitated towards him as a newer archetype of a man willing to sell his soul to the devil.

PEGASUS

Pegasus was another one of those real obvious mythic figures. The winged horse seems to pop up quite a bit and I suspect that he’s get his own myth in life segment in the near future. Pegasus came into life when Perseus severed the head of Medusa. Pegasus sprang from a drop of her blood.

ARTEMIS & ACTEON

I saw a lot of bottles with deer on them and wanted to write a piece on Acteon, but none of the wines seemed specific enough. Then I found Artemis. Artemis/Diana, Goddess of the hunt was bathing with her attendants in the forrest. Young Acteon is out hunting with his hounds and comes across the nude Goddess and decides to take a risk and spy on her. What we have here is essentially the first version of the Porky’s shower scene.

Unfortunately for Acteon, he is caught, and believe it or not, our naked Goddess isn’t to happy about the situation. She punishes Acteon by turning him into a stag, who is then hunted down and killed by his own loyal dogs. Oh sweet irony…

CAMELOT & AVALON

I was never one who followed the whole Arthurian myth scene, but i’m starting to become a fan. It seems like an area where you can’t deny diffusion was a major role in evolution of the stories. So I had to include Camelot, the kingdom that Arthur created, home to the Table Round.

And while we’re on the subject ancient, medieval, mystical realm’s, there’s also Avalon. As I mentioned earlier, Arthurian legend is not my strong point, but I do recognize Avalon. In some versions, this island was the origin of the sword Excalibur, and the place that Arthur went to heal his wounds. I think there might be a future blog on the subject of mystical islands, so stay tuned for more Avalon.


RAVEN

This one’s a homage to back home. In Alaska, and other areas in the Pacific Northwest, Raven is a trickster deity. He stars in a number of tales, my favorite one “Raven steals the light.” In the story, a wizard steals the sun. Raven steps up to get it back and on the journey eats his own scabs, making hime eternally hungry, and switches genders…what a goofball. He is successful and steals the sun back, restoring light to the world.

SOPHIA

The idea of Gnosis is new to me, but a subject is growing more and more interesting. According to some Gnostic beliefs, the Angelic Deity Sophia leaves the presence of the Alien God and looks upon the Earth/Choas. She tries to create Life/Order and creates a terrible being known as the Demiurge. His form is a snake with a lion’s head. The curse of the demiurge is that this flawed being thinks he is the one true god, and according to Gnostic belief, we think he is too. Sophia is often compared to other feminine archetypes like eve, first eve, lilith, hecate…etc…

“ORIGINAL” SIN

“For the wages of Sin is Death” This is another one that gets me excited! Here we have a Motif with multiple meaning for different cultures and time periods. Of course most people associate Sin with the Christian concept of a bad deed. But Sin is also the name of the Mesopotamian moon god. The Ur knew him as Nanna, the god of wisdom. He was the head of the pantheon. He also had a beard made of Lapis Lazuli, thats pretty awesome.

BACCHUS

And it wouldn’t be right to do a blog on myth and wine without this guy. Bacchus’s Secret Cellar is a wine bar not far from my house. Bacchus/Dionysus is the God of Wine. The followers of his cult really shook up Greek and Roman culture to the point were worshipping him was banned at times. Supposedly, it was common practice to rip apart a living virgin at his festivals. They later switched over to a living lamb; maybe they ran out of virgins. Bacchus is a great example of mythic resurrection. His mother burst into flames after demanding to see the true form of Zeus. Zeus sowed the unborn child into his leg for the remainder of his development. The Titans also tried to eat poor Bacchus and cut him into pieces and ate him. Zeus rescued him before they could eat his heart, using it to resurrect the boy. This is the second time Bacchus has made it into Myth in Life. In part one, he was attributed to giving King Midas the ears of an ass.

Great news! Mythblogogy has a shiny new email account. If you have any pictures you think might be interesting for an installment of Myth in Life, send them in. The more places they come from, the better. Send them to Mythblogogy@gmail.com.

Odysseus Vs. Captain Hook

How Postmodernism, Polybius, and the Battle of 1066 changed the way we tell stories.

No one fears a Pirate named James. The name doesn’t conjure fierce imagery. One almost pictures a prudent captain in a naval uniform standing at the wheel of his ship. But James is fierce; in fact he’s downright evil. And while committing one of his evil acts he receives a terrible wound; an eternally young boy cuts off his hand. With a missing hand, James is forced to find a substitute in cold metal; Captain Hook is born.

A rather common “bad guy” has been reborn a much more powerful villain. “Powerful” meant in the literal sense, but also the literary. The tradition of Mythic Injury, a key part in the rise of a hero in the earliest forms of oral tradition, has now been taken on by the villain. To the point were we even resurrect our villains multiple times before they truly fall.

Mythologists and Anthropologists use the term “mythic injury” in reference to the point in a Hero’s story in which he is marked physically. This can happen in a number ways. The hero can cause an injury to himself such as Pinocchio who burns his own feet to cinders. A villain can also cause a mythic wound such as the witch pushing the prince from Rapunzel’s tower, causing his blindness. But the mythic injury can also come from a divine interaction.

When Moses returned from Mount Sinai after being in God’s presence, he had two horns coming from his head. There is great debate over the translation of this section and some argue that instead of horns, Moses had “Rays of Light” coming from him. For the purpose of this blog, it doesn’t actually matter. What does matter is Moses, after encountering God, had been changed in some way.

Moses with Horns

There are other forms of Mythic Injury. Sometimes they are a mark of a good deed done by the hero. In the Argonautica, Jason stops at a river and sees an old crone (Actually the Goddess Hera in disguise) who is unable to cross on her own. Jason agrees to carry her across, but in doing so loses one of his sandals.

Many have written on the subject of mythic injury. It appears among the 32 “functions” recognized in Vlademir Propp’s “Metamorphosis of the Folktale. Here it is identified simply as function 17, the “Hero is Branded.” According to Propp’s, the hero can receive the branding during a skirmish with the villain, or he can receive an injury from a princess who awakens him by making a small cut on his face. She can also kiss him, burning the mark of a star on his forehead.

In the book “Iron John,” Robert Bly describes the purpose of mythic injury in folktale and myth as a representation of one step in becoming a man. As a young man grows, as he gains more life experience, he is likely to acquire injuries. Sometimes major, sometimes just a scrape, he receives a mark that symbolizes becoming a man.

Bly brings up that one of the most notable figures in epic mythology, “Odysseus,” has special meaning when it comes to mythic injury. His roman name “Ulysses” roughly translates into “wound above the knee.” When Odysseus was a boy he was hunting a Boar on Mount Parnassus. He did manage to kill the boar, but only after receiving a deep wound above his knee. Here we have a perfect example of a wound symbolizing a transitional period to manhood, but the wound plays a specific role in his story.

Odysseus

When Odysseus returns home to Ithaca, disguised as a beggar, his old nurse recognizes who he truly is by a scar on his leg. Here we have a hero who not only has a mythic injury, it literally defines him; just like Captain Hook.

In more recent times, these injuries have been happening to our villains. We have already mentioned the Captain, but there are other examples. In 1995, “Waterworld” came out with its villain “The Deacon,” played by Dennis Hopper. At the beginning of the film, Hopper’s character is rather minor. He’s mean and he’s in charge of the bad guys, but he has no relationship with the main character. Then the Hero and Villain meet. After the clash the Deacon has received a major injury; he is missing an eye. After this point he becomes a menacing villain with a real emotional vendetta aimed at the protagonist. Like Captain Hook, the deacon really didn’t have a true villain’s presence until he received his injury.

The Joker

For Comic Book Fans, the Batman villain “Joker” is also a prime example of a villain’s ascent after an injury. Before falling into a vat of acidic chemicals, our villain is simply a masked bandit. Afterwards, he is not only changed physically, but mentally. He has become one of the most memorable villains in comic book history.

So why do contemporary stories bestow villains with what used to go to the hero’s. And when did it start? I believe this is a topic you could write an entire volume, if not volumes on, and there may not be a simple answer. But I have found some contributing evidence.

While reading a piece on the Battle of 1066, I found a peculiar piece of information. One of the key historical figures, Harold Godwinson, was killed in a battle by an arrow to his eye (some sources say he was killed shortly after by a sword, but was still hit in the eye). I then found that an arrow to the eye was a symbol of perjury in medieval Europe.

An Arrow To The Eye

Harold, although king at the time, had promised the throne to William the Bastard, even if the throne was given to Harold. This promise was made while Harold was being held captive by William, so its very likely that he was pressured into swearing this oath. The winners, however, write history, and according to them, Harold went back on his word; this act of perjury leads up to the actual Battle of Hastings.
So hear is an example of a “villain” receiving a significant injury to the face. It is possible that our villainous injury motif was rooted somewhere in this earlier perjury motif. The roots could go even farther back. The bible does write of an “eye for and eye.” Maybe we didn’t just start giving our villains a hero’s motif, but evolved a much older idea.

There is another possibility that can be found within the history of the Punic Wars. Many historians debate over Hannibal’s military genius. Some argue he was brilliant, while others think he was just lucky. The controversial point in the timeline takes place after the battle of Cannae. Hannibal had been decimating the Roman legions and at the battle of Cannae, he successfully encircled the Romans and slaughtered 60,000 of them. Before Cannae, Hannibal has killed another 15,000 men. In both these battles, Hannibal lost very few of his own men.

Hannibal Barca

After the success at Cannae, Hannibal was told by one of his generals that if he marched on Rome, they would take it. Hannibal said something along the lines of “maybe.” This is why people argue over his military intelligence. If he was so brilliant, why didn’t he take the big win? The answer may be found in the work of Polybius.

Polybius is one of the major sources for the Punic Wars, but he wasn’t there for most of it. It seems that Polybius was asked to write the histories by the family of Scipio Africanus. Scipio was the one who defeated Hannibal’s army at the battle of Zama. Some historian’s believe that Scipio’s Ancestors wanted to really build up Hannibal as a great warrior. This would elevate Scipio, and therefore his future ancestors, for his victory over an epic villain.

So maybe our contemporary use of villains is a reflection of Polybius’s Method; make a stronger bad guy, and your good guy is all the stronger for defeating him. No one would care much if Batman defeated the Red Hood, but taking down The Joker is a major victory.

The Villains don’t simply stop at this point anymore. They’ve now continued forward, borrowing another motif from our hero’s; resurrection and rebirth. In 2006, under the authorization of the Great Ormand St Hospital, Geraldine McCaughrean published “Peter Pan in Scarlet,” the official sequel to “Peter Pan.” In the story, the character of Ravello is introduced. He is an old circus ringmaster who joins in the adventure as Peter’s butler. Towards the end of the story, we find that Ravello is none other than Captain Hook. After being swallowed by the crocodile, Hook incubated within the stomach, changing, until was reborn as Ravello.

In the Scream movies, the masked murder finally is overcome, only to swing the knife a few minutes later once the audience has relaxed again. Sometimes, even when the Hero has truly won the day and walks away with the girl, after the credits have rolled, the audience is given a sneak peak that there is life in the villain and he’ll probably be back again in another sequel. In Carrie, we see this at the end of the film with a hand shooting out of a grave.

And so it would appear that our villains don’t die; they simply change into something stronger. Now we see how this motif can be useful. What better way to prepare for the dangers in life than admitting that they aren’t going to go away, but only come back in a new form; sometimes recognizable, sometimes not.
I like to think that Polybius’s method has had a strong influence on how we tell stories. In a time where writers are trying to come up with a new, powerful story, we make our villains super-villains and our hero’s into super-heros. In our post-postmodern society were issues are no longer quite so black and white, we like to see a little bit of our hero’s in our villains, and vice versa.

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