Way Back Wednesday: Hades


Hades gets a bad wrap in most retellings, and it’s easy to see why. Death and all that’s associated with it, make people uncomfortable. And to be fair, on a modern level, the myth most people know involving Hades features him kidnapping a maiden and bringing winter on the world.

But in Greek Mythology, Hades was actually a pretty nice guy when compared to most of his Olympian brethren so long as you didn’t try to mess with his realm or his wife (the Pirithous thing was an actual myth).

The portrayals of Hades that most likely influenced my writing were his counterparts in the Persephone retellings I wrote about before. But those are never explicitly Hades, so I’m sure these guys had a major influence on my version of Hades’ dark side.

Every Hades figure in every retelling I mentioned in this blog. It would be cheating to give you a list of all the exact same books and movies, but these were seriously the biggest influences on my perception of Hades growing up.

Disney’s Hercules

Smart, sassy, and undeniably evil, this version of Hades is like a more charismatic version of Scar from The Lion King. He was everywhere in my childhood. Hercules the movie, Hercules the TV show and just when I’d lost interest in those, he showed up as a recurring character in Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. By far the most entertaining version of Hades, he’s still leagues away from the myth.

devil-151837_1280--from pixabaySatan

I was raised in the bible belt. When learning about Greek mythology, Hades was often compared to hell and its ruler to the devil himself. The two are linked in my mind and obviously the minds of many others, otherwise Hades wouldn’t feature so frequently as the primary antagonist in so many modern retellings.

It’s actually kind of interesting that Greek mythology’s Hades merged with the Christian devil because you see that happen so much in religious stories. Even in Greek mythology the gods are combinations of the Greek versions and the belief systems that predated them. Demeter is a great example of this, as is Pluto (the Roman “version” of Hades).

In that vein, Lucifer of Paradise Lost and of Dante’s Inferno. I majored in English, I had to do a lot with these two particular works. You can see my review of Paradise Lost here. I never got around to writing one for The Divine Comedy. Milton’s version of Lucifer was almost a sympathetic, highly intelligent, and somewhat sassy (for Milton) character. It’s easy to see where that influenced Disney, and to some degree me. Inferno used Hades for the underworld, borrowing very heavily from Greek mythology. The connection was very apparent and absolutely in my mind when I sat down and wrote Persephone.

The Justice League

Hades makes a few appearances in The Justice League. He’s pretty similar to Disney’s version with a bit of the devil from Dr. Faustus thrown in. He rules the Underworld as a punishment, is screaming and manipulative, loves to make tricky deals. Ect. Ect.

It’s no wonder when Clash of the Titans was rebooting they made Hades the antagonist. It’s no wonder when retelling myths so many portray Hades as the bad guy. And by the way, there is no wrong way to interpret Greek mythology from a modern lens. We vilify things that the ancient Greeks never would have and we praise things that the ancient Greeks never would have. We have a different perspective and a different cultural context. We don’t live in a vacuum, everything we see and hear influences both our telling and our reading of a story. So evil Hades isn’t actually inaccurate. He demonstrates a worldview we have when looking at the myths as do the retellings that feature him as a good guy. They’re all part of a puzzle that can be used to suss out the values and beliefs of the person telling the myth.

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