FAQ Friday: The Gods Can’t Lie

Question mark in a blue bubble. Repeating icon for the frequently asked questions in the Daughters of Zeus series a young adult greek mythology retelling by Kaitlin Bevis

*Spoiler warning for events in Persephone and Daughter of the Earth and Sky and Iron Queen*

Thanatos looked down at the marble floors, scuffing his black shoes back and forth. “Have you told . . . anyone that you charmed me?”

I frowned, thinking back. I’d told my mother and Melissa about the fight with Boreas, but between witnessing and then committing a murder, charming Thanatos wasn’t all that memorable. I studied Thanatos. It was memorable for him. His face was flushed, his hands were gripped tightly together, and he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

He’s embarrassed. I remembered him saying I outranked him, and as far as bloodlines went, I did, but knowing that and having his will overpowered by a goddess who hadn’t even come into her powers couldn’t feel very good.

“I haven’t told anyone.”

“Is there any way . . . I hate asking you this, but could you promise not to tell anyone anything about me? It’s just that I’d never live it down if anyone ever found out I’d been charmed.”

I smiled at him. “I promise. I can’t promise Hades won’t figure it out, but he won’t have any help from me.”

A grin broke out across his face. “Thank you.”

~@~

Q: Since Persephone inadvertently bound herself to Thanatos, it suggests things said in ignorance must also be true. So… are we then to assume that she never once got a question on a test wrong?

A: This is a question in two parts, so I’m going to divide my answer.

Persephone didn’t bind herself to Thanatos in ignorance in terms of the actual promise sworn, just the repercussions. If you look at the wording above, she swore exactly what she meant to. She promised not to tell anyone anything about Thanatos, and then she took it one step further and promised not to help Hades figure out that he’d been charmed. She knows all the meanings behind the words, the implication of the it, all of it. What she doesn’t know is everything Thanatos has ever said or done, but that knowledge has no bearing on what she actually promised. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t know Thanatos was working with Zeus because her promise had nothing to do with that knowledge. She promised not to tell anyone anything about Thanatos at all. No expiration date, no limits.

The problem with Persephone’s promise was that it was that pesky word anything. She physically cannot tell anyone a single thing about Thanatos, ever. That’s all-encompassing. If Thanatos had never betrayed her, if they went on to be best friends, and three years down the road, Hades asked “Hey, are you seeing Thanatos later today?” She physically could not say yes.

The second issue with the promise is that she promised not to do anything to help Hades figure out that he was charmed. Here’s where ignorance could play a part as long as she’s careful. For example, if she really stopped and thought about it, her hatred of Reapers could tip Hades off that something is up with his head reaper. She doesn’t think about it, so she objects at the Reaper guard. If she had continued to never think about it, if she’d never linked Thanatos and the Reapers in her mind, she could have gone to Hades and told him that the Reapers were hurting her. But she connected the two as a way that Hades could figure out Thanatos was working for Zeus which means she could have charmed him in that clearing and because of that she physically cannot go to Hades. Here’s the thing. She was wrong. Hades finds out about the Reapers and he still doesn’t connect the dots, if the truth telling thing was only about facts not impressions, she should have been able to open her mouth and say it. It’s her interpretation of her knowledge that stops her from being able to speak.

 

So as far as lying in ignorance, yes, the gods can absolutely do that. The no lying thing only works if they know they are lying. Persephone could never have possibly said Zeus is dead if she hadn’t been led to believe that was true. This is why in book three, Zeus is attempting to break her sanity in order to gain fealty from her. She swore not to do Hades harm, but her keeping that promise is really depending on her understanding an action could harm him.

I’m sure that’s about as clear as mud, so let me try to simply. If you asked a two year old god “What is two + two” and they answered three, they are not, to their knowledge lying. They may firmly believe that answer is true. If you ask a three year old what is two + two, they may not be able to physically answer because they don’t know the right answer, but they know enough to know they don’t know  the right answer.

The purpose of the no-lying thing is that words have power and when a god tells an untruth they have the ability to change the nature of the thing they are lying about. That kind of change requires intention. Remember, child gods like Persephone are rare, and those with enough power to actually impact anything enough to change it are non-existent because of the precautions gods took to make sure they would not bind themselves into a situation like Persephone’s. It’s because of the way she was raised human, surrounded by all the idioms and exaggerations, that she made such a foolish promise without thinking about it.

 

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