Showing posts with label Pluto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pluto. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Perseus


Vyst moved, in his underground chamber, for the first time since a hundred years.

Jupiter was having yet another party in Olympus. Banquets were laid out for all the gods so that they could eat till their hearts content. Recliners were put out, covered in the softest velvet. A son had been born to him finally. His name was to be Perseus. He would be a healthy boy with the world at his feet. Slowly the boy grew up. Gods grow at a rate of 3 human years per minute until they are 16, when they stop growing. As Perseus grew he began to resemble his father. The gods watched in awe. This little one was so much like their king yet no one knew what his future would hold.

Vyst could feel his fingers now, and soon his toes. The gods had paralysed him when he and his minions had first broke out of their domain in Vesuvius. They had planned to overthrow the gods and over take the world. They captured the city of Pompeii before the gods could stop them and buried the whole city in ash before giving themselves up. Now that Vyst was beginning to regain his powers he could plan to take revenge on the gods. From one of his hypnotised minions he found out that a son, the heir to his kingdom  had been born to Jupiter. Vyst had puzzled out how to take revenge on the gods, yet he still needed to draw a proper battle plan.

Jupiter was very anxious to protect his son’s. He made sure that he was accompanied by the strongest of forces, constantly. After all this was his one and only heir. Though one day Perseus complained that his bodyguards were always scaring off his friends and he wanted to go out on his own. After a lot of persuasion his father finally gave him permission to go out on his own.  Perseus’s joy knew no bounds. With his new born freedom Perseus immediately ran out to meet his friends, when he spotted an odd looking shrub nearby. He went to investigate the cause of the abnormality. Though as soon as he walked towards the shrub he was sucked in.

Vyst had spent ages on this plan. He needed a safe and secure stepping stone to hatch his new idea. First he thought about killing Juno, yet this did not seem possible as the gods were always protected, especially Jupiter’s wife. Secondly he thought about manipulating Pluto, God of the Underworld. Though this idea seemed far fetched. After a few hours of toiling and eating tacos he finally got to a conclusion. He knew exactly what to do. He knew from his minions that Perseus was always whinge about not being allowed to go out on his own. As soon as Jupiter gave in and let him free, he would ambush Perseus and kidnap him. Jupiter would deeply regret his decision and all the gods would be angry on him for losing the son and heir of Olympus .

In Olympus, Jupiter was getting a little worried. Perseus was not back yet from his daily excursions and he started to regret his decision. As it started to get late. He sent out a pack of bodyguards to find Perseus and bring him back. Though the search party came back in vain. Jupiter was at his despair. Being the god of the world he had an advantage. He scanned the earth all over for him. He found traces of him near a shrub that was not far from Olympus. ”Aha!” thought Jupiter. Perseus had vanished off the face of the Earth at the entrance of the Underworld. This could only mean on thing, Perseus was in the Underworld!

Vyst had manipulated the minds of the guards of the Underworld. He had made them disloyal to Pluto and loyal to him. They allowed him to capture Perseus in front  of their very own eyes. He was gagged and blindfolded. Vyst laughed “Watch out Pompeii,” thought Vyst, ”I’m making a come back. This time I am bigger and better than I was before.”

Jupiter himself entered Pluto’s domain. When Pluto had found out about Vyst’s master plan he was gob smacked. Yet the big problem was to confess to Jupiter about the disappearance. He knew his brother well, and he knew that there was no limit to his temper. Pluto was waiting at the entrance to greet his brother. He had dismissed his guards when he found out that they were Vyst’s spies.

Vyst smiled wildly when he found that Pluto was not entirely oblivious to his plans. Vyst wanted Pluto to find out a little about his plans. Vyst’s idea was to let the gods watch their planet demolish. He would set them free yet they would have nowhere to go to.

Before Jupiter went to go and see Pluto he went to consult the Oracle. As the green smoke cascaded out of the Oracle’s mouth it said ”You will find your inner strength when you sacrifice the family you love for the life you love.”

Jupiter was now trying to digest this information. Pluto was now telling him that Vyst was fully awake, powerful, and he had captured his son. Jupiter’s eyes danced with anger as he threw a thunderbolt. The ground shook with fear. Jupiter cursed Vyst with the worst possible things he could imagine.

As the silly gods were still thinking Vyst had already gathered his minions and was ready to overthrow Olympus, Perseus was lying in the corner unconscious. Vyst was about to give his battle cry when the ground erupted. Jupiter in his almighty form pushed through the earth. Yet Vyst was no coward. He told his enemies to attack. They charged at Jupiter with every ounce of their strength. Jupiter was already losing his balance and he had to hold onto a rock to keep stable. “Give up now"cried Vyst, "Give me your son and all will be well” Jupiter was shocked by this remark that his knees gave away crushing a few dozen of Vyst’s warriors. Jupiter could see the damage that was being caused on earth, volcanoes were exploding and earthquakes were erupting. He knew what he must do. He recalled the Oracle’s words "...you sacrifice the family you love for the life you love." He was ready to accept his destiny, he just hoped Perseus would accept his. His last words to Perseus were, "I’ll miss you kid, but Uncle Pluto will take care of you" and he left for all eternity.

Vyst kept his promised and was never seen again.


Nirali Patel's fun story about a taco-eating Titan and a father's sacrifice took third place in the youngest age group of the Golden Sponge-stick Competition for 2011

Friday, August 07, 2009

Orpheus & Orphée

In Greek mythology, Orpheus was the Thracian musician who was so talented that he could charm wild animals and trees and even rocks with his music.

He went with Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece and had a novel way of deactivating the dangerous song of the Sirens: he played his music to drown out theirs.

One day Orpheus (pronounced or-fee-uss) fell in love with a beautiful girl called Eurydice, (pronounced yoor-id-iss-ee). On their wedding day she was running through the grass when a deadly viper bit her foot. She died in the arms of Orpheus, her betrothed. He was so distraught that he decided to go down to Hades and plead with Pluto to let her take him back.

You know the story. With his beautiful music Orpheus charms the ferryman who guides souls across the River Styx. With his beautiful music Orpheus charms Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog. With his beautiful music Orpheus even charms Pluto and Persephone, the King and Queen of the Underworld. They tell him he can take Eurydice back to the land of the living. But there is one condition. He must lead the way and not look back at her until they have safely arrived.

Orpheus sets out on the upward-sloping path, groping his way because it is so dark and silent. As he ascends, he becomes more and more worried. He can’t hear his beloved Eurydice behind him. He begins to wonder if it could be a trick of Pluto to get him to leave peacefully. When the light from the exit up ahead begins to dimly light the way, he is desperate to glance back, just to reassure himself that she is behind him. But he does not dare. He tells himself to be strong and to resist the temptation to look. Just a little longer!

Finally he steps into bright sunshine. Immediately he turns to see if his beloved Eurydice is behind him. She is! But she is still in the passage, still in the underworld. Even as he watches, she recedes from sight, her arms stretched out hopelessly and helplessly towards him. In some versions the messenger god Mercury sadly takes her arm and stops Orpheus from following.

Orpheus is stunned by his wife’s double death. He is in a torment of guilt and grief. If only he had waited a few more moments! Some say he renounced music. Others say he renounced women. For whatever reason, the frenzied followers of Dionysus called ‘maenads’ (pronounced mee-nadz), become angry with Orpheus and eventually kill him and tear him limb from limb.

Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus 1900

According to some accounts his head rolls into a stream and floats away, singing as it goes. The artist J.W. Waterhouse has chosen to paint the moment when two startled nymphs discover the beautiful, almost effeminate head with the long hair tangled in the chords of the lyre. Were these two among the crazed women of the night before? Or are they innocent?

We don’t really know. All we know is that Orpheus is finally reunited with his beloved Eurydice. In death.


Another artist fascinated by the myth of Orpheus was a multi-talented French genius named Jean Cocteau who flourished in the 50’s. He was not only a filmmaker but also a brilliant artist (see his head of Orpheus at the top right of this post) and poet. His black and white film Orphée, made from 1949-1950 soon after WWII, is considered a classic. (Orphée, pronounced or-fay, is the French for Orpheus) In Cocteau’s retelling of the myth, Orphée is a handsome poet who is adored by all. He is married to a pretty blonde named Eurydice, whom he loves, but in a twist to the tale, he also falls in love with Death, who is personified as a beautiful almost vampirical woman in black. Death is in love with him, too. When Eurydice dies, Orpheus goes to the underworld with a version of Mercury called Heurtebise, (pronounced... no, there is no way I can transliterate that!). A nice twist is that Heurtebise is in love with Eurydice. The scenes of the underworld were filmed in parts of Paris still in ruins from German bombing. They are some of the most haunting and dreamlike footage you will ever see. Orphée and Heurtebise bring Eurydice back from the underworld, but Orphée is forbidden to look at her ever again. Not just on the way back, but FOR EVER. (see above)

This is too much to ask, of course, and one day he accidentally catches sight of her in the rear view mirror of his car. She instantly returns to the underworld. Orphée goes back a second time and, in a poignant twist, Death decides to give him back Eurydice, even though she must suffer a punishment for this, and even though it means Orphée will not even remember her.

Cocteau introduces elements of other myths. For example, Death is like Persephone, who loved Adonis. Cocteau also likes the Narcissus myth. He uses mirrors a lot, in particular as the entrance to the underworld. These are some of the most breathtaking sequences. My favourite scene is where Orphée must put on magic gloves to pass through the mirror to the underworld. For this effect, Cocteau used a vat of mercury, because the actor’s fingers would have been visible beneath the surface of water. In this sequence there are several tricks. First, the footage of Orphée putting on the gloves is reversed. Second, the cameraman filmed his own gloved hands approaching those of the actor Jean Marais, who is in an identical room on the other side of the ‘mirror’. Third, the camera was tilted 90% to film the hands going into the vat of mercury. You can see the mirror sequence HERE.

The strongest reference to the Narcissus myth is in a sequence where Orphée awakens and hovers over a mirror-like pool. (below)

For me this is especially fascinating as I’m currently working on my own reworking of the Narcissus myth.

I was inspired to write this after visiting a Waterhouse exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. You can watch Orphée on the Criterion DVD (US) and in Europe and the UK there is an excellent DVD produced by the BFI with extras including an audio commentary and booklet about the making and makers of the film.

P.S. Thanks to Rod McKie, my twitterpal, for recommending that I re-visit Cocteau's 1950 masterpiece!

P.P.S. I was so inspired by this painting that I wrote my own Ode to Orpheus called Thracian O.