Love in Mythology (and Why Hades Isn’t So Bad After All)

By Aimée Carter (@aimee_carter), author of The Goddess Test (Harlequin TEEN, available April 20, 2011)

Before Romeo and Juliet, before Tristan and Isolde, there was Hades and Persephone. A classic love story.

Right? Well, no. Not unless kidnapping and death have suddenly become romantic. But let’s look at love in mythology.
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Zeus, King of the Gods, constantly cheated on his wife, Hera, and produced famous progeny such as Hercules, Hermes, and Helen of Troy. Aphrodite, the goddess of love herself, was forced into an arranged marriage and proceeded to have countless affairs, some of which are more well-known than her actual marriage.

But despite the overwhelming themes of infidelity and deceit in mythology, there is also Orpheus, who risked everything to venture down into the Underworld to rescue the love of his life, Eurydice, from death itself. There is Pollux, who was so heartbroken by his twin brother Castor’s death that he begged Zeus to allow him to share his immortality with his brother in the constellations of the sky. And then there is Hades—who as King of the Underworld had the lonely task of ruling over the dead—and the measures he took to find a companion.

While writing The Goddess Test, a sort of sequel to the myth of Hades and Persephone, I faced the challenge of turning a tale of kidnapping into a love story. While I took liberties to humanize Hades, in the end the idea is the same: a girl is forced to marry a god she doesn’t love. Yet despite that incident and how he is depicted in pop culture, Hades isn’t a bad guy in mythology. Or in The Goddess Test. So what gives?

In case you’re unsure of how Persephone came to be his consort, here’s the SparkNotes version: Hades dragged her down into the Underworld and, with Zeus’ blessing, married her. Meanwhile, Demeter, her mother, made the world grow cold in protest, the only line of defense she had to get her daughter back. In the end, while Persephone was released, she was forced to return to the Underworld for six months out of each year to be Hades’ wife.

Not very romantic, is it? But compared to some of the other women in mythology, Persephone got a fairly decent deal. Not only did she have to spend merely a portion of each year with her husband and was closer to his equal than Hera ever was to Zeus’, but Persephone also married one of the few gods who was faithful (save for a few unfortunate incidents with nymphs). Hades loved her, and according to some versions of the myth, she loved him back. In the end, with that sort of love so often taken for granted in Greek mythology, maybe Hades wasn’t such a villain after all. His methods were heinous, and no one would blame Persephone for hating her circumstances. But considering women were oftentimes considered to be nothing more than property, at least Hades loved her.

And it’s easy to write a love story about love.

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Comments ( 11 )
  1. Jayde
    April 11, 2011 at 10:17 am
    Reply

    And yet you made Hades a virgin in GODDESS TEST. I laughed…and then I headdesked. And then I rolled my eyes.

  2. We Heart YA
    April 11, 2011 at 11:05 am
    Reply

    Hades & Persephone was one of my favorite myths growing up! Thanks for bringing it back, in a way. 🙂

  3. I.M.
    April 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm
    Reply

    Let’s take things one by one:
    Hades (or Adis =’Αδης for Greeks) was the most unfortune of the three brothers, sons of Saturn (Kronos= Κρόνος):
    Zeus (Dias = Δίας) took the Heaven and Olympus kingdom.
    Neptune (Posidon=Ποσειδών) took the Sea and Water.
    And poor Hades took the dark Death Kingdom (under the Earth) with a wild dog with 3 heads and a snake for a tale (Kerverous); all those were the result of a lottery, for sharing their inheritence!
    As always in life (even for Gods) women were really interested in the job of the man and this made Zeus unforgetable! (The wealthy Greek tycoon that all of girls wanted badly, sometimes without knowing that he was married!!!)
    Neptune was a really cool and wild guy, without a steady companion. (A guy for having fun on the beach!!) Sometimes was really good and sometimes was really bad!!
    Hades was a steady man, with a good and steady job (everyone someday will die!), good-looking, but with a boring lifestyle. No mature woman will never want to be under the Earth and see no sun for an enternity for having him! All they wanted to live their lives!
    He often blamed his brothers for not having a wife…but it is well known that when we talk about inheritence, there is always trouble, even to the best of the families.Zeus and Neptune had been bored to death hearing their brother’s blame and they let him for one whole day to choose a woman on Earth and to take her with him. He did not loose a minute and she go to a field (like a today shopping mall, where all the teenagers kill their time)to find a girl. The myth says that when Hades met Persephone (Περσεφόνη) was playing with a ball with her girlfriends, away from her mother Demetra (Δήμητρα)- a single mother who was working hard, as the whole Earth cultivator(so never leave a teenager girl away from your surveillance, specially when you are a single hard working mother!).Hades was a good looking young man – he had something Goth in his style!- that charmed Persephone immediately (she was young and innocent and she did not ask a single thing about his work!! typical teenager reaction to love!!). He made a proposal and she accepted without a second thought. (His mother was overprotective and she wanted the same carrier for her daughter.) Agriculture was not on Persephone’s plans, so she leave with Hades immediately, not to mention she will not have to work, not even a day in her life(?) with him. (This could be a Las Vegas marriage).
    As always after the secret marriage, mother was furious and made every effort to take her daughter back (winter in Greece was the worst action of her).
    When you are in love you are not afraid even death for being with your husband (young Persephone was that case). But sometimes relatives go to happy couples and interfearing, asking for help (Zeus and Neptune begged Hades to make an arrangement with his furious mother-in-law, because she had brought some serious problems to their business!! No fruits in Heaven and no sea sports and sun in Greece!)
    Hades was not persuaded at all by them (“When I was all alone, you didn’t give a damn…” he said and closed the door of his gothic happy home to their faces.)But poor
    husbands in love can stand anything except from her young and beautiful wife’s tears (“Oh Hades I really missed mom…”)and for making them happy they accept every wish of them (“OK love, go to your mother house for some days. I will keep the dog with me. I’d already missed you!”)
    And as all the young married daughters – unemployed housewifes, when they go to their mothers forgot to return home (6 months of vacations in Greece every year!! Poor Hades ate frozen meals and had Kerverous as a company; typical marriage for a nice boring guy in love!)
    LOL

  4. Naomi
    April 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm
    Reply

    @Jayde: Yes, because the character who said that was such a reliable source. I do not know what book you read, but I read one that gave the real reason for Henry’s panic at the end. It had nothing to do with that particular character’s misinformation, which was quite clearly intended to cause Kate to question the legitimacy of their time together.

    Do not listen to the snobby trolls who cannot see a great retelling and do not understand the rules of fiction. If strict mythology is what they want, then they ought to pick up The Idiot’s Guide to Greek Mythology, not a novel adaptation of one of the most popular myths today. But trolls, take care: do not read more than one guide to myths, because heaven forbid the stories differ from one book to the next and you take to the Internet to anonymously flame their authors too.

    I loved The Goddess Test. It is my favourite read of 2011 so far, and I spent my years in university studying classic civilisations with an emphasis on Greece. I am not so closed minded that I cannot appreciate an engaging story, and I love your fresh take on the gods. To anyone who disagrees: I do hate to burst your bubble, but they did not exist. They are not historical figures whose lives are inscribed in stone. They are myths that changed throughout the centuries with each retelling, and I for one was quite pleased and impressed with how true Carter’s adaptation (for that is what it is) was to the original intention of that particular myth. I thought it was beautiful.

    Ms Carter, you have a bright future ahead of you. You know you have made it when you have trolls who follow you around and try to make you look bad. (Do not pay them any mind. They are at best insecure and jealous and at worst so miserable in their own lives that they attempt to drag others down to their level.) I wish you only the best, and with the beautiful story you have written, you certainly deserve it.

  5. I.M.
    April 11, 2011 at 7:28 pm
    Reply

    Dear Naomi,
    let me be honest:
    I have not read Ms Aimee Carter’s book.
    I do not know who is Henry and Kate,that you refered to.
    As a Greek I found real interesting (and made me realy proud) an adaptation of a myth, part of our national tradition and global culture. I thought that posting a humourous version of the original story (I am sorry, the correct word is myth! They did not even exist, as you said!) it would not be a reference to “The Idiot’s Guide to Greek Mythology” (sic). I realy thought it would be useful to future readers of this book, to people would probably believe that poor Hades (poor because he was forced to live in darkness, all of his live), was an abusive kidnaper of a young girl. He was not.(At least at our common consiousness) Hades was lonely and he wanted to have family; that’s why he left his obscure world and choose Persephone for his bride, to bring life in death’s world.He was a man (or should I say a God?) in love and his young wife was in love with him too.
    I won’t participate in the debate of Hades’virginity. I was not there to know the “truth”.
    I won’t speak about the symbolism of this story (oups! myth..)…The circle of life and seasons, Persephone as the grain in the soil etc…I am sure that Ms Carter fully understood it, before she wrote her book.
    I really appreciate a writer’s effort (and why not? Ms Carter’s effort) to addapt a story; that means that she knew well the original Greek mythology (in my opinion, the base of the modern drama and story telling) before the adaptation. And she probably loved it for adapting it and had inspiration from it. All the stories have already been said. Writers rephrasing, changing names and locations, but the stories, in their base are the same, always!
    But please, dear Naomi, before you choose characterisations for people that you do not know (“insecure”, “jealous”, “miserable”, “trolls”, “down-level”)please show your classical education and be polite and tolerant to others’ point of view. This is the base of classical philosophy and mythology, that you all, so badly, want to “re-tell” and you are proud of studying for so many years.

    And please make me (you, dear Naomi) a little favor: if you believe that these figures did not even exist – I disagree, because I think that everything has an existence in the ideas’ world- please let them alone and peaceful. In that case, change your myths – if you got any!

  6. Reina
    April 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm
    Reply

    This book sounds interesting–I’ve always liked that myth. I’m curious, though, why it has been published as YA? (Not to argue with it, just curious. Maybe no sex?)I’m headed to Amazon now to check it out. 🙂

  7. Reina
    April 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm
    Reply

    Oops. Now I get it (why it’s YA). I would suggest you put the little blurb that’s on Amazon on such a post for reader clarification. 🙂 All the best on your new release.

  8. Ayanami Faerudo
    April 13, 2011 at 4:13 am
    Reply

    I’ve read THE GODDESS TEST and I LOVED it! I love mythology and after reading the book, I went and hunted different versions of the story. While the most famous version was that Hades kidnapped Persephone, I lean towards the version where Persephone loved Hades back.

  9. The weekly web ramble (4/15)
    April 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    Reply

    […] – Aimee Carter, author of The Goddess Test, explains why Hades wasn’t so bad […]

  10. belinda shaw
    February 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm
    Reply

    thank u for posting this!! ive always adored this particular love story and im definately looking forward to read this book..
    classic goth and especially ‘love stories’ in it are my favourites.. 😀
    on top of all i think hades is an only god who remains loyal to his wife regardless of his monotonous lifestyle..
    also maybe the fact being the king of the dead, hed seen lots of sufferings and greivances of mankind that in turn made him a more mature man than his brothers.. not to mention was more xperienced in the ‘souls’ matter.. persephone was kind too for understanding him though at first her reaction was not good towards him..
    hades and persehone are on the my list of top 10 favourite couples!! xD

  11. Patrick Smith
    April 23, 2012 at 7:22 pm
    Reply

    I haven’t read the Goddess Test (yet!) but I loved this story.

    One element many over look is Demeter’s controlling attitude. It’s said she refused to let Persephone receive suitors, even though her daughter was growing into a woman.

    I think of Persephone, a teenage denied the chance to grow up, confused and perhaps angry, doing things a more mature goddess would have avoided. It’s said Hades arose when she pricked her thumb a shed blood on the earth. What if she knew what she was doing, without really understanding what she was getting in to?

    I will look for “The Goddess Test,” and I’m sure I will like it as much as (or more than) I like the idea!

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