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