Faerie Tale Myths: "Hotter Than Hades"
Faerie tale myths: Are they true...or debunkable?
L'Enchanteur Magazine tests various faerie tale myths to see if they can hold up in modern times.
By Bella Von Prince
L'Enchanteur Special Sections Editor
Part II: Is the Underworld truly the hottest place, or did Hades get a bum rap?
Growing up, every summer when days got to a sweltering point the phrase, "Hotter than Hades..." was heard quite frequently around our house. In fact, it's still used whenever the temperatures climb high or when something is supremely hot to the touch. Hades, of course, being the polite term for Hell, that sulfurous pit of endless torture, gnashing of teeth, clawing and wailing, brimstone and fire.
Growing up I was taught a slightly different view of this place, and being the lover of myths and legends that I am, well, I learned to ponder over and see how other peoples--past and present--view the Afterlife or Underworld. I've studied and read many myths and legends from various cultures, and most every one has held some degree or other of fascination for me.
As a child and continuing into high school, the Greeks and the Romans were the ones who held the greatest interest for me. I would check out children's books and later books for young adults, which were compilations of myths revolving around the spotlighted gods and goddesses. I soon had my few favorite myths that I read over and over till I had them memorized, instead of reading the entire collections again when I checked them out. One of the myths that has held a constant interest for me through the years is one of the only myths where we see the taciturn Hades as a main character or as having a pivotal part in the events taking place in a tale. Sometimes known as the Abduction... or Rape of Persephone, this myth is better known as Demeter and Persephone, for the wanderings and experiences the Earth goddess has as she searches for her beloved daughter.
According to the Greco-Roman view, Hades (or the Roman Pluto) is a loner, a taciturn, saturnine, yet wily and just ruler of the Underworld. As for the Underworld itself... It doesn't sound like a fun or happy place very often. It's a dark, vast realm with many sections:
- Elysian Fields (contrast the Christian Paradise or Heaven)
- Tartarus (compare the Christian Hell)
- Plain of Judgement
- Palace of Hades (of which doors Cerberus, the three-headed dog, guards)
- Grove of Persephone
- The Elm from which False Dreams cling
Vale of Mourning
- Asphodel Fields
- Pool on Mnemosyne (memory)
- Acheron (the river of sorrow)
- Cocytus (lamentation)
- Phlegethon (fire)
- Lethe (forgetfulness)
- Styx (hate)
Being the Christian I am, and knowing something of other cultures' and other religious views of the Afterlife, I think Hades--both the god and the place--got a bum rap. In the few stories or myths they're mentioned in, he and his realm are spoken of in fearful tones, and the shades or souls of those whom heroes go down to rescue or to visit with while on quests sound so melancholy and somber, one gets a depressing impression. In the stories I've read, Hades, though wily, has never been intentionally cruel, and the Greeks and Romans themselves depict him as a just ruler of his domain.
As for the hotness of his realm? I never read, that I remember, of it being so or being cold or freezing. Besides, if Tartarus is the equivalent of our Christian Hell and the Elysian Fields are similar to our paradise or heaven, Hades definitely can't be considered the same as the Christian H-E-double hockey sticks. Hades is the Afterlife, where all souls, good and evil, go to be judged and sorted out according to their deeds. The saying should be "Hotter than Tartarus..." I think I'll use that from now on.
Consider this myth debunked.