I was thinking about how I might connect Richard Armitage’s portrayal of MI-5 agent Lucas North to the pantheon of Greek gods. I did a little Lucas North word association and one deity in particular came to mind. I had just started a web search and lo and behold, I came across this…
What the heck…I’ll give it a try. I answered the questions for myself and the quiz generated a response of Thetis – Sea nymph, daughter of Nereus, shape shifter, mother of Achilles – OK, I’ll take that. I already had an inkling of what would happen if I answered the questions “as” Lucas North, and sure enough, the quiz generated this result:
Hermes was a second generation Olympian god – the son of Zeus and yet another of his extramarital affairs. This time Zeus carried out a stealth courtship of Maia, the daughter of the Titan Atlas (of holding up the earth on his shoulders fame). The Homeric Hymn to Hermes has this to say about the affair:
Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing messenger of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed nymph, when she was joined in love with Zeus,  —a shy goddess, for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived within a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronos used to lie with the rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods and mortal men, at dead of night while sweet sleep should hold white-armed Hera fast. (Source: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu)
The bolded section tells us the principal occupation of Hermes among the other Olympians…he was the messenger. As such, he’s often seen wearing a winged hat or sandals and described as “fleet footed” or some other such epithet.
In addition to his duties as messenger, usually flitting about on some or another errand for Zeus, Hermes also had a reputation for being clever and sly, a trickster from birth…rather like the Norse Loki in that respect.
Where was I? Loki…tricksters…Hermes – Right! So Hermes was a sneaky little deity from the cradle. One of his most memorable myths happens when he was only hours old and snuck away from his mother to steal the cattle sacred to his elder half brother, the mighty Apollo.
In addition to being the furtive messenger of the gods, Hermes was also the patron deity of thieves and travelers – both groups who benefitted from an ability to come and go largely unseen.
We’ve also previously encountered Hermes in his role as psychopompos, or the leader of souls as they cross between the world of the living and that of the dead. He is one of the few Greek deities who frequently acts on behalf of humankind in the regular course of his activities, not simply because it suited his purposes in the moment.
Hermes is a bit of an enigma…he belongs to the Olympian pantheon, yet he often seems to exist on the fringe of it, in fact he is strongly associated with the concept of boundaries and transitions. To skirt the boundary between worlds, his cunning and alacrity served him well.
Lucas North is arguably the most enigmatic of the characters that Richard Armitage has inhabited to date. It’s probably the reason I haven’t touched on him yet – he is so many different things at one time, he’s hard to classify. Many people have discussed the complexities of this character and Richard Armitage’s portrayal of him, but every time I think I have a handle on him, I see something new.
The similarities between Lucas and Hermes are numerous…both are messengers, whether literal, who can forget Lucas as the leather clad messenger in Spooks 8.5?
Or figurative…Lucas’ whole existence as an operative makes him a messenger of something to someone, somewhere at sometime.
The sly, covert nature of Lucas’ job is a clear source of comparison, but so is the fact that Lucas, like Hermes has a foot in two worlds. He is constantly making adjustments to fit in better here or there.
It’s not only the demands of his profession, but the splinters within him that keep Lucas from fully being part of any one world, but rather ever hovering along the edges, never quite fitting in anywhere no matter how he tries.
At least Hermes had the winged sandals to make his hovering a bit easier.