Eureka Hephaestus!

Way back when, in the early months of Ancient Armitage, I frequently found myself comparing elements of Richard Armitage characterizations to those of the male Olympian deities….Ares, Hades, Poseidon, Hermes, Dionysus, Apollo, Apollo, Apollo…as well as a few heroes and demigods along the way.  There are a couple though, who are absent from the list.  (I was surprised to realize that I haven’t ever talked directly about Zeus vis a vis the Armitage oeuvre…a rather obvious comparison sprang to mind immediately…note to self.)

The Greek god Hephaestus has been a rather difficult one to nail down…hehehe…Hephaestus, nail. Sorry – got ahead of myself with the mythology pun there.  Hephaestus was the Greek god of fire and the forge along with craftsmanship.  Metalworkers, stonemasons, architects and sculptors all benefited from his patronage.  Like many of the younger generation of Greek deities, Hephaestus’ birth story is varied.  Some sources record him as an offspring (along with Ares, Hebe, Eilethyia and Eris) of Zeus and Hera, but others tell a different story.  One of the most interesting birth myths for Hephaestus comes from the Theogony of Hesiod.  Here Hesiod recounts that Hera had been angered by the fact that Zeus had by himself ushered in “bright-eyed Athena” without a mother, so she decided to try a solo act and produced Hephaestus with no help from Zeus.

Greek mythology is a weird and wacky universe, but what happens next is tragic in an all too modern way.  All of the birth myths of Hephaestus record that shortly after his birth, his mother Hera cast him aside because he was born “lame” with a misshapen foot.  In fact, she threw him off Mt. Olympos…

“But my son Hephaistos whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and a disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods!’”

                                                                                               – Homeric Hymn to Apollo

With a mother like that, who needs a wicked stepmother?  Even so, as often happens with children and mothers, Hephaestus evidently forgave her, which only set him up for more agony – both physical and emotional.  In another prominent myth, he was back on Olympos and attempted to help Hera escape a punishment from Zeus.  His reward for this was to once again be flung off the sacred mountain – this time by Zeus himself.  All of these rocky landings left physical marks on Hephaestus.  He is the only one of the Greek deities who is consistently referred to as less than physically perfect and divinely beautifu – in fact, common epithets of his are Ἀμφιγύεις (the lame one) and Κυλλοποδίων (halting one) in reference to his damaged legs.

Even though he is the butt of more than one godly joke – including those about his constantly cheating wife Aphrodite – when the Greek deities want top quality workmanship, they turn to Hephaestus again and again – Hephaestus Χαλκεύς (coppersmith) or Κλυτοτέχνης (renowned craftsman).  From forging chains strong enough to contain Prometheus for his daily liver extraction to the delicate craftsmanship of the Armor of Achilles, Hephaestus was the god for the job.

hephaestus armor of achilles

I can’t recall what I was thinking about last week when it occurred to me that there was perhaps a similar figure in the Armitage repertoire of characters.  A character who was born imperfect, abused, neglected and ridiculed…like Hephaestus, at the hands of a powerful maternal figure.  A character bearing scars, both physical and emotional that would follow him into adulthood.

Hannibal’s Francis Dolarhyde, born with a cleft palate and victimized by an abusive grandmother, is clearly still impacted by the shame and ridicule of his childhood when we see him in the company lunchroom…buttoned up to the wrists and neck.  Circumspect.  Self-conscious.  Solitary.

Yet there is another side to this broken creature…a side that the people around him don’t see.  (and not the murdery side…)  

Leaving aside the grisly nature of the product that he’s working on, here is Francis Dolarhyde, skilled craftsman – complete in ancient Greek craftsmanship wardrobe – mostly naked!

Despite the increasing horror and madness of the man, there is no denying that there is also an enormous amount of skill and “craftsmanship” that goes into the planning and execution of all he does.  He couldn’t remain undetected so long,  then successfully fake his own death and nearly succeed in toppling Hannibal himself without being a master “craftsman” of sorts.

Eureka Francis Dolarhyde!