Hair’s to you Richard Armitage! (I’m sorry – I had to do it!)

**WARNING** :  There may be an excessive number of alliterative hair descriptions below…

This week’s  “oof” installment, with it’s discussion of Thorin’s luscious locks started me thinking about hair.  Maybe it’s a holdover of my hard rock days, but I have a soft spot for long haired men – in theory at least.  There is just something wild and untamed about a man with a magnificent mane…something powerful perhaps.  There is ample indication from a variety of cultures of the significance placed on unshorn hair.  It had a variety of meanings to different people…To the Nazirites of the Hebrew Bible (most famously Samson) unshorn hair was a source of power and strength.  To the Gaelic Irish, long hair was a symbol of allegiance to Ireland as it was infiltrated by colonial forces.  To the Sikhs it represents the strength and vitality of the whole religious community.   For many cultures hair can be a  “crowning glory” or when shorn, an indication of abject humiliation and scorn.

Although long hair seems to have been common for men in earlier periods of Greek history, after the 6th century BC there are clear indications that shorter hair became much more customary. (the Spartans being the exception to the rule.)  It’s not surprising that the increasingly militaristic nature of Greek culture in the 6th and 5th centuries BC would produce a trend toward shorter male hair…long hair must have been a decided disadvantage on the battlefield.  I’ve always been intrigued by some of the characterizations of the Persians as being overly coiffured and perfumed…for the 5th century Greeks this effeminate characterization of a feared and hated enemy was empowering.   While there are some Greeks who are represented as long haired in this period, the character who most regularly sports long, luxurious tresses is the god Dionysus.  This is doubly interesting to me since Dionysus is one of the gods in the Greek pantheon whose origins are not exactly clear.  There are several conflicting birth stories, and a lot of other stories that suggest at least some degree of connection between this deity and the exotic  East. (the Persians fall into that category as well…the Greeks were at once intrigued and repulsed by various elements of eastern cultures)

Dionysus and a satyr Source: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.3.html

Dionysus and a satyr
Source: http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.3.html

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter Source?  pantherfile.uwm.edu

Dionysus by Kleophrades Painter
Source: http://www.pantherfile.uwm.edu

A relative latecomer into the pantheon, Dionysus was established as the youngest of the Olympian gods.  He is associated with the theater, but particularly with wine and reveling.  The vase paintings above show us the typical look of Dionysus.  He is most often depicted wearing elaborate Eastern Greek style robes and is often found in the company of satyrs and maenads.  One other main attribute of Dionysus is his elaborately styled curls and beard.   “Back in the day”  I used to pay big money and sit in the stylist’s chair for hours to achieve the kind of spiral curls that Dionysus wears.  Take a close look at his beard and you will see that some artistry has been applied there as well, to articulate the edges into individual curls.  Dionysus’ whole look is something that would have been a bit suspect to the average Greek, who after the Persian Wars, was inherently suspicious of things with an eastern tang.  The cult of Dionysus was at once a mainstream part of Greek polytheism, and also on the fringe.  There were ecstatic and orgiastic qualities of the cult practice that made more than a few Greeks uneasy…one only needs to read Euripides’ The Bachhae to witness what the cult of Dionysus might get up to.   For Dionysus, long curling locks represented an exotic, mysterious nature.

Love it or hate it, it seems that long hair on men is here to stay (My son is currently sporting a look that is somewhere between Dionysus and Shaggy -*sigh*  there are much bigger battles to be won!)  I love Richard Armitage and his most common close cropped style, but I have to say, the man can certainly rock the wigs and hair extensions…

Whether it is as Sir Guy of Greasy Locks….boozy and tormented in Robin Hood S3 Episode 1…

Sir Greasy...*ahem* I mean Sir Guy Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Sir Greasy…*ahem* I mean Sir Guy
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or a gloriously coiffured Sir Guy returned and ready for action after a trip to Price John’s personal stylist in S3 Epidsode 5…

Sir Guy of Gorgeous... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Sir Guy of Gorgeous…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin in the moonlight remembering a painful past…

Remembering past battles... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Remembering past battles…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin preparing for yet another fight….

Thorin bracing for a threat... Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Thorin bracing for a threat…
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Or Thorin…who am I kidding?!  There are just way too many examples of Thorin’s uncrowned glory – and with two films still to come – the mind boggles!  Suffice it to say that Richard Armitage can hair act with the best of them!!

Richard Armitage (ok, Guy of Gisborne) and Apollo: Spurned Lovers

The character of Guy of Gisborne (as portrayed by Richard Armitage) in Robin Hood (BBC 2006-2009) is a rich source for classical comparisons.  I’m returning to another story of the Greek god Apollo for this one.  As I mentioned here, Apollo was one of the most renowned of the gods in the Greek pantheon, and like his father Zeus, in addition to all of his supernatural powers, he also seems to have had a supernatural libido…in layman’s terms – Apollo was a major player.  The fact that some of his would be lovers were were noticeably repulsed by him didn’t seem to be much of a hindrance to Apollo.  Convinced of his own irresistibly, he pursued a number of human women and nymphs who turned him down repeatedly.  Unfortunately (for the women and nymphs) Apollo’s refusal to take “no” for an answer usually put them into a difficult circumstance.

A story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses gives a great example of this tendency of Apollo – complete with two gods having a pissing contest (pardon my  language 🙂 – RA isn’t the only one who gets to throw out off color slang around here!)  over the relative size of their weapons.  You can find a translation of the whole story here, but the nuts and bolts of it go something like this:

The great archer Apollo is teasing Eros (Cupid) about how tiny his eensy weensy little bow and arrows are.  What Apollo apparently forgot was that Eros’ arrows might be tiny, but they packed a huge wallop – one that not even the other gods were immune to.  To prove the might of his weapon he shoots Apollo with a golden arrow causing him to fall in love with the first person he sees…in this case the nymph Daphne.  To really drive the point home, Eros shoots Daphne with a lead arrow, causing her to be turned off by Apollo in a big way…the result?  He sees her and falls madly in lurve…she sees him (and presumably the acute case of bedroom eyes he’s shooting at her) and takes off running.  The chase is on!

Even a nimble Naiad like Daphne can’t outrun the great god Apollo forever.  Just at the point that he catches her, (beautifully articulated in marble by the Italian sculptor Bernini) she appeals to her father, the god of a local river to help her escape Apollo.  Her father does so by turning her into a tree…a laurel tree (we might know it better as the tree that produces bay leaves in the US).

Apollo and Daphne Source:  Wikimedia Commons

Apollo and Daphne
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Apollo mourns his “lost” love by making a wreath of the leaves that sprout from her as the metamorphosis is complete.  The laurel becomes a sacred tree to Apollo and the laurel wreath one of his frequent attributes.   (You might think that Apollo would learn from this episode…um, not so much!)

I noticed a certain similarity between Apollo and his inability to leave Daphne alone and Guy of Gisborne’s refusal to take no for an answer in his persistent pursuit of Marian.  One scene struck me as particularly similar to the scene above between Apollo and Daphne.

Marian strains away from Guy's embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11) Source:  www.richardarmitagenet.com

Marian strains away from Guy’s embrace (Robin Hood S1 E11)
Source: http://www.richardarmitagenet.com

Guy has caught the object of his desire, but as he leans in to kiss her, she very clearly strains away from him before he can reach her.  (Right about now I’m yelling at my TV… “What is wrong with you woman?!”)   Marian’s poor taste in lovers aside, like Apollo, Guy’s caught her, but he won’t be able to keep her.   A moment later, lacking the intercession of a divine father, she wrenches away and flees from him.  One might think that Guy might take the hint and find more accessible prey, but like Apollo, he will pursue her desperately – to no good end for either of them.

Psst…Apollo?  Guy?  Hint…if a girl runs away or would rather turn into a tree than kiss you…she’s just not that into you!  (Don’t worry, there are plenty of us who are! 🙂 )