How Greek Myths Inspire Us to Be Heroes
by Eva Pohler
I fell in love with Greek myths in the eighth grade, when I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Later, after studying Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, I better understood why most people are drawn to myths: They help us to project and symbolically play out our own fears and desires. Carl Jung wrote of universal archetypes—such as the Madonna, the soldier, and the rogue. Sigmund Freud wrote that art was the opportunity for adults to continue childhood play in a socially acceptable way. Joseph Campbell built upon the works of both Jung and Freud to describe The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which inspired George Lukas in the creation of Star Wars.
As a writer, I, like Lukas, wished to tap into that universal consciousness where fears and desires are shared. Myths make it possible to project universal fears, or what we often call our inner demons, into monsters that can be externally fought and defeated. The most universal fear is death. I created a trilogy for young adults in which death is not only faced and, in some ways, battled, but also embraced and transcended.
In the first book of this contemporary fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Sons, fifteen-year-old Therese Mills meets Thanatos, the god of death, while in a coma after witnessing her parents’ murder. She feels like the least powerful person on the planet and is ready to give up on life, but the story forces her to fight. As she hunts with the fierce and beautiful Furies to track down her parents’ murder and avenge their death, she falls in love with Thanatos and symbolically accepts her parents’ and her own mortality.
In the second book, The Gatekeeper’s Challenge, Therese has the opportunity to transcend death by accepting five seemingly impossible challenges issued by Hades. All five challenges represent the universal fears of rejection, culpability, disorientation, death, and loss in the forms of a box not allowed to be opened, an apple that shouldn’t be eaten, a labyrinth meant to confuse, a Hydra that wants to destroy, and the allure of bringing back the dead. These same myths are recycled again and again through the centuries because they help us to recognize our inner demons and inspire us to defeat them.
As I finish the trilogy with The Gatekeeper’s Daughter, which will be released on December 1, 2013, I’m holding a contest from January 1, 2013 to October 1, 2013 for my readers. Details can be found at my website at http://www.evapohler.com/contest.
Title: The Gatekeepers Challenge (Gatekeepers Trilogy Book 2)
Author: Eva Pohler
Date Published: 11/29/12
Ten agonizing months have gone by since Therese faced off against her parents’ murderer at Mount Olympus, and she suspects Thanatos’s absence is meant to send her a message: go on with your life. In cahoots with her new friend, who's gotten in with the Demon Druggies at school, Therese takes a drug that simulates a near-death experience, planning to tell Than off so she can have closure and move on, but things go very, very wrong.
Than has been busy searching for a way to make her a god, and he’s found it, but it requires her to complete a set of impossible challenges designed by Hades, who hopes to see her fail.
“And I thought you were the god of justice!”
“These are challenges, Thanatos. The more challenging, the better the victory.”
“Hah! Admit it. You want her to fail!”
Hades didn’t hide the smile creeping across his face as he stood and met Than’s eyes, their noses inches apart. “I want her to pay! She was an embarrassment to me last summer. If she’s to join us here in my palace, I want her to suffer first.”
“The punishment should fit the crime!” Than said.
“Agreed!” Hades bellowed. “I said those very words to your sisters before you arrived. They want to drag on too long the punishment of a murderer in Paris before they bring him here. I think they are motivated by something other than justice.”
The Furies stood up, their eyes changing from blue in one and brown in the other to dark red. Blood dripped to their cheeks.
“Who doesn’t love Paris?” Tizzie hissed.
“We’ll leave you now,” Meg snarled.
The Furies vanished.
Hades crossed his arms at his chest. “And you are, too, Thanatos.”
“She had compassion for a man who was no longer a threat to her. She refused to kill him in cold blood. How is that a failure?”
“He deserved death. Her parents deserved vengeance. You deserved her to keep her word! She’s the one who let you down, son. Not me. She chose to have mercy on that killer over becoming your wife. Doesn’t that bother you even a little?”
Than’s throat tightened and no words came. He could think of nothing to say. Yes, it had bothered him. It had bothered him a lot. Only her prayers in the aftermath of the battle convinced him of her love. Her prayers, not her actions.
The challenges gave her the opportunity to remedy that. His father was right.
Eva Pohler teaches writing at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she lives with her husband, three children, two dogs, two rats, and her very large collection of books.