A to Z Challenge Folklore

King of the Underworld: Hades #folklore #AtoZChallenge

K is for King

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

I saw Hades for the first time in the Disney movie “Hercules” with his blue flame for hair.


The original sources I could find don’t really talk about Hades without mentioning Persephone, and neither do the numerous books I consulted. There’s even less known about Hades than about Demeter!

Hades and Persephone and Cerberus. Image credit

The Homeric Hymns translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White [1914]

Dark-haired Hades, ruler over the departed, father Zeus bids me bring noble Persephone forth from Erebus unto the gods, that her mother may see her with her eyes and cease from her dread anger with the immortals; for now she plans an awful deed, to destroy the weakly tribes of earthborn men by keeping seed hidden beneath the earth, and so she makes an end of the honours of the undying gods. For she keeps fearful anger and does not consort with the gods, but sits aloof in her fragrant temple, dwelling in the rocky hold of Eleusis.’

(ll. 357-359) So he said. And Aidoneus, ruler over the dead, smiled grimly and obeyed the behest of Zeus the king. For he straightway urged wise Persephone, saying:

(ll. 360-369) `Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore.’

(ll. 370-383) When he said this, wise Persephone was filled with joy and hastily sprang up for gladness. But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark- robed Demeter. Then Aidoneus the Ruler of Many openly got ready his deathless horses beneath the golden chariot. And she mounted on the chariot, and the strong Slayer of Argos took reins and whip in his dear hands and drove forth from the hall, the horses speeding readily. 

[part of the Hades and Persephone myth]

Hades and Cerberus. Image credit.

The Stories of the Months and Days By Reginald C. Couzens [1923]

One day, as Persephone and her maidens were plucking flowers and weaving them into garlands, Pluto, the God of the Underworld, rode by in his dark chariot drawn by four black horses. Attracted by Persephone’s beauty, he determined to carry her off and make her his queen.

One story says that he caused a most wonderful flower to spring up, and Persephone, seeing it in the distance and wishing to gather it, was thus separated from her companions. As she stooped to pluck the flower the earth opened, and Pluto in his chariot came up from the Underworld and, seizing Persephone, carried her down to his dark and gloomy home.

Another story says that as soon as he saw Persephone he walked quickly towards her, and before she could guess his intention, caught her up and, carrying her in spite of her struggles to his chariot, drove away at topmost speed. He at length reached a river, whose roaring torrent it was impossible to cross. Afraid to turn back lest he should meet Ceres, he struck the earth such a blow with the two-pronged fork which he always carried as the emblem of his power, that the ground opened beneath him, and thus he was able to reach his dark kingdom of Hades in safety. This Hades, the Underworld to which Pluto had brought Persephone, was the home of the dead, the place to which came the spirits of those who had died, there to receive a fitting reward for their deeds on earth.

[part of the Hades and Persephone myth]

Hades and Persephone. Image credit

R. E. Bell, Women of Classical Mythology (sourced from Servius on Virgil’s Eclogues 4. 250) (C20th Mythology encyclopedia)

“Leuke (Leuce) was a nymph, a daughter of Okeanos (Oceanus), who was carried off by Hades. After her death she was changed into a white poplar in Elysium. The white poplar was sacred to Hades. When Herakles returned form the underworld, he was crowned with poplar leaves.”

Hades and Cerberus. Image credit

Oppian, Halieutica 3. 485 (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.)

“Mint (Mintha), men say, was once a maid beneath the earth, a Nymphe of Kokytos (Cocytus), and she lay in the bed of Aidoneus [Haides]; but when he raped the maid Persephone from the Aitnaian hill [Mount Etna in Sicily], then she complained loudly with overweening words and raved foolishly for jealousy, and Demeter in anger trampled upon her with her feet and destroyed her. For she had said that she was nobler of form and more excellent in beauty than dark-eyed Persephone and she boasted that Aidoneus would return to her and banish the other from his halls: such infatuation leapt upon her tongue. And from the earth spray the weak herb that bears her name.”

Hades and Persephone. Image credit.

Plato, Gorgias 523a ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.)

“Sokrates (Socrates) : Give ear then, as they say, to a right fine story, which you will regard as a fable, I fancy, but I as an actual account; for what I am about to tell you I mean to offer as the truth. By Homer’s account, Zeus, Poseidon, and Plouton (Pluton) [Haides] divided the sovereignty amongst them when they took it over from their father [Kronos (Cronus)]. Now in the time of Kronos there was a law concerning mankind, and it holds to this very day amongst the gods, that every man who has passed a just and holy life departs after his decease to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and dwells in all happiness apart from ill; but whoever has lived unjustly and impiously goes to the dungeon of requital and penance which, you know, they call Tartaros. Of these men there were judges in Kronos’ time, and still of late in the reign of Zeus–living men to judge the living upon the day when each was to breathe his last; and thus the cases were being decided amiss. So Plouton [Haides] and the overseers from the Isles of the Blest came before Zeus with the report that they found men passing over to either abode undeserving. Then spake Zeus : ‘Nay,’ said he, ‘I will put a stop to these proceedings. The cases are now indeed judged ill and it is because they who are on trial are tried in their clothing, for they are tried alive. Now many,’ said he, ‘who have wicked souls are clad in fair bodies and ancestry and wealth, and at their judgement appear many witnesses to testify that their lives have been just. Now, the judges are confounded not only by their evidence but at the same time by being clothed themselves while they sit in judgement, having their own soul muffled in the veil of eyes and ears and the whole body. Thus all these are a hindrance to them, their own habiliments no less than those of the judged. Well, first of all,’ he said, ‘we must put a stop to their foreknowledge of their death; for this they at present foreknow. However, Prometheus has already been given the word to stop this in them. Next they must be stripped bare of all those things before they are tried; for they must stand their trial dead. Their judge also must be naked, dead, beholding with very soul the very soul of each immediately upon his death, bereft of all his kin and having left behind on earth all that fine array, to the end that the judgement may be just. Now I, knowing all this before you, have appointed sons of my own to be judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthys, and one from Europe, Aiakos (Aeacus). These, when their life is ended, shall give judgement in the meadow at the dividing of the road, whence are the two ways leading, one to the Isles of the Blest (Nesoi Makaron), and the other to Tartaros. And those who come from Asia shall Rhadamanthys try, and those from Europe, Aiakos; and to Minos I will give the privilege of the final decision, if the other two be in any doubt; that the judgement upon this journey of mankind may be supremely just.’”

Hades. Image credit

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell Ravenheart and Ash “LeopardDancer” DeKirk

Hades’ Horses, though not properly demonic, are the four horses that pull the chariot of the Lord of the Underworld in Greek myth, and are certainly considered to be creatures of the dark. Their names are Abatos (“inaccessible”), Abaster (“away from the stars”), A’eton (“swift as an eagle”), and Nonios. They are black as coal, with eyes that shine like bright jewels. Their manes are long and loose, and they can surround themselves with a cloud of smoky darkness that hides them entirely from view. Where they strike the earth with their hooves, it cracks open to make caverns. Thus did the Dark God carry away Koré in his in his golden chariot to become his Queen of the Dead.

In Greek myth, the gates of Erebos, the Underworld realm of Hades, Lord of the Dead, are guarded by a monstrous three-headed dragon-tailed Black Dog named Cerberus (Greek, Kerberos, “Demon of the Pit”).

*More can be read in the book.

Hades and Cerberus. Image credit

The Encyclopedia of Crystals, Herbs, & New Age Elements

Greek mythology offers a creation story for peppermint: Hades, the god of the underworld, seduced a water nymph named Minthe and they entered into a relationship. When Hades’s wife, Persephone, found out about the affair, she turned Minthe into a plant so that everyone would walk on her. Hades then gave the plant a pleasant scent, so that every time someone stepped on it they would be reminded of Minthe’s beauty.

*More can be read in the book.

Hades and Persephone. Image credit.

Further Reading:

Hades, Persephone and Cerberus. Image credit

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

Hades, also known as Aïdes – the Unseen – and Pluto – the Wealthy One – and some other names, is the god of the underworld. His parents are the Titans Kronos and Rhea. His siblings are Zeus, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter and Hestia.

After they overthrew their father Kronos, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades divided his kingdom and Hades ended up ruling the underworld. Hades named the underworld after himself, and ruled it with his queen whom he abducted, Persephone – who is also his niece. He has a giant three-headed dog named Cerberus who guards the entrance to his realm, keeping those who should stay inside in, and those who don’t belong there out.

Hades doesn’t really run the day-to-day operations of his realm, leaving it to the Furies, Cerberus, Charon and others to fulfil their duties. He is also immune to prayers and sacrifices made to him. His realm doesn’t just include ruling over the dead, but also the hidden wealth of the earth: from fertile soil to precious gems and metals.

He rarely leaves the underworld, which is why some call him the Unseen One as his realm is invisible to most. He even has a helmet called the Helm of Darkness which can turn him invisible. But there are few myths about him from ancient Greek sources because he stays hidden.

In all the myths about him, he comes forth as an aloof and forbidding personality, never quite distinct from the shadowy darkness of his realm. It is only when he abducts Persephone that ancient writers took note of him.

The most important myth regarding Hades is when he abducted Persephone who is Demeter’s daughter. Which makes her his niece… But with a pantheon full of sister-brides, it’s not that unusual.

So Hades falls in love with Persephone who doesn’t give him the time of day. He then creates a beautiful, rare flower that blooms right in front of her while she is gathering flowers with a couple of nymphs. Of course she reaches for it, and the earth opens before her and Hades appears in his chariot drawn by pitch-black horses, grabs her and races back to his realm with her. The ground closes up behind them and no-one is the wiser. Demeter is the only one who worries, and we’ve discussed already how that went. Meanwhile, Persephone has a grand time being wooed by Hades and finally becomes his queen. Then she eats the pomegranate seeds, probably knowing full well the consequences, and spends part of her time with her mother above ground and the rest with her husband.

But because Hades didn’t make any waves after this, his name became synonymous with his realm where human souls go after death. Homer and Hesiod called him pitiless, loathsome and monstrous… Sounds an awful lot like the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera to me.

Hades and Persephone. Image credit

Hades in Modern Culture

There are plenty of books featuring the Hades and Persephone myth, but the Abandon trilogy by Meg Cabot is my favourite book retelling (thus far).

The dark and dangerously seductive trilogy from bestselling teen author Meg Cabot.

Abandon: Last year, Pierce died – just for a moment. And when she was in the space between life and death, she met John: tall dark and terrifying, it’s his job to usher souls from one realm to the next. There’s a fierce attraction between them, but Pierce knows that if she allows herself to fall for John she will be doomed to a life of shadows and loneliness in the underworld. But now things are getting dangerous for her, and her only hope is to do exactly what John says . . .

Underworld: Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead. Not this time. But she’s been taken by John Hayden, Lord of the Underworld, to the place between heaven and hell where spirits gather before their final journey. John claims it’s to protect her from the Furies, who are hell-bent on vengeance against him. But could he have other reasons for keeping Pierce close? When she learns that the people she loves back home are in mortal danger, can she convince John to release her to save them— or will the price he asks for her freedom prove too high?

Awaken: Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera knew that by accepting the undying love of John Hayden she’d be forced to live forever in the one place she’s always dreaded most: the Underworld. The sacrifice seemed worth it, but now her happiness and safety in the realm are threatened. The Furies have discovered that John has broken one of their strictest rules and revived a dead soul. If the balance of life and death isn’t restored, both the Underworld and Pierce’s home on Earth will be wiped out by the Furies’ wrath. Pierce has already cheated death once . . . can she do it again?

Read my reviews: Abandon | Underworld | Awaken

Disney’s Hercules

Hades is the main antagonist of Disney’s Hercules franchise, serving as the main antagonist of Disney’s thirty-fifth full-length animated feature film Hercules and Hercules: The Animated Series.

He is the ruler of the UnderworldPain and Panic‘s leader and boss, Hercules‘ uncle and arch-nemesis, and Zeus and Poseidon‘s brother.

Hades is normally cynical, sarcastic, manipulative, and ruthless, but he has a serious anger management problem. As an Olympian God, he is immortal and specifically has authority over the dead.

Hades is a slender, muscular humanoid. He has bluish-gray skin, flaming blue hair, yellow eyes, and sharp teeth. He is also very tall. Hades’ fire hair also affects his emotions: when he is angry, his skin turns red and his hair turns orange. In Hercules: The Animated Series, when Hades is confused or embarrassed, his hair goes out, revealing his baldness. 

Learn more here.

Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan

Hades is the king of the Underworld and the Greek God of the dead and riches. He is the eldest of the Big Three, the firstborn son of Kronos and Rhea, and the husband and uncle of Persephone. His Roman counterpart is Pluto.

Hades is an extremely solitary and independent god, choosing to rely on his own resources as opposed to that of others. He is intensely bitter for the negative things that have happened throughout his life: the most prominent of these is the fact that in Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, he was left to rule the Underworld himself, and did not have a throne on Mount Olympus, where he was feared and despised by most of his siblings, nephews, and nieces. On top of that, Hades’ children are not accepted in their lives, and are cast out by others of their kind – they originally didn’t even have a Cabin at Camp Half-Blood.

Learn more here.
Hades. Image credit

The Phantom of the Opera 2004 film

I think that this is a retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth, the way the Phantom takes Christine to his underground lair, and how she is torn between the world above and being with him. I’ve only seen this film, so it might be different in other versions of this opera.

The Phantom and Christine. Image credit

Hades in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Hades

Hades likes to stay out of the drama the other Olympians like to embroil themselves in. He prefers his own realm, however dark and dreary. He loves his wife, Persephone, his dog, Cerberus, and his horses, Abatos, Abaster, A’eton and Nonios. And he even tolerates the furies, Charon, Hecate, and his mother-in-law, Demeter, who all have a place in his life. Most of the Olympians stay clear of him. Even the Titans keep their distance. As for the wailing dead… He has enough riches to pay the ferryman on their behalf just for the peace and quiet it brings.
He enjoys writing and playing music, gardening with his wife – growing the plants that only grow in their garden, taking care of his horses and Cerberus, and talking magic with Hecate.

See him in action:

Origin of Irascible Immortals (Origin of the Fae #7)

What do you think of Hades? Where did you hear about Hades for the first time? Any folklore about Hades you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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