For a moment Eddard Stark was filled with a terrible sense of foreboding. This was his place, here in the north. He looked at the stone figures all around them, breathed deep in the chill silence of the crypt. He could feel the eyes of the dead. They were all listening, he knew. And winter was coming. (aGoT, Eddard I)
Towers, lakes, caves, rivers, islands, oceans, mountains all serve as a setting in tales to alert the reader (or listener) what sort of adventure the characters are involved in, and in mythology those adventures represent a struggle to overcome, a lesson to learn and so on.
Generally speaking, most cultures tended to divide the universe in three sections.
- The heavens high up in the sky, amongst the stars where the gods lived, and forever out of reach to a mere mortal.
- The surface of the earth where mere mortals lived.
- Underneath the surface dwelled the dead, since that was where people burried their kin and loved ones.
As a rule humans could not go to the heavens. Closest you could ever physically get to a god was on the top of a mountain. Only people who were believed to be a demi-god (descendant of a god with a human partner) and who performed great heroic feats would have a chance to climb the stars and allowed to dwell with the gods. Or alternatively some were granted eternal life and did not actually die at all. They could not remain with those still mortal though, and journeyed by ship to an island in a lake or sea that could magically keep out anybody else. Hence, most dead kin and loved ones dwelled in some type of subterranean realm where either a specific god or an immortal character would rule over the dead. The general term for such realms as well as the entrance locations and their related gods and figures are called ‘chthonic’, from the Greek ‘khtonius’ which means ‘under the earth’ or ‘subterranean’.
The Chthonic Cycle explores Underworld settings and dreams and how they impact the characters in the books. By doing that we discover ties between the actual characers and numerous mythological figures, shedding another light on the events or provides evidence for the intuited arc that certain character is on. Who is doomed? Why are they doomed? Who haunts them from beyond the grave? Why is someone resurrected? … Let’s explore the underworld of a Song of Ice and Fire!
Note: you can find the essays in order of writing in the menu on the left or choose one of the links underneath:
- Persephone of the Winterfell Crypts
- The Cursed Souls of Eddard and Robert
- Winterfell and the North as Underworld
- Hades, the Warden of the Underworld
- Lady of the Golden Sword of Winterfell
- Them Bones
- Iconic Mother and her son, Bran the Good
8 thoughts on “The Chthonic Cycle”
You know, you don’t have a link on this page to take people to the actual essays… you should add a big bold “continue reading” link at the bottom of your intro here. 🙂
Thanks for the advice. I’ll do that. I’m old school in that I arranged them in the menu, in the order they appeared.
Yep, it’s always best to make things as easy as possible for people on the Internet, or they’ll just lose interest and be “I can’t find it, let’s go look at porn or cat videos” or whatever. 🙂
Btw I came here to your blog today because I am linking to your chthonic cycle essays in my new essay (not out yet) about the Mountain and the Viper. Hades and Persephone came up so I pointed people towards your series, which I’m always happy to do because I like your work so much. 🙂
Aw, thanks 😀 I added four links to the four existing essays. I published a new one about Catelyn: Persephone, wife of Hades in her first chapter, then Demeter of the hot springs, bath, lovely hair and golden sword, boxes (Eleusinian mystery, Pandora’s, Egyptian Set’s box), and on to Isis trying to give Osiris his proper burial and his missing phallus replaced by a golden one. Working now on one about Catelyn conflating several mythological mothers (Isis to Horus, Demeter to daughters,…)