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And what major deity wouldn’t have a play place for himself to unwind in? I’ll tell you: A very stressed out and unpleasant one.

Hades, Greek god of the underworld, is a confusing figure to many of us nowadays. Not only is there a problem with much of Greek mythology being muddy and inconsistent due to the many writers all expressing dissimilar thoughts on hundreds of mythological topics, there is also the issue of pop culture (a recurring theme here) getting in the way. To many of us living in the largely Christian nations of the west, the ruler of the underworld should have many traits in common with the Christian devil, but this is not the case. The classic concept of good and evil, evil residing below and heaven above, evil being connected with the dead and good with life, are tragically off base when dealing with much of the pre-Christian world.

You see, the while death has long been considered a rather terrifying prospect by the living for thousands of years, there was something else attached to those seen as ruling over it in Greece, Egypt, and other ancient super powers: respect. Hades, though it is unlikely he was worshipped in the same capacity as other, less spooky deities, was never viewed as directly evil. Instead, he was a ruler in the same way as Zeus or Poseidon, a god to be respected and feared for his power, not necessarily for his particular place. Hades was, surprisingly enough, a rather dashing figure that was known to seduce young ladies, much like his younger brother, Zeus.

Unfortunately, thanks to Disney and the black and white notions of good and evil that came from Zoroastrianism and later from Christianity, Hades has been seen as something a bit more scary and villainous than originally intended. The animated film Hercules comes to mind, depicting Hades as a monster and a real bastard out to destroy the son of his brother for ridiculous reasons. Of all the films that give mythology a bad name, I’d have to say Hercules is one of the worst. I know it’s meant to be simple entertainment but it simply doesn’t do the source text any justice.

Where ancient mythologies often offer many shades of gray (even great heroes have their flaws, as shown by figures like Hercules), modern pop culture tends to give us sugar coated nonsense filled with the stark contrast of light and dark. It doesn’t do storytelling any justice and it certainly doesn’t reflect the complicated nature of humanity.

Hades, for example, the god of the dead, ruler of the underworld, is a frightening character. Yet, in most myths that feature him, he is one of the more level-headed and respectful gods with regards to humans. He allows Hercules the chance to redeem himself after the psychotic murder of his own family by giving him the opportunity to capture Cerberus as his final task of purification. He even gives Orpheus the chance to reclaim his wife after she is cruelly killed after their marriage, though Orpheus fails to keep his eyes ahead and not look back to see if she is there, causing her to be taken back to the realm of the dead until he joins her there for eternity.

Thus Hades rules over his realm, justly and not cruelly. He is a figure deserving of respect and interest in mythology and the study of religion in general, becoming the basis for more modern rulers of the dead.

Despite the dreary surroundings, I can’t help but imagine he must have had some fun to keep him going. Hanging out in the ball pit in his play area, enjoying a good round of the Game of Life, and maybe reading a good book, though spoilers may ruin them from time to time. Nothing is outside the realm of possibility for the Lord of the Dead.

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