#FolkloreThursday, Arthurian Legend, Bradley James, Celtic mythology, Faerie, folklore, Greek mythology, King Arthur, Merlin, Percy Jackson, preview of work, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, short story, The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog, Wattpad, Wikipedia, writing
We all know that Helen of Troy was supposedly so beautiful that her face was the one to launch a thousand ships. She was a demigod.
The term “demigod” can mean a lot of things.
But I’m all about the half-god, half-mortal thing.
When you google “demigod”, this is what pops up on the first page of images:
The images I recognise are from Percy Jackson.
|“||You are a half-blood. One of thy parents was mortal. The other was an Olympian.||”|
|–Zoë Nightshade on demigods, talking to Nico di Angelo, in The Titan’s Curse|
Demigods, or half-bloods, are a race of beings who are half human, half god. They possess human souls and are vulnerable to old age and death; however, their godly blood endows them with special abilities that allow them to achieve feats not usually possible by humans.
The first Roman to employ the term demigod may have been the poet Ovid who used the Latin semideus several times in reference to minor deities. The poet Lucan also uses the term to speak of Pompey attaining divinity upon his death. In later antiquity, the Roman writer Martianus Capella proposed a hierarchy of gods: the gods proper, or major gods; the genii or daemones; the demigods or semones (who dwell in the upper atmosphere); the manes and ghosts of heroes (who dwell in the lower atmosphere); and the earth-dwelling gods like fauns and satyrs.
The term demigod first appeared in English in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century when it was used to render the Greek and Roman concepts of semideus and daemon. Since then, it has frequently been applied figuratively to people of extraordinary ability. John Milton states in Paradise Lost that angels are demigods.
Demigods are important figures in Rick Riordan‘s Percy Jackson books, where many of the characters, including Percy Jackson himself, are demigods. In Riordan’s work, a demigod is strictly defined as an individual born of one human and one divine parent.
Wikipedia has a list of demigods https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_demigods
With Helen’s obsession with her appearance, she was probably Aphrodite’s daughter and not Zeus’…
Demigods appear in other parts of the world too.
Chinese demigods are demigods that are half human, half god in Chinese mythology. They were said to be the children of Chinese gods such as the Jade Emperor or Guan Di, god of war for example. In some other Chinese folklore, Chinese demigods can be descendants of other important characters causing people/monsters to get confused of who they are. They were very good at combat.
We all know how King Arthur’s legend is veiled in Faery lore. He took trips to Avalon and the Isle of the Blessed – known haunts of Fae…
The earliest literary references to Arthur come from Welsh and Breton sources. There have been few attempts to define the nature and character of Arthur in the pre-Galfridian tradition as a whole, rather than in a single text or text/story-type. A 2007 academic survey that does attempt this by Thomas Green identifies three key strands to the portrayal of Arthur in this earliest material. The first is that he was a peerless warrior who functioned as the monster-hunting protector of Britain from all internal and external threats. Some of these are human threats, such as the Saxons he fights in the Historia Brittonum, but the majority are supernatural, including giant cat-monsters, destructive divine boars, dragons, dogheads, giants, and witches. The second is that the pre-Galfridian Arthur was a figure of folklore (particularly topographic or onomastic folklore) and localised magical wonder-tales, the leader of a band of superhuman heroes who live in the wilds of the landscape. The third and final strand is that the early Welsh Arthur had a close connection with the Welsh Otherworld Annwn. On the one hand, he launches assaults on Otherworldly fortresses in search of treasure and frees their prisoners. On the other, his warband in the earliest sources includes former pagan gods, and his wife and his possessions are clearly Otherworldly in origin.
Formerly, it was thought that the Arthurian legend was the work of several inventive poets and romancers of the Middle Ages. The generally accepted theory now is that Arthurian legend developed out of stories of Celtic mythology. The most archaic form in which these occur in British sources is the Welsh Mabinogion, but much of Irish mythology is palpably identical with Arthurian romance. It is not certain how or where (in Wales or in those parts of northern Britain inhabited by Brythonic-speaking Celts) this legend originated or whether the figure Arthur was based on an historical person.
- Merlin: magician, seer, and teacher at the court of King Vortigern and later at the court of King Arthur. He was a bard and culture hero in early Celtic folklore. In Arthurian legend he is famous as a magician and as the counselor of King Arthur. In Tennyson’s “Idylls of the King” Merlin is imprisoned eternally in an old oak tree by the treacherous Vivien (Lady of the Lake or Nimue), when he reveals the secrets of his knowledge to her.
- Lady of the Lake was the ruler of Avalon in the Arthurian legend – a misty, supernatural figure endowed with magic powers, who gave the sword Excalibur to King Arthur. According to one legend she kidnapped the infant Launcelot after the death of his father and brought him to her castle where he lived until manhood. Different writers give her name as Morgan le Fay (Morgaine), Nimue, Viviane (Vivien), Elaine, Niniane, Nivian, Nyneve, and Evienne. However, the poem “The Lady of the Lake“, by Sir Walter Scott, is based on a totally different legend.
- Avalon: in Celtic mythology, the blissful otherworld of the dead. In medieval romance it was the island to which the mortally wounded King Arthur was taken, and from which it was expected he would someday return. Avalon is often identified with Glastonbury in Somerset, England.
No kings had endured such everlasting fame. Arthur represents the Golden Age of Chivalry. His band of warriors, known as the Knights of the Round Table, became just as famous as the legendary king. There were the knights Lancelot and Gawain, Perceval and Galahad, Tristan and many more.
It was time of high adventure and romance. Knight would seek out adventure, hoping to test skills, mettle and prowess as a warrior.
A knight would also try to win the love of lady or damsel, either by rescuing her from adversary or demonstrating his skills in a jousting tournament.
Courtly manner was considered to be almost as important with the ladies, as well as the knight’s use of the sword and lance.
The Arthurian legends, stories that revolve around the character of King Arthur, form an important part of Britain’s national mythology. Arthur may be based on a historical person, possibly a Celtic * warlord of the A . D . 400s. The legends, however, have little to do with history. A blend of Celtic mythology and medieval romance, they feature such well-known elements as the magic sword Excalibur, the Knights of the Round Table, and the search for the Holy Grail.
Supernatural beings and events abound in the Arthurian legends. Even before Arthur’s birth his destiny is shaped by the wizard Merlin, who later serves as the king’s adviser and helper. Another powerful magical figure is the witch Morgan Le Fay, who works for good in some versions of the legends and for evil in others. She is sometimes referred to as Arthur’s half sister.
From all of this, we get our modern interpretation of the Arthurian Legend. My favourite TV series to tell this tale, is BBC’s Merlin.
In this rendition, Arthur was born thanks to magic. Which makes him a kind of demigod, doesn’t it?
As popular as it is to be half-magical being and half-mortal, it isn’t a surprise that it abounds in literature.
Even in Saphira the Fighter, Saphira the Faery Dog protects a half-Fae child.
“The day just started wrong. Faolan MacKeltar and his entourage had showed up at the castle without any warning. Saphira had nearly crushed them all with a combination of her magic and physical strength.”
– Saphira the Fighter, The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog, Ronel Janse van Vuuren
I hope you enjoy reading the third tale in the series. Comments can be left here or on Wattpad – I always appreciate feedback. Anything about demigods in folklore and literature you’d like to add? Who played your favourite Arthur?