We all know i’m writing a Dieselpunk Opera so there’s no point being coy about it. We all know i won’t actually begin making music for some time (months) but in my spare time i work out the stories (although as i already have 2 out of 3 it’s going a bit faster then i expected) and ideas for the music. So ideas and tangents it leads me on are fair game for this blog.
The most interesting tangent i have run across required me to refresh myself on Inanna, a Sumerian goddess who descends into the underworld and which is a favorite myth of mine. It prefigures most other known myths and certainly all other underworld descent myths. The progression of the meme from the Sumerian Inanna to the Babylonian Ishtar, the Greek Orpheus, the Norse Baldar, the Welsh Pwyll, the Hindu Sāvitrī, to up to andf including the Christian Jesus is fascinating. Mythological memes are beautiful to behold make their way through the viral legends of history.
Thus today, i’m going to touch upon this subject visually only and feature some great works of art depicting the various Greatest Descent Into The Underworld Hits of all time.
Orpheus is of course the most famous, descending into the underworld to rescue his dead love Persephone.
Later, the Romans reworked the Persephone story and had Zeus, at her mother Demeter’s request send Hermes to the Underworld and successfully rescue Persephone.
Heracles (Hercules) also went to the Underworld, but unlike almost everybody else who did it to rescue a lost loved one, he did it just to kick the giant dog gaurdian’s ass, prove he was a bad ass and cross it off his
bucket list 12th labor as part of his sentence for being driven mad by Hera and killing his wife and children.
Hermod (Hermóðr) went to the Underworld to bargain for the return of Baldur, who was killed by Loki and whose death would begin the chain leading to Ragnorak, the last battle of the gods.
Pwyll became surrogate Lord of Anwyn for a year and a day. Now technically Anwyn is OTHERwordly as opposed to UNDERworldly, but it is, or at least became synonymous with a land of the dead. While this became even more pronounced when Christianity showed up, Anwyn as an otherworldly place of souls was already well in place so it counts.
A fantastic painting of an Underworld rescue by Jeff Pellas, of all things my old college roomate during the year and a half i actually went to college:
And of course, we would be criminally amiss not to include history’s current most popular visit to the Underworld: