Saturday, December 12, 2015

Life of Hercules: Addendum - Four Twins

Last (really truly!) of a series. Here are the earlier posts:

I haven't done a mythology post since last May when I discussed the death of the Champion Hercules. Since then, I've written the seventh (sequel) volume to my series The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head. It deals with the end of the Quest for the Golden Fungus, which takes place after the death of our own Champion Ki'shto'ba. Similarly, Hercules left the Quest for the Golden Fleece before it was finished.
In my post entitled In a Writing Funk I discussed the Medea problem, and then in a subsequent post Feeling More Upbeat I talked about my resolution of it.  So there is really only one rather obscure mythological subject that I use in my books that I have not investigated here on my blog. It involves the tale of the Four Twins.
In the series, I introduced my version of Castor and Polydeuces (called the Dioscuri, or Sons of Zeus) and mentioned them in my post Life of Hercules: Argonauts. The other pair of twins, Idas and Lynceus, who also sailed on the Argo with Jason, finally turn up in the sequel volume. The name Idas means simply "of Mt. Ida," so I named his equivalent Ki'ta'kwai'a, which means "of her (i.e. the Mother's) mountain." The name Lynceus means "sharp-eyed" (like a lynx, obviously), but I couldn't use that meaning because Shshi Warriors don't have eyes. But they do have a sense of smell, so I ramped up the olfactory sense in my Lynceus equivalent and named it Hai'tof'il'a, which means "smells keenly."
One member of both twins was supposed to be the offspring of a god and the other, of a human father. Polydeuces was considered the son of Zeus, and Idas, of Poseidon. Rather than get too involved in that sort of thing, I made both my sets of twins to be offspring of the Highest Mother's King.  Thus, Ti'a'toig'a and Ti'a'gwol'a are called the Shin'ki'no'hna (simply Offspring of the King) and Ki'ta'kwai'a and Hai'tof'il'a are called the Shin'no'no'gwai'zei (Offstring of the Sea [King]).
In Greek myth, the two sets of twins were bitter rivals. Castor and Polydeuces began it by stealing the two women that Idas and Lynceus were betrothed to.  Later they patched up their differences and went on a cattle raid together. In order to divide the spoils, Idas proposed an eating contest. They quartered a cow and determined that whoever should eat his quarter quickest would get the largest part of the spoils. But Idas cheated, bolting his own portion and then helping his brother consume his. They then drove the rest of the cattle away.
Castor and Polydeuces pursued them, seized the cattle, and then hid in a hollow tree to await the coming of their rivals. But the sharp-eyed Lynceus caught sight of them and as they rushed down, Idas threw his spear at the tree and transfixed Castor, killing him. Polydeuces rushed out and speared Lynceus, whereupon Zeus intervened and struck Idas dead with a thunderbolt.
This is all according to Robert Graves' Greek Myths. He presents some variants of this tale, but in all the versions, it is only Polydeuces who survives. He and his twin had been so close that he grieved mightily and prayed to Zeus not to let him outlive his brother. But it was not fated that he should die right away and was instead given immortality. This he refused unless his brother Castor could share it. Ultimately the image of the twins was set in the stars as the constellation Gemini, and they were made saviors of ship-wrecked sailors, with the power to bring favorable winds. Robert Graves further states: "In response to a sacrifice of white lambs offered on the prow of any ship, they will come hastening through the sky, followed by a train of sparrows."

To learn how I adapted all this in The Buried Ship at the End of the World, you will have to read the book (although it's best to start at the beginning of the series). The sequel is finished and formatted for publication, but I don't plan to publish it until early in 2016. I'll keep everyone informed!

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