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'Lore Olympus' and the New Age of Greek Mythology, by Heather Rolfert

In the library you search for a book, skipping over unappealing titles and covers. You continue your search, pushing away books, until you see a book spine covered in dust. The book captures your attention as you pull it off the shelf, dust flying all around you as if it were snowing. As you wipe off the cover, revealing the words “Greek mythology,” your curiosity level drops. No one reads this for fun anymore.

You start to push the book back in its spot, but pause as a whisper fills the air: Give the book a chance. It's changed. We've changed. Your eyes scan the library once, twice, three times until they stumble upon a flickering person in the corner.

At first glance you see a scowling man with long robes adorning one shoulder, a staff in his left hand and a three-headed dog standing on his right. As you blink, the man still stands next to the three-headed dog, but his robes are a suit and his scowl has melted into a big smile.

Greek mythology isn't your typical boring textbook story anymore. It isn't about gods and goddesses flaunting their riches while arguing about unrelatable topics. It's about gods and goddesses making wrong decisions, being trapped in life with overbearing parents, sliding in and out of relationships and finding love where it's least expected. Greek mythology is your comfort book, the book you rush to the bookstore for and the book you can't put down.

Rachel Smythe’s Lore Olympus, a webcomic published in 2018, recounts the story of Persephone and Hades. The webcomic started off without much popularity, but Instagram and licensed merchandise opened up the door to Olympus for new fans. This story of a goddess and god unfit for each other is sculpted into a much more relatable experience.

In the original myth, Persephone is taken by the god of the Underworld. This pushes her mother Demeter, the goddess of harvest, past her breaking point. Demeter manages to get Persephone back but only for half the year. When Persephone is with Demeter the world experiences summer, but when Persephone is with Hades the world is locked into winter.

It's possible for mothers to relate to the pain of losing their child, but beyond that relation, is it possible for other readers to find a connection between themselves and the Greek myth?

In Smythe’s version of the tale, Persephone is in Olympus with the other gods and goddesses only because she promised Demeter that she would be careful and stay with Artemis at all times. She promised her mom she would not act up or do anything that would put her life in danger.

With those promises in place, the only reason Persephone meets Hades is because of another goddess’s jealousy and her eagerness to ruin Hades’ wavering reputation. It is here we see Persephone as a pawn that other inhabitants of Olympus use to their advantage. The gods and goddesses don’t care if Persephone is hurt along the way or if her world crumbles and cracks all around her.

In Lore Olympus, Persephone and Hades represent a Greek myth where readers may connect with the main characters. Readers can understand what it’s like to have an overprotective mother and how they have to promise a million things (and never ever break a promise) to satisfy their mother’s worry. If readers can’t relate to granting promises, they can relate to what it’s like to be in the middle of fights. They can visualize a scenario where they are used to another’s advantage and then laughed at when they express their worry or anger.

All those connections readers experience when exploring Persephone and Hades’ lives allow the myth to live on in a new light. The goddess of spring and the god of the Underworld are tangible. Readers can feel Persephone’s daisies and lilies tickling their skin while the flames from Hades’ realm make their backs prickle. They can see the intense hold Demeter has over Persephone as Persephone’s doubt takes every chance it can to reign over her emotions.

The textbook Persephone and Hades are of the past. The Lore Olympus version of Persephone and Hades are the beginning of a new future for the Greek myth: one where authors take the myth off the shelf and create books like Neon Gods and Tempting Hades. A new future where people sit in front of a stage to watch live retellings like Hadestown. A new future where the popular goddess and god become more than a myth banished to collect dust in the deepest part of the library.

With this new outlook, readers can be assured it will be a while before the dust settles down onto the tale of Persephone and Hades. The goddess of spring and the god of the Underworld won’t fade away that easily because Greek mythology isn’t a man in robes whose scowls push away readers anymore, but a man in a modern suit whose smile invites them to enjoy a couple more chapters.

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