Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #19

Re: Clash of the Titans (2010)

In your Clash of the Titans review you ask the parenthetical question, “Incidentally, is immortality ever considered a ‘curse’ in Greek mythology?”

In fact it is, at least once. The mortal man Tithonus (the son of King Laomedon of Troy, though his mother was a nymph, if I remember correctly), fell in love with Eos, the golden dawn, and she petitioned Zeus to grant him immortality so that they could be married and remain with each other for all time.

This Zeus did, but — in a fit of the sort of terrible pique for which he is known — he took her request more literally than it was intended and neglected to also grant Tithonus eternal youth. He became immortal, as requested, but didn’t stop aging. Eventually he was little better than a skeleton; some stories say he turned into an insect of some sort, though I don’t remember exactly what happened with that.

Tennyson’s “Tithonus” (1859) is a fine poem based (occasionally loosely) on these events. You might enjoy it.

— Nick Milne

There I have it. I would expect no less from the author of The Daily Kraken.

Of course, the exception in this case proves the rule, in a more colloquial sense than that phrase is meant to bear. Tithonus’s curse is not eternal life per se, but eternal aging and decrepitude. The myth of Tithonus bears out that Io’s condition of eternal babehood would be regarded as a blessing, not a curse, by the standards of Greek mythology. (This is not to say that eternal youth can’t be treated as a curse in other mythic contexts, only that it seems to correspond to nothing in the Greek mythic context.)

This is why I love film criticism: It’s an education in just about everything. What I don’t look up myself my readers often supply for me.

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