Resurrecting the Maiden: From Hades to the Grid
Lloyd D. Graham
: The motif of the innocent maiden who is rescued from the underworld of the dead is codified in the Greek myth of Persephone, the desirable daughter of Zeus and of harvest-goddess Demeter. Persephone is often known simply as “the Maiden” (Greek
). With Zeus’s tacit consent, Persephone was abducted by his brother Hades to become the queen of his subterranean kingdom of death, but pined for her former happy existence among the living, to which she was ultimately (albeit conditionally) restored. The myth provides an allegorical explanation for the seasons. The relevance of the Maiden’s return from the dead to the raising of Jairus’s daughter (
, “Little Kor
”) by Jesus in Mark 5:25-34 was identified in 2001 by Roy Kotansky. Here, I suggest some additional possibilities. A hitherto baffling search-and-capture mission for “the maiden” that was undertaken in Eastern lands by the Tuatha Dé Danann – the major pantheon of the Irish Mythological Cycle – could well be a refraction of Persephone’s abduction and her mother’s agonized search for her. A charismatic historical personage known in her own time as
, “the Maid,” but better known to us as Joan of Arc, also suffered capture and imprisonment. In fulfillment of mythic expectation, her execution in 1431 was followed a few years later by the appearance of a resurrected Joan, whose authenticity was widely attested. Like Demeter, it was Joan’s mother who triggered her daughter’s eventual redemption. The motif of the virtuous maiden trapped in a shadowy underworld from which she is eventually rescued persists in modern fiction, where its ancient roots are sometimes successfully obscured by a futuristic veneer. For example, in the blockbuster science fiction movie
(2010), the young digital heroine Quorra (cf.
) – who longs for a human life in the warmth of the sun – overcomes a betrayal by the powerful algorithm Zuse (cf. Zeus) and brings new hope to the world with her liberation from the dark and chilling confines of the electronic universe known as “the Grid.”
The Greek myth of Persephone is the best-known embodiment of the motif in which a virtuous and likeable girl – the Maiden – descends into the realm of death but ultimately returns to the world of the living. The relevance of this myth to the raising of Jairus’s daughter by Jesus was noticed some twelve years ago by Roy Kotansky. In the present short paper, I suggest some other narratives that may owe a debt to the same source. Starting with the Greek myth and reprising its likely parallel in the New Testament, our consideration of these new possibilities takes us from Irish mythology to medieval French history and thence to modern science fiction.
Persephone, the beautiful daughter of chief god Zeus and harvest-goddess Demeter, was often known simply as “the Maiden” (Greek
). The gods Hermes and Apollo had wooed Persephone, but Demeter rejected them and hid her daughter away from the Olympian deities. Hades, the brother of Zeus and god-king of the underworld, was also in love with Persephone. With Zeus’s tacit consent, he abducted her;
(Latin form of Persephone), 1844, Hiram Powers.