Literature / Myth-O-Mania

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"K.H.R.O.T.U, King Hades, Ruler of the Underworld, that's me."

When it comes to the Greek Myths, things aren't always what they seem.

Lots of people (or at least those who are especially interested in that sort of thing) have some knowledge of Classical Mythology. Many of the myths feature brave heroes and the mighty Zeus, who rules on Mount Olympus. But in this children's series by Kate McMullan, Lord Hades, Ruler of the Underworld, tells you the real story of what actually happened. The myths we've all heard are a pack of lies told by Zeus, the biggest myth-o-maniac (old Greek-speak for "liar") ever, to make himself look good. And he only got to be ruler of Mount Olympus by cheating at cards!


Books in the series include:

  • Have a Hot Time, Hades! (2002)
  • Phone Home, Persephone! (2002)
  • Say Cheese, Medusa! (2002)
  • Nice Shot, Cupid! (2002)
  • Stop That Bull, Theseus! (2003)
  • Keep a Lid on It, Pandora! (2003)
  • Get To Work, Hercules! (2003)
  • Go For the Gold, Atalanta! (2003)
  • Hit the Road, Helen! (2013)
  • Get Lost, Odysseus! (2014)
  • A book about Jason and the Argonauts (Date and Title TBA)

The Myth-O-Mania series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage: Poseidon married the mortal woman Aethra after the two of them had "too much bubbly". Since Po and Aethra had already fallen in love before that, he admits to Hades that he would have actually stayed with her, and their son, Theseus, if she didn't dump Po for King Aegeus.
  • Achilles' Heel: The Trope Naming warrior appears in Hit The Road, Helen! When Thetis grabs baby Achilles by his heel, and immerses him in the invincibility-granting River Styx, Hades warns her that no mortal could survive two dunks, leaving the heel as Achilles' only weak point. Thetis orders some "heel protectors" from Hephaestus, but Achilles refuses to wear them, because they give him blisters. Achilles eventually dies after a poison-tipped arrow, shot by Prince Paris of Troy, pierces his heel. Ironically, when Achilles reveals his weakness prior to fighting in the Trojan War, one of the other soldiers expresses doubt that anyone would harm him there.
  • Achilles in His Tent: Achilles refuses to fight in The Trojan War after he and King Agamemnon have a disagreement regarding a sacrifice to Apollo. He comes out of the tent after the death of Patroclus, and re-joins battle to avenge him.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Aside from such embellishments as anachronisms and a larger role for Hades deities, Hit the Road, Helen! and Get Lost, Odysseus! seem more like The Trojan Cycle and The Odyssey trimmed and translated into middle-school syntax, than entirely new takes on them.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In-universe example: Cupid meets Psyche during his awkward adolescent phase, but Zeus' version of their story makes Cupid sound like a hunk. Zeus also removed references to his own pudginess and bald spot when rewriting the myths.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Happens to many of the monsters, such as the Minotaur, the Hydra, Medusa, Echidna, and Orthus. In contrast with the myths, the Greek heroes' encounters with these famous monsters tend to be resolved peacefully (often with the help of Hades).
  • Adaptational Villainy: In-universe, Zeus' versions of the myths exaggerate monsters' scariness. Plus, he claims that Hades broke into Persephone's garden and kidnapped her, when Persephone actually hitched a ride on Hades' chariot while running away from her overprotective mother.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Hades calls Poseidon, "Po", and Persephone, "P-Phone."
  • The Alleged Car: Hermes transports souls to the Underworld in a broken-down bus.
  • Anachronism Stew: The mythological characters make constant use of technology more advanced than that of Ancient Greece.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Zeus. Hera could also count, as Hades' bossiest and youngest sister.
  • Apple of Discord: Eris crashes Peleus' and Thetis' wedding, and uses her golden apple to start an argument among Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite over who is the fairest goddess.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: After Cupid reveals that he helped Persephone win Hades' love by shooting him with an arrow, Hades becomes pressured into deciding whether or not he truly loves Persephone, especially since the magic of that arrow wore off three days after Cupid fired it.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: The Hydra killed humans with her toxic breath by accident instead of malice, and turns out to be a good friend, helping Hercules clear the Augean Stables, although because of her Walking Wasteland powers she has to use sign language to communicate with the other characters.
  • Badass Princess: Atalanta, a strong and tough Daughter of Artemis whose long-lost birth parents reigned over Arcadia. After she both helps the Argonauts find the Golden Fleece, and saves Calydonia from the rampaging Calydonian Boar, everyone calls her, "The Princess Hero".
  • Bag of Holding: The monogrammed wallet that Hades receives from Persephone can hold anything regardless of size. She explains that she bought it from some nymphs.
  • Beary Friendly: Honey raises human Daughters of Artemis, such as Atalanta, with the same care that she provides her own cubs.
  • Big Eater: Atalanta. Hades even refers to her as this, word for word!
  • Bittersweet Ending: Hit the Road, Helen! has one. The Trojan War ends, but only after countless warriors perish in battle. Accordingly, the last chapter before the epilogue ends on a more serious note than usual. Helen and Menelaus agree that after all those years she spent with Paris, their marriage will take a while to rebuild. After they head back to Sparta, Hades sees the destroyed city of Troy, then heads off to lead yet another batch of casualties into the Underworld. The epilogue tries to lighten things up by assuring the reader that Helen and Menelaus did rekindle their love, after a wayward wind left them stranded in Egypt for many years, and that the couple resumed their thrones in Sparta before their daughter married Achilles' son.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The Gorgons, with Eno as the blonde, Medusa as the brunette, and Riley as the redhead.
  • Bowdlerise: Most notably, the story of Hercules. Instead of having Zeus impersonate Alcmene's husband Amphytrion and impregnate her with Hercules under these circumstances, Alcmene is a princess who got pregnant with Hercules when she was married to Zeus and marries Amphytrion later on.
  • Canine Companion: Cerebus to Hades, and Argos to Odysseus.
  • The Casanovas: Zeus and Poseidon.
  • The Cassandra: The Trope Namer appears in Book IX, making several warnings that other mortals refuse to heed. This time, she was a priest of Apollo, given a job prophecy, but she quit to get married. Apollo angrily cursed her so no one would believe her. Later, she or her ghost encourages Hades to make Book X an Odyssey story instead of his planned Jason and the Argonauts story.
  • Character Exaggeration: Most versions of Theseus' story have him forget to change the color of the sail of the boat that transports him between Crete and Athens, which scares King Aegeus to death, after he interprets the black sail as a sign that Theseus perished in his fight against the Minotaur. Stop That Bull, Theseus! reveals Theseus as a full-blown Forgetful Jones.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Years before the Nemean Lion and Hydra become enemies (then an ally, in Hydra's case) of Hercules, Hades briefly encounters them as babies while saving Zeus from Typhon and Echidna.
  • Child Marriage Veto: Atalanta vowed to Artemis not to be married off to anyone, so she sets up an impossible Engagement Challenge.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The ghosts of the wicked become subjected to fire, lava, and tar in the Underworld pit of Tartarus. In Stop that Bull, Theseus!, Hades decides to build up an Underworld Wrestling league by way of persuading some big bad bullies who are otherwise headed for Tartarus to sign wrestling contracts to get out of this. Souls who had already landed in Tartarus couldn't join because the severity of their punishments caused them to lose their fighting spirit.
  • Competition Freak: Theseus will never take the easy way out, doing things like walking to Athens instead of sailing, so that he could fight the bullies that plague the road.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • The ghosts of those who were not-so-good but not-so-bad have to memorize an endless list of difficult spelling words.
    • A few of the evils unleashed by opening Pandora's box include cavities, poison ivy, and mosquito bites, but also telemarketing, square dancing in gym class, and "I Before E Except After C". All sound pretty minor in comparison to stories in which Pandora's box contained all the evil and suffering in the world.
  • Cool Shades: Hyperion wears these, since he fathered the dawn, the sun, and the moon before Apollo and Artemis took over that duty.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot:
    • Hades considers the likelihood that the Trojan War wouldn't have happened if Zeus accepted the responsibility of picking the fairest goddess, instead of using Prince Paris of Troy as a scapegoat.
    • Hades also believes that Odysseus wouldn't have had so much trouble going home from Troy if he didn't reveal his real name to the cyclops he blinded, which would have left Poseidon unaware of who to punish.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Hades and Persephone take a cruise with Norse Mythology deities Thor and Sif after Hades finishes writing Hit the Road, Helen!
  • The Dandy: Prince Paris of Troy enjoys trying on and showing off fancy outfits more strongly than he does performing princely duties, such as defending his city from invaders.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The majority of the inhabitants of the Underworld, such as Hades himself and the Furies, are decent people. Most of the monsters, with the exceptions being Typhon and the Nemean Lion, turn out to be more-or-less good guys who will listen to reason.
  • Determinator: Psyche, big time. She spends years completing endless lists of near-impossible tasks just for the chance to see Cupid again. And unlike other heroes, she does most of them without Hades' help.
  • Dirty Coward: Zeus.
  • Disney Villain Death: In Hit the Road, Helen!, Paris falls off of the wall surrounding Troy while dodging an Arrow of Hercules, fired by Philoctetes.
  • Doorstopper: The Big Fat Book of Greek Myths, Hades' main source for Zeus' revised versions of the tales. Hades apparently gets plenty of equally thick books from The Big Fat Book of the Month Club. Also discussed in Stop That Bull, Theseus!: When Hermes asks Hades why the novel doesn't document the adventures that Thesus had after becoming king, Hades explains that he didn't want the book to become too thick. Hermes informs him that some mortals enjoy thick books, as evidenced by the popularity of "Harry What's-his-name."
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Prometheus has visions of Hercules freeing him from his chains.
  • Dumb Is Good: Hercules
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The Argonauts appear in Go For the Gold, Atalanta! well before the release of their own book. Hades and Atalanta both recall helping them and Jason find the Golden Fleece, although Hades says the specifics of his involvement are "another story".
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Psyche earns immortality and a chance to marry Cupid after years of completing a series of endless tasks.
  • Engagement Challenge:
    • In Nice Shot, Cupid!, Aphrodite gives Psyche a list of tasks that she has to complete before she'll allow Psyche to see Cupid again.
    • Go for the Gold, Atalanta! has a more straight-up variety. When Atalanta is imprisoned by her father after years of abandonment, he wants to marry her off. However, the Daughter of Artemis does not want to, so she says that she'll marry anyone who can beat her in a race, which no one ever does.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Averted; Hades actually seems like the most helpful god most of the time, so the only mortals who fear him include those who mistake him for a messenger of death (a discrepancy he does express annoyance with in Get Lost, Odysseus!).
  • Excited Show Title!: Each book has a title that ends with an exclamation point.
  • Feet-First Introduction: Hyperion has one in Have a Hot Time, Hades!
  • Food as Bribe: In the first chapter of Phone Home, Persephone!, Persephone offers Hades a pickle in exchange for a visit to the Underworld.
  • Forgetful Jones: Theseus.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: Even though these are retellings of Greek myths rather than fairy tales, each book otherwise fits this trope.
  • Fun with Acronyms: For starters, Get To Work, Hercules! uses "T.R.U.T.H." and "F.I.B." as abbreviations for "Totally Real Unadulterated History" and "Factually Inaccurate Bull-Hooey", respectively.
  • Generation Xerox: Perseus looks similar to Zeus, and shared his pompous and untruthful traits for a few years.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Since the publisher changed from Hyperion to Stone Arch Books for the 2011 reprints, the epilogues for Phone Home, Persephone! onwards were re-written to show Hades talking with someone other than the Titan Hyperion.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The content can often become rather adult for juvenile fiction.
  • Good-Guy Bar: Calydon has one aptly named, "Heroes".
  • Gratuitous Italian: Aphrodite talks with this. The author says this trope is used so Aphrodite has an excuse to use the Roman and more familiar version of Eros's name, Cupid, which would otherwise be out of place with Greek names.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Hercules has one.
  • Happily Married: Hades and Persephone.
  • His Name Really is "Barkeep": The cyclopes Thunderer and Lightninger forged Zeus' first lightning bolts.note 
  • Humongous Mecha: Crete has a giant robot guard, Talos.
  • Hurricane of Puns
  • I Want Grandkids: In Keep a Lid on It, Pandora!, set before Hades meets and marries Persephone, Rhea nags Hades to settle down and give her some grandchildren. Even after Hades finds a wife, he still ends up not having any children.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each novel has a title that sounds like someone giving a character a command or comment. Most of them also name their chapters with a theme related to the title and/or the main character, such as:
    • In Say Cheese, Mesdusa!, all the chapter titles have a cheese, with one exception.
    • In Kid a Lid on It, Pandora!, all the chapter titles are questions.
    • In Get To Work, Hercules!, all the chapter titles contain the word "Big".
    • In Go For The Gold, Altana!, all chapter titles have a bear.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • The gods refer to Hera as, "The Boss."
    • The Furies Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone go by Alec, Meg, and Tisi, respectively.
    • Gaia and Uranus have the respective nicknames of "Mother Earth" and "Sky Daddy".
    • Pandora and Epimetheus have the respective nicknames of "Pandy" and "Epi".
  • Incest Is Relative: Unusually for a modern-day work based on Greek mythology, especially because it's aimed at children, the series is very forthright about the fact that the gods, goddesses, and Titans are all related to each other... even when they're all marrying each other. However, Hades hand waves this by saying that "we gods live by different rules than you mortals."
    • Hades, the narrator of every book, is married to Persephone, his niece. The story of how they got hitched is further elaborated in Phone Home, Persephone!
    • Zeus had a daughter with the Titaness Metis.
    • Brother-Sister Incest
      • Cronus and Rhea are full siblings as well as husband and wife
      • Zeus had a daughter with his sister Demeter
      • Zeus marries his sister Hera
      • Zeus suggests that his daughter Persephone marry his son Hermes
    • Kissing Cousins
      • In Get to Work, Hercules!, Hera tells Hercules that she will give him her daughter, Hebe, in marriage. Zeus is Hercules's father, making Hera his aunt, therefore making Hebe his cousin.
  • Invisibility Hat: Hades receives one from the cyclopses.
  • Kayfabe: All references to Professional Wrestling (such as Hades wrestling a Titan in the Olympics, attending "Eagle-Eye" Cyclops' latest match, or starting his own wrestling federation) try to make it sound more like a legit sport than a scripted event.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Persephone laughs sarcastically when Hades assures her that he'll be "rooting" for her to win an Olympic Gold Medal for weeding.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Hades admits in Book VIII that it seems unbelievable that he would have known Perseus, Hercules, and Atalanta ever since they were babies, and that becoming entrusted with Atalanta made him wonder if he became "some sort of baby magnet".
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: When Hades catches Theseus' friend Peirithous serenading Persephone, he makes the men sit in the Chair of Forgetfulness, which erases their memories. Theseus becomes freed with help from Hercules, but Peirithous gets left in the Chair for centuries.
  • Lemony Narrator: Hades.
  • Loophole Abuse: Hades swears on the River Styx not to directly help Odysseus return to Ithaca, then proceeds to find ways to indirectly help him.
  • Meaningful Name
    • Persephone means "picky eater", according to Zeus.
    • Zeus tells everyone who is present at Pandora's creation that Pandora means "everyone gave me presents" as a lead-in to his telling them to each give her a gift.
  • My Beloved Smother: Demeter to her daughter Persephone in Phone Home, Persephone! and Aphrodite to her son Cupid in Nice Shot, Cupid!.
  • Nemean Skinning: Artemis wears the fur of animals she hunts. Hercules does the same with the Nemean Lion's skin.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Gaia, AKA Mother Earth, AKA Granny Gaia, has a pretty bad temper.
  • The Olympics: Hades and his siblings, with help from Zeus' children, the Cyclopses, and the Hundred-Handed Men, compete against the Titans in this to decide who should rule the world. Later in the series, Atalanta strives to become the first mortal to compete against the gods in the Olympics.
  • On the Next: The epilogue of each book features Hades telling one of his friends or relatives which myth he will retell next. Until Go For the Gold, Atalanta!, he even shared the name of the next book. Specific characters that Hades has talked to in each Stone Arch epilogue include Hyperion, The Furies, Persphone, Uncle Shiner the Cyclops, Hermes, Thalia the Muse of Comedy, Hestia, Hestia again, Cassandra's Ghost, and Persephone again.
  • Papa Wolf: After Poseidon learns that Odysseus has blinded his cyclops son, Polyphemus, he swears to give Odysseus a death at sea, and to flood the Underworld if Hades ever provides direct assistance to Odysseus' journey back to Ithaca.
  • Picky Eater: Persephone. Zeus even states that this is the meaning of her name! Indeed, Persephone is less than willing to eat Underworld food.
  • Precap: The original versions of the books each had one.
  • Prolonged Prologue: Keep a Lid on It, Pandora! begins with the creation of man and the story of Prometheus. Because of this, Pandora doesn't show up until the seventh or eighth chapter. The fifth chapter actually bears the title, "Where is Pandora?", and begins with Hades telling impatient readers when she'll come, then advising them to "Keep a lid on it!" until her entrance.
  • The Promise: A promise made over the waters of the River Styx can never get broken.
  • Punny Name: Several characters have one, including these:
    • Shiner the cyclops has one eye, and is named after the term for a black eye.
    • The Hundred-Handed Ones go by Fingers, Highfive, and Lefty.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: The Calydonian Boar can talk in rhyme.
  • The Rival: Athena to Poseidon. Their rivalry dates back to when the founders of what is now Athens offered to name their city after the god who gave them the best gift, and Athena won the contest after the judges deemed her olive tree more useful than Po's salt-water spring.
  • Running on All Fours: Atalanta can do this, since she was raised by a bear. This skill helps her win the race against Melanion.
  • The Scapegoat:
    • Zeus attributes the existence of greed, disease, and pain to Pandora failing to heed his warning not to open the box containing these. Actually, greed, disease, and pain already existed in other forms, and Pandora wouldn't have unleashed new versions if Zeus didn't trick her into opening the box.
    • Zeus deems Helen of Troy responsible for The Trojan War, which he says arose after she left her husband, Menelaus, for Paris. Although, Hades argues that Helen wouldn't have run away with Paris if Aphrodite and Zeus didn't tell Cupid to make them fall in love, after Aphrodite promised Paris the world's most beautiful woman in exchange for Eris' golden apple, after Zeus chickened out of choosing the goddess worthiest of the apple by making Paris pick her instead.note 
  • Shown Their Work: Medusa's Origin Story, about how Athena turned her into a monster as punishment for mingling with Poseidon in her temple, was actually derived from some obscure versions of her myth.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Hades encounters a few in Nice Shot, Cupid!, including Orpheus and Eurydice.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Happens on Hades and Persephone's first attempt to marry.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Gods can communicate with animals via the Creature Communication Channel. Additionally, Hercules can speak cow, after spending his adolescence at a farm owned by his stepfather's cousins.
  • Teleportation: Gods perform this with an "Astro-traveling spell", which Hades refuses to share with the readers.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Cupid uses three different kinds of arrows when spreading love between people, two of which invoke this trope. Love induced with yellow-tipped arrows only lasts an hour. Orange-tipped arrows create romantic effects that wear off after three days. Red-tipped arrows avert this trope by making people permanently fall in love. Hit the Road, Helen! introduces the "Smoochie Woochie" arrow, which Cupid uses to make Helen of Troy leave Menelaus for Paris. The Smoochie Woochie's effects wear off of Helen after Philoctetes slays Paris.
  • Title Drop: Several books do this.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Even though the their hair was never cut, Enos and Riley are especially upset about Athena turning their hair into snakes.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Hephaestus and Aphrodite, respectively. According to Hades, Zeus set them up as an apology for crippling Hephaestus, and Aphrodite agreed to the union after Hephaestus forged her some beautiful gold jewelry.
  • Uncancelled: Go For the Gold, Atalanta! ended with Hades and his publisher feeling undecided on what myth to share next, prompting Hades to go on vacation with Persephone. Then another book saw the light of day 10 years later.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • The Cyclopses and the Hundred-Handed Ones became banished to Tartarus after Sky Daddy deemed them uglier than their siblings, the Titans.
    • Zeus felt so ashamed of having the Minotaur as a grandson that he wrote a story in which Theseus killed him.
  • War Is Hell: Recalling The Trojan War prompts Hades to reflect on all the mortal lives lost during petty wars. Kate McMullan also sugarcoats it less strongly than par for the series.
  • Women Are Wiser: Pandora seems more intelligent than the first male mortals.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The entire phrase is said by Persephone in the epilogue to Say Cheese, Medusa!, after she learns that Perseus' grandfather failed to escape his prophesised death at Perseus' hands.
  • You Do Not Want To Know: When discussing the realms of the Underworld in the introduction of Book I, Hades uses this phrase in reference to the torture inflicted upon the souls of the wicked. (The glossary reveals that it involves fire and lava.)
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair:
    • Poseidon, albeit streaked.
    • Thanks to Aphrodite, Pandora has purple hair.

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