Welcome back to my first Magic article of the new year. I hope you all had a nice holiday session and are ready for Theros Beyond Death. The plane heavily inspired by Greco-Roman myths and legends is nearly here, and we are officially well into preview season. As one of the most flavourful sets to ever be released, it is unsurprising that a good number of the sets’ cards are influenced by the real-world myths of Greek and Rome. As we get closer and closer to the release, I’ll be continuing to look at the stories behind some of the more interesting previewed cards.
Last time I looked at a couple of the previewed cards and explored the real-world myths of Orthrus, Sisyphus, and the Trojan War. Today we have two more cards to look at and all of them are really great in terms of flavour and design. Some of these myths you might have heard of while others you might not. But we can all apricate some great story telling in card form, and if you learn a little something along the way all the better.
When you get down to it, a lot of myths are very cyclical. The same patterns emerge over and over again, often perpetuating the same tragedies. The beings involved often refuse to heed the lesson of “those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”. and you know what? The Greek gods were some of the worst for it.
The entirety of the early Greek mythos was based around the idea of sons supplanting their fathers in order to rule the cosmos. It started with Uranus, partner to Gaea and grandfather to most of the Greek pantheon. With Gaea he created three sets of offspring, the Hecatonchires, the Cyclopes, and the Titans.
Uranus, however, had gotten on the wrong side of Gaia, as he had taken to imprisoning their more monstrous children, the Hecatonchires and Cyclopes, in Tartarus. To gain her revenge, Gaia created a great sickle and gathered the Titans in order to convince them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus, Titan of the Harvest, was willing to do the deed, and so supplanted his father as king of the cosmos.
However, Uranus warned Cronus that his own children would rebel against his rule, just as he had done with his own father. In an attempt to prevent this, he imprisoned Hecatonchires and Cyclopes, and ate each of his children as they were born. But Cronus’ wife Rhea managed to hide her youngest child, Zeus, by tricking Cronus into swallowing a rock wrapped in a blanket instead.
Raised in secret, Zeus would eventually free his siblings by tricking Cronus into drinking a mixture of mustard and wine, which would cause Cronus to vomit them out, now fully grown. Zeus would then lead a rebellion against the Titans, and, with the aid of the freed Hecatonchires and Cyclopes, overthrow his father. The Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus, and the ancient Greek world we all know was started proper*.
So why did I just go through all of this? Because the card The Binding of the Titans is basically this story in a nutshell. It appears that the Gods of Theros overthrew their own version of the Titans, imprisoning them in the underworld. However, it seems these Titans are out for revenge, and hope to escape to rage war on the pantheon again. Will this come to pass? We will have to wait and see.
Ok, so everyone has heard the tale of Pandora before, right? The story of how a naïve young woman accidentally opened a box and released all the evil into the world. So, it’s easy to assume that that is the inspiration behind Allure of the Unknown, which displays this myth very well with the character Pantor stepping in to replace Pandora. It certainly seems so, but why did Wizards of the Coast choose to replace Pandora with the masculine Pantor?
Well, I can’t speak for the motives of WotC, but it could be because the original myth of Pandora didn’t really represent the female demography in a positive light. You see, Pandora wasn’t a naïve young woman, as modern tellings would have you believe. No, in the poet Hesiod’s piece, the Theogony, she was the first woman created by the gods to punish them by releasing all the world’s evils upon mankind. And she knew exactly what she was doing.
In the tale, Zeus was mad because the Titan Prometheus had stolen fire to give to mankind. Prometheus was punished by being chained to a rock and having birds eat his liver every day, but Zeus had an even more horrible punishment in mind for the human race. You see, early man (according to later poems by Hesiod) were both immortal and entirely male, and were reverent of the gods.
So Zeus ordered the god Hephaestus to create Pandora, and asked all the other gods to contribute to her creation. In doing so they made a deceitful being that was capable of “lies and crafty words”. He then gave her a jar (later mistranslated into a box) containing diseases, misery, and things like mortal life spans. When she was offered as a gift to Epimetheus (Prometheus’ brother), she tipped the contents out, dooming mankind in the process. The only thing to escape the jar was hope, representing the fact that humanity will always have hope.
Given the fact that this myth spends most of its time telling you that women are all evil and shouldn’t be trusted, it is unsurprising that WotC would want to leave the whole plot out of their version of the myth. So, changing the character to a male and making men responsible for our own downfall changes the context of the story while keeping the inspiration relatively intact for all us history boffins. Good call if you ask me.
That should do it for today. There are still more flavourful cards I want to talk about, but that will have to wait till part 3. If you don’t want to miss out on that lore dive, make sure you like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics. We also have a Patreon, so if you want to support future content on the site, consider becoming one of our Patrons. Just $1 a month would do so much to help us create more of the content you enjoy.
If you have any ideas for new and exciting decks you want me to look at, you can contact me directly @MTGTengu over on Twitter. But until next time, remember: no matter the game you play or where you play it, good luck and have fun.