Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gods vs. Titans

Recently I did a blog interview with Summer Lane of Writing Belle. One of the questions asked was “What is the difference between gods and Titans?” I answered her question as thoroughly as I could, however to really do the question justice, I would need to write an entire term paper. Today I will meet the question half way and explain what I can in a blog post.
When we speak about gods in mythology, we tend to think of Zeus and his band of gods atop Mt. Olympus, or
we think of Thor and the people of Asgard. Essentially, the gods are shown as the beings overseeing our world. In most cases, they are benevolent until somebody violates a rule or shuns a value they hold dear like courage or kinship. In Greek mythology, the gods punished people who defiled their laws. Mortals had to live by the gods’ standards or they would be forced to push a boulder up hill, have their food stolen by monsters every night, or be cursed with some kind of deformity.

The Titans came before the gods. We essentially see them as forces of nature like a hurricane, typhoon, or a volcano. They are the basic aspects of the universe and our world in particular. Titans and mortals have very few interactions with mortals. If they do, it is for a specific purpose and the mortal will usually have to use his wits or the Titan will take advantage of the mortal. A good example of this would be Heracles and the Titan Atlas, cursed with the burden of holding up the world.

Some people might wonder why authors always seem to depict the gods and Titans as enemies. As an author who writes a series based on mythology, I can tell you that it is the easiest way to introduce conflict. Titans, or enemies similar to them, find their way into all mythologies. If someone wanted to introduce a new enemy, he or she would not only have to introduce somebody not only a legitimate threat to the gods, but accepted by the audience. Most people who know anything about mythology expect the Titans to rear their ugly heads. Some people read mythology to learn about it. They want as accurate telling of the old stories as possible.

Why is their struggle so enticing though? Family drama is one factor. As stated before, the Titans did come first and the gods are often their offspring, or at least their descendants. Children’s breaking away from their parents is a theme used in many stories including mythology and fairy tales.

What the gods and Titans conflict comes down to is a struggle for power. What will they do with their power? To answer that question we have to know what each fundamentally represents. The gods set rules for the mortals, they have a hierarchy, and they often punish mortals for not upholding the correct beliefs. The gods are essentially the embodiment of order. Order is usually associated with harmony and everything having it set place. However, order can be taken to a malevolent extreme. When this happens, order becomes tyranny. This is why authors seldom portray gods in a bad context. Some stories about gods, particularly Zeus, have centered on power being used for selfish reasons or giving the possessor of the power a false sense of entitlement.

Titans are forces of nature. As nature is unpredictable and often unforgiving, the Titans represent chaos. They go by no rules other than every man for himself. When the gods imprisoned them, it was essentially controlling nature, and therefore controlling chaos. When one thinks of chaos, they think of riots in the streets, the strong victimizing the weak and everything in flames, or worse. Just as there was a malignant side of order, there is also a beneficial side of chaos. In order to be able to live a life by one’s own wishes, that person needs freedom. The more tyranny grips us, the less power we have to make our own decisions. With the power to make our own decisions though comes the responsibility to allow freedom for others. When everyone is only concerned for his or her own freedom and not others, we see the destructive power of chaos. 

When we see a symbolic conflict between order and chaos, represented by the gods and Titans, we can see how their struggles relate to our own lives. Every day we ask ourselves a question that can be traced back to this conflict. Should we allow people to carry guns? What should we expose our children to? How much should the government regulate healthcare? The conflict is nowhere near as bloody as the gods war against the Titans, but we struggle just as well.

No matter what stories are told through mythology, today or in the future, there will always be an underlying theme of order vs. chaos. Neither force can really win in the end. The struggle to maintain the balance between the two shall rage on as long as mortal man draws breath.

I apologize for the pics going away. Go google+