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 Post subject: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:11 pm 
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Pg. 370-371:

Isabelle read the stories to Hugo, and he remembered hearing some of the myths when he was in school. She read about Mount Olympus and creatures like the chimera and phoenix, and then read the story of Prometheus. Hugo learned that Prometheus had created humankind out of mud, and then stolen fire from the gods as a gift for the people he had made, so they could survive.

So Prometheus was a thief.

In his mind, Hugo suddenly saw the painting in the Film Academy library. One of the figure’s hands was reaching up, holding a ball of fire, as if it were stealing the flames from above, and the other hand projected light, like it was a film. Hugo thought that maybe the painting was a version of Prometheus, except Prometheus was stealing fire from the gods to create the movies.

Isabelle continued reading the story. It turned out that Prometheus was punished for his theft by being chained forever to a rock where an eagle came to eat his liver, which grew back every day. Prometheus had stolen the fire because he wanted to help the people he had created, yet he was still punished.


Pg. 494:

It’s been a very long time since I’ve been here,” said the old man as they neared their destination. “Maybe I’ll ask to see the picture of Prometheus I painted when I was young.”

“You painted that picture, Papa Georges?” said Hugo, amazed. “I thought it was of Prometheus. I saw it in the library.”

It’s still hanging? That’s good news. You know the myth, then?”

They told him they did.

“Then you know Prometheus was rescued in the end. His chains were broken, and he was finally set free.” The old man squinted one of his eyes and added, “How about that?”



PROMETHEUS

In Greek mythology, Prometheus (Ancient Greek meaning "forethought") is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of human-kind known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. His myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with – or blamed for – playing a pivotal role in the early history of humankind. Below are the two most common variations on the myth.

Hesiod’s version of the story

The Prometheus myth first appeared in the late 8th-century BC Greek epic poet Hesiod's Theogony (lines 507-616). He was a son of the Titan, Iapetus by Themis or Clymene, one of the Oceanids. He was brother to Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. In the Theogony, Hesiod introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus' omniscience and omnipotence. In the trick at Mecone, a sacrificial meal marking the "settling of accounts" between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus (545-557). He placed two sacrificial offerings before the Olympian: a selection of beef hidden inside an ox's stomach (nourishment hidden inside a displeasing exterior), and the bull's bones wrapped completely in "glistening fat" (something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior). Zeus chose the latter, setting a precedent for future sacrifices; henceforth, humans would keep the meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angered Zeus, who hid fire from humans in retribution. Prometheus in turn stole fire in a giant fennel-stalk and gave it back to mankind. This further enraged Zeus, who sent Pandora, the first woman, to live with men. She was fashioned by Hephaestus out of clay and brought to life by the four winds, with all the goddesses of Olympus assembled to adorn her. "From her is the race of women and female kind," Hesiod writes; "of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth."

Prometheus, in eternal punishment, is chained to a rock in the Caucasus, where his liver is eaten out daily by an eagle, only to be regenerated by night, which, by legend, is due to his immortality. Years later, the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules) would shoot the eagle and free Prometheus from his chains.

Hesiod revisits the story of Prometheus in the Works and Days (lines 42-105). Here, the poet expands upon Zeus' reaction to the theft of fire. Not only does Zeus withhold fire from men, but "the means of life," as well (42). Had Prometheus not provoked Zeus' wrath (44-47), "you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste." Hesiod also expands upon the Theogony's story of the first woman, now explicitly called Pandora ("all gifts"). After Prometheus' theft of fire, Zeus sent Pandora in retaliation. Despite Prometheus' warning, Epimetheus accepted this "gift" from the gods. Pandora carried a jar with her, from which were released (91-92) "evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death". Pandora shut the lid of the jar too late to contain all the evil plights that escaped, but hope remained in the jar.

Angelo Casanova finds in Prometheus a reflection of an ancient, pre-Hesiodic trickster-figure, who served to account for the mixture of good and bad in human life, and whose fashioning of men from clay was an Eastern motif familiar in Enuma Elish; as an opponent of Zeus he was an analogue of the Titans, and like them was punished. As an advocate for humanity he gains semi-divine status at Athens, where the episode in Theogony in which he is liberated is interpreted by Casanova as a post-Hesiodic interpolation.

Aeschylus version of the story

Perhaps the most famous treatment of the myth can be found in the Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound – traditionally attributed to the 5th-century BC Greek tragedian Aeschylus. At the center of the drama are the results of Prometheus' theft of fire and his current punishment by Zeus; the playwright's dependence on the Hesiodic source material is clear, though Prometheus Bound also includes a number of changes to the received tradition. Before his theft of fire, Prometheus played a decisive role in the Titanomachy, securing victory for Zeus and the other Olympians. Zeus's torture of Prometheus thus becomes a particularly harsh betrayal. The scope and character of Prometheus' transgressions against Zeus are also widened. In addition to giving humankind fire, Prometheus claims to have taught them the arts of civilization, such as writing, mathematics, agriculture, medicine, and science. The Titan's greatest benefaction for humankind seems to have been saving them from complete destruction. In an apparent twist on the myth of the so-called Five Ages of Man found in Hesiod's Works and Days (wherein Cronus and, later, Zeus created and destroyed five successive races of mortal men), Prometheus asserts that Zeus had wanted to obliterate the human race, but that he somehow stopped him. Moreover, Aeschylus anachronistically and artificially injects Io, another victim of Zeus' violence and ancestor of Heracles, into Prometheus' story. Finally, just as Aeschylus gave Prometheus a key role in bringing Zeus to power, he also attributed to him secret knowledge that could lead to Zeus' downfall: Prometheus had been told by his mother Gaia of a potential marriage that would produce a son who would overthrow Zeus. Fragmentary evidence indicates that Heracles, as in Hesiod, frees the Titan in the trilogy's second play, Prometheus Unbound. It is apparently not until Prometheus reveals this secret of Zeus' potential downfall that the two reconcile in the final play, Prometheus the Fire-Bringer.

Prometheus Bound also includes two mythic innovations of omission. The first is the absence of Pandora's story in connection with Prometheus' own. Instead, Aeschylus includes this one oblique allusion to Pandora and her jar that contained Hope (252): "[Prometheus] caused blind hopes to live in the hearts of men." Second, Aeschylus makes no mention of the sacrifice-trick played against Zeus in the Theogony.

These innovations reflect the play's thematic reversal of the Hesiodic myth. In Hesiod, the story of Prometheus (and, by extension, of Pandora) serves to reinforce the theodicy of Zeus: he is a wise and just ruler of the universe, while Prometheus is to blame for humanity's unenviable existence. In Prometheus Bound, this dynamic is transposed: Prometheus becomes the benefactor of humanity, while every character in the drama (except for Hermes, a virtual stand-in for Zeus) decries the Olympian as a cruel, vicious tyrant.

Liver regeneration

The mythological story that Prometheus was chained to a rock in the Caucasus mountain and his liver was eaten every day by an eagle only to "regenerate" in the night has been used by scientists studying liver regeneration as an indication that ancient Greeks knew that liver can regenerate if surgically removed or injured. Because of the association of Prometheus with liver regeneration, his name has also been associated with biomedical companies involved in regenerative medicine.

Art

I was unable to find any painting by Georges Méliès. Below are some artists’ renderings of Prometheus:


Image
Prometheus having his liver eaten out by an eagle by Jacob Jordaens, 1640


Image
Prometheus by Gustave Moreau, 1868


Sculpture of Prometheus in front of the GE Building at the Rockefeller Center,
New York City, NY. Click on the thumbnail:

Image


Image
Prometheus Stealing Fire From The Gods by Sir James Thornhill


Image
Unknown Artist


This last work reminded me of Georges Méliès’ film style in A Trip to the Moon:


Image
Prometheus Stealing Fire by Andre Durand



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:40 pm 
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Gustave Moreau's Prometheus doesn't seem to be as pained by what the eagle's doing as Jacob Jordaens, does he?


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:49 pm 
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Here is another Prometheus Bound painting :

When I was a kid, we'd occasionally get to the Philly Museum of Art, and this was always the picture I couldn't wait to see. It's huge and very dramatic in real life, and really made a deep impression on me.


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:31 pm 
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fansmom wrote:
Gustave Moreau's Prometheus doesn't seem to be as pained by what the eagle's doing as Jacob Jordaens, does he?



And it looks like the eagle is eating his appendix. :grin:

I love mythology, I've also read the Enuma Elish and at the moment I'm studying Sumerian Mythology.
It is very interesting to read that the Greek Pantheon is derived from the
Sumerian Pantheon and that e.g. Prometheus and Zeus who oppose each have about the same history as Sumerian Enki and Enlil who also oppose each other.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:05 pm 
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IngridN wrote:
fansmom wrote:
Gustave Moreau's Prometheus doesn't seem to be as pained by what the eagle's doing as Jacob Jordaens, does he?
And it looks like the eagle is eating his appendix. :grin:
I just thought the eagle was taking the long way into the liver. :yuck:


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:33 pm 
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I enjoy reading about mythology but have a hard time with the cruelty. For the same reason I hate to watch films of the era of the Roman empire. The art would be more appealing if I had a stronger stomach.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:22 am 
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fansmom wrote:
IngridN wrote:
fansmom wrote:
Gustave Moreau's Prometheus doesn't seem to be as pained by what the eagle's doing as Jacob Jordaens, does he?
And it looks like the eagle is eating his appendix. :grin:
I just thought the eagle was taking the long way into the liver. :yuck:

I don't think Moreau knew much of anatomy. Plus his painting lacks feeling and depth.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:23 am 
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gemini wrote:
I enjoy reading about mythology but have a hard time with the cruelty. For the same reason I hate to watch films of the era of the Roman empire. The art would be more appealing if I had a stronger stomach.

I've never found mythology very interesting, actually.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:13 pm 

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Liz wrote:
gemini wrote:
I enjoy reading about mythology but have a hard time with the cruelty. For the same reason I hate to watch films of the era of the Roman empire. The art would be more appealing if I had a stronger stomach.

I've never found mythology very interesting, actually.


We may not find it interesting but Isabelle did as she kept taking the book from the shop again and again - wonder what this says about her character - though children in the thirties were "much older" than their counterparts today :eyebrow:

I've recently given my gall bladder to science - those paintings of Prometheus losing his liver makes me shudder for many very personal reasons :yikes:



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:02 pm 
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lizbet wrote:
I've recently given my gall bladder to science - those paintings of Prometheus losing his liver makes me shudder for many very personal reasons :yikes:
Yeah, that would be the stuff of nightmares. Let's hope you don't grow the gall bladder back! :hope:


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:34 pm 

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fansmom :biglaugh: :yikes: the thought of going through that experience repeatedly is beyond rational comprehention :biglaugh: :yikes: it certainly would be a punishment for a very CAPITAL sin



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:20 pm 
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I'm passing this on from a scholar in myths and art. unomyth sent this to me in a pm:

In contrast to the images where Prometheus is still fighting against his fate, this version by Gustave Moreau is serene. The gory punishment is indicated by the presence of the bird (notice that Moreau has used a vulture instead of the traditional eagle).

Prometheus himself seems at peace, calmly accepting his fate after eons to contemplate the issues. There is no doubt that Moreau has based the facial features of Prometheus on the style used to portray Christ in artwork of the Renaissance. Also interesting is the little flickering flame hovering above his head. Does it represent inspiration or is it melancholy remembering the fire that helped get him into trouble.


I had totally missed the fact that the eagle was a vulture and that there was a flame above his head. :dunce:



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 12:19 am 
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My thanks first to Liz for a really interesting presentation on Prometheus tracing back on the development of the original story and then the plays.

And then of course, I always like to arrive a bit late and sit and read and think about everyone's insights and comments. Nothing like a bunch of different perspectives for stimulating the juices of the brain.

So fire. I think right away about what early men must have experienced. This thing that arrives from the heavens with great explosions bringing with it wonderous powers: light the night, warm the cold, and a magic that allows the user to transform reality-- make the raw cooked, the wet clay into the pot, the lump of metal into the arrow. I mean fire is probably the most spectacular thing that ever happened to humankind.

And, it holds that ability to open us to the new, to the never before imagined -- the power of creation. We have 'stolen' fire from the gods and become the new god, the new creator -- whether it's poetry or films or art or anything. Fire transformed us.

Good stuff. Thanks.



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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Fri Jul 16, 2010 11:02 pm 
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Oh, fireflydances, you made me think of the theory that cooking gave early humans an evolutionary edge over apes, so I looked it up and got this--
Control over fire--and the cooking it enabled--may have been truly transformative for our ancestors.

(Of course, since I live in the Twilight Zone, when I looked at that National Geographic article, I also got a popup ad for the Cleopatra exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philly--the Franklin Institute where Maillardet's Automaton is . . .)


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 Post subject: Re: Hugo Cabret Tidbit #17 ~ Prometheus
PostPosted: Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:27 am 
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All I can say is thank goodness that Prometheus gave us mere mortals fire and that we learned how to use it. ;-)



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