Nintendo’s Mythtakes

Anyone who’s familiar with the game Kid Icarus probably realizes that a lot of the character names are based on Greek mythology. How well do these characters actually conform to their portrayals in mythology, though? In most cases, not so well. The game’s title is a reference to Daedalus‘ son who flew too close to the Sun, but the main character is actually named Pit, not Icarus.

I guess “Kid Icarus” is a nickname he has because he has wings, or something like that.

And as Drew Mackie, whose blog URL suggests that he’d know these things, pointed out, the goddess Palutena is probably actually Athena, with her name badly translated into Japanese and then back into English.

It could be either a shortened version of “Pallas Athena,” or a variation on “Parthenos.” Athena really is the goddess who turned Medusa into a monster, which fits with the story from the instruction manual (although the mythological Medusa wasn’t a goddess herself).

And while you’d think Zeus would do a little more to help his favorite daughter, I can’t say I object to his role. So we’re actually doing pretty well so far, but then we get into Medusa’s evil forces. Some of their names don’t seem to reflect mythology at all, but here are the ones that do:

In mythology: A young man Zeus found so attractive that he took him to Olympus to be his love slave
In the game: A floating one-eyed skull

In mythology: While this name obviously isn’t from mythology, he definitely brings to mind Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of the Underworld. Since Twinbellows only has two heads, however, a closer match would actually be Orthros, Geryon’s dog. For what it’s worth, Orthros was also the original name for Ultros from Final Fantasy VI.
In the game: Guardian of the first sacred treasure.

In mythology: King of Crete, employer of Daedalus, and judge of the dead after being killed by some Sicilian princesses
In the game: A bouncing pink ball, identified by the instructions as a porcupine

In mythology: The name probably refers to Plouton, which was what Hades was called while in the guise of god of wealth.
In the game: An ogre that steals things from Pit. There’s also a fly variety. I guess the name kind of makes sense, as thieves are generally after wealth.

In mythology: The hydra was a multi-headed snake that lived in the swamps of Lerna and grew more heads when the original ones were severed. Hercules managed to kill it by setting the stumps on fire.
In the game: A one-headed snake that jumps in and out of boiling magma, and guardian of the second sacred treasure

In mythology: The legendary founder and first king of the city of Troy
In the game: A spiked metallic ball with one eye. The name presumably wasn’t entirely arbitrary, though, as it’s similar to Ganewmede, and the mythological Ganymede was Tros’s son.

In mythology: The primordial sky god, father of the Titans, Cyclopes, Hecatonchires, and Gigantes. He was castrated by his son Kronos, who presumably didn’t want him fathering any more freaks.
In the game: A little man who walks slowly. Maybe that’s what resulted from his being castrated. Incidentally, Uranos actually appears in the Captain N comics (but not the cartoon) as a more competent helper to Mother Brain than the bumbling twosome of King Hippo and Eggplant Wizard (the latter of whom is, of course, also a Kid Icarus enemy, but not one with a background in Greek mythology).

Since the comic didn’t last very long, we never really got much of a sense of his character.

In mythology: A woman sent to Earth by Zeus with a jar full of evil, in order to punish mankind and their Titan benefactor Prometheus. Pandora was married to Prometheus’ slow-witted brother Epimetheus.
In the game: A giant bubble with a face, and guardian of the last sacred treasure

In mythology: As seen in the Odyssey, Sirens were bird-women who sang beautiful songs in order to entice sailors to wreck their ships on the rocks.
In the game: Someone did their homework here, in that the game’s Syrens are also bird-women. They’re really closer to Furies, though.

In mythology: A nymph who was pursued by Apollo despite her obvious lack of interest in him, who finally called out to the earth to turn her into a tree
In the game: A flying flower. Well, at least they got the plant part right.

In mythology: The Erinyes are the ruthless goddesses of revenge.
In the game: A one-eyed monster in a cloak (kind of similar to the Eggplant Wizard in appearance, really) that splits into three separate pieces when hit with an arrow. There are many female trios in Greek mythology, and since the Erinyes are among them, that might explain the three pieces. The splitting could also be considered revenge for the original hit.

In mythology: The personification of death
In the game: The snakes that Medusa launches at Pit. I guess there’s no reason why she couldn’t have given her hair snakes a name that means “death,” but it’s a little odd that THIS would be the Thanatos enemy in a game in which the Grim Reaper appears quite frequently.

God of Poverty
In mythology: The Greek goddess of poverty and need is known as Penia, but she was never all that significant.
In the game: A character resembling a Reapette that hides out in a treasure jar, trying to prevent Pit from obtaining the treasures. His appearance suggests that he might well be based not on Penia, but rather on Binbogami, the Japanese god of poverty.

Thanks to the IcarusPedia, which identified some of the mythological references I would have missed on my own, and TRS Rockin’ for the Captain N comic scans.

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4 Responses to Nintendo’s Mythtakes

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Have you played any of the recent versions, or not yet?

  2. Pingback: Welcome to Your Doom! | VoVatia

  3. Pingback: The Flying Avengers of the Greco-Roman World | VoVatia

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