How Marvel's 'Eternals' got their mythic names – Mashable

It’s easy to make a comparison between modern comic book superheroes and the mythical heroes of eons past. Superheroes and legends alike represent the best of humanity. Their stories are meant to present the traits and values that the best of us should exemplify. Chloé Zhao’s Eternals draws that comparison even closer by adapting a troupe of Marvel characters who are both heroes and legends.
Each Eternal is a reference to some part of mythology or folklore, with the in-universe assumption being that they actually were or — at least inspired — the myths we know by name today. Some of them are well-known members of the Greek and Roman pantheon. But a few of Marvel’s Eternals have names that are much deeper cuts from humanity’s long history of epic tales about super-powered heroes…
The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest recorded story uncovered from the history of human civilization, which kind of makes its eponymous protagonist the world’s first superhero. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian warrior-king who had incredible strength. The gods sent him a challenge in the form of Enkidu, an uncivilized man whom Gilgamesh fought. Then, the pair went on to have further adventures. In Eternals, Sprite brings up Enkidu when she’s telling the story of Gilgamesh at a Sumerian celebration. So, it’s possible that Eternals’ Gilgamesh had a “real” Enkidu somewhere in Marvel history.
Thena’s name is derived from the Greek goddess of war, Athena. Though in Eternals, Thena insists it’s the other way around. Athena was known for her wisdom, her patronage of the city of Athens (which was named for her), and — of course — her skill in the ways of war. Many of the Greek gods were known to have tempers. But Athena was famously wrathful when crossed, which might be an inspiration to Thena’s volatile Mahd Wy’ry.
Phastos is a reference to Hephaestus, the Greek god of the forge and innovation. Hephaestus gets the short end of the stick in Greek myth since he’s often depicted as ugly and unlovable. Eternals’ Phastos subverts the trope by looking fine as hell and being the only Eternal in a successful and happy marriage. Hephaestus taught humanity how to work with metal and was given credit behind mortal inventions. So, his MCU power of designing and manipulating wondrous machines is spot on.
The Icarus of Greek myth was not a god. He was the son of Daedalus, a great inventor who was trapped in the service of King Minos of Crete. Daedalus wanted to escape with Icarus. So, he used his technological genius to craft two pairs of working wings from feathers and wax. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, lest the wax that held the wings together melt in the heat. Naturally, the first thing Icarus did when he got his wings was fly straight at the sun and fall to his death when the wax melted. Smart dad, dumb kid.
Druig has no clear counterpart for a specific mythic entity. However, the Folklore Society of Great Britain lists “druig” as a cognate word for dragon, along with drac, dreag, drook, and a few other silly names. That listing refers to a druig as “associated with fire and water, with wealth…with the death of powerful men and not with the death of women.” So…a misandrist dragon. This origin makes more sense in the comics, where Druig is known as the “Lord of Flames and Nightmares,” even though he doesn’t specifically have fire powers.
Makkari’s name comes from Mercury, the Roman god of messengers and travelers. (If they had taken her name from the Greek version of the same god, it would be some form of “Hermes”). Mercury was famously fleet-footed and involved with the acquisition of riches, which makes Makkari’s speedster powers and packrat-like collection of treasure right on the money for her namesake. Right on the money. Get it?
Circe was a minor Greek goddess and witch who, like Eternals‘ Sersi, could transform things into other things. Daughter of the sun god Helios, she crossed paths with many famous figures from Greek myth, including Jason, Medea, Odysseus, King Minos, and Scylla. In The Odyssey, she demonstrates her transformative powers by turning Odysseus’ men into pigs. That is until the god Hermes tells him how to force her to transform them back.
The Ajax of Greek myth was not a god, but a prince who was the second greatest fighter in the Trojan War. (Achilles, of course, was the greatest). He was said to be taller and larger than other men, and though many fighters in The Iliad get a shoutout for killing lots of people, Ajax is only described as a defensive warrior. That might be the root of Ajak’s healing power, which supports her immortal family while they go on the offensive against the Deviants.
Like Druig, Kingo’s mythic origins are another mystery. There was a minor Babylonian god called Kingu, but he didn’t have any particular powers and died pretty quick. Maybe there’s a meta-joke in there as to why Kingo is so insecure compared to his epic compatriots.
Sprite is not a specific goddess in any folklore. The name is a reference to fairies, pixies, or any other folk creature known for being small and mischievous. Sprite’s powers of illusion are in line with the tricky powers some fairies have in stories, which they use to misguide and fool humans into traps for their own amusement. So yeah, it’s pretty much Sprite.
Eros appears as a welcome surprise in Eternals‘ post-credit scene. In the MCU he is Thanos’ way hotter and less purple brother. In myth, Eros was the Greek god of love. His mother was Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, and Eros was famous for making people’s lives difficult. He’d shoot them with his arrows of infatuation, thus making them fall for exactly the wrong person…or bull.
Eternals is now in theaters.
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