Lend me your ears, O wanderers, for I am a plastic surgeon in need. This is another tale of the Golden Apples of Eris.
I : The family of Eris
Hear of Eris, the sweet goddess of strife, discord and chaos.
Well, chaos is formally still the province of Old Man Kaos, her grandfather, but he’s retired.
Eris is the daughter of Nyx, the primeval Lady of Night, and of Erebus, the equally ancient Lord of Darkness. Beyond this, her origins are rather murky. She might have had a sister, a Lady of the Evening, but she’s understandably not talked of in polite company.
The children of Eris — well, given their nature words like “brood” or “spawn” might be better, though they aren’t very polite, but then again, neither are the children —
Uh, where were we?
The children of Eris are many, but mainly Ponos, Lethe, Limos, Ate, Dysnomia and fatherless Horkos: this is, backbreaking Toil, numb Forgetfulness and gnawing Hunger, reckless Folly, ruinous Lawlessness and grim Oathbreaker’s Bane.
They were collectively named (by their unlucky wetnurse) the Kakodaimones, or Cacodemons, or Evil Spirits.
The said wetnurse could be honest, since there were no other applicants.
“Seeking: A person of some patience to babysit the adorable sextuplets Toil, Forgetfulness, Hunger, Folly, Lawlessness and Bane. Not reasonable hours; all apples one can eat.”
Given that Horkos is fatherless, one is led into considering the fathers of the other five. They are probably fatherless as well; the matter will never be settled since Eris doesn’t believe in alimony.
II : Prometheus and Pandora
These six greater children of Eris played their greatest part in the unhappy tale of Prometheus and Pandora. That story should be known to all — Prometheus the Titan, the only god that ever loved mortals more than a breeder his dogs and less than a stalker his victim, stole fire from Zeus the Thunder-god and king of gods, and brought it down to shivering men; in return Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock.
Soon after, a big bird arrived and an endless orgy of liver-pecking and screaming began.
Zeus is a little touchy, you see.
To punish the insolent mortals that had dared to accept a gift that made their lives better, he engineered the first woman — uh, that is not the best formulation of the matter. I’ll try again.
Well, the six children of Eris, the Kakodaimones. The truth is that, naturally, Eris had nothing to do with these events, as she cares not; the brats were lured into a cunning box by Zeus, who was very proficient in luring all kinds of bipedal or quadrupedal beings anywhere he wanted, though mainly females to his bed and not brat-godlings into tiny silver boxes.
The box was then given to Pandora, the hapless Lady of Product Descriptions, and conveyed into the world of mortals. Since the art of reading had not been invented yet, no-one could fathom the warning letters on the box (“Contents: six godlings from the Family of Strife and Chaos; best before 1/12/100 BCE; do not shake or open”), and it was opened, and out flew Toil, Hunger, and the others, and soon mortals were wondering whether liver-pecking had been, after all, the better outcome.
If the reader has heard this tale before, she surely remembers that, after the gushing-out of the Kakodaimones, Hope (Elpis) was found inside the box — well, she had probably been kidnapped by Dysnomia, who had always been a lawless she-devil.
(Note: Dynomia Lawless is no relation of Lucy Lawless, or so the whispering rabbit-spirits she sent to my dreams said.)
(The people of New Zealand have strange powers.)
Since Zeus, the originator of this nastiness-loosening, had intended to torment mortal men as much as he could (maybe he was bored?), he had thus constructed a threefold trap:
Firstly, the Kakodaimones to make life hard;
Secondly, Hope to make people cling to life, thus extending the amount of hardness and suffering; and
Thirdly, Pandora, the first woman, whose later likenesses would make men constantly aware of their crudeness, rudeness and generally uncouth manners, thus driving them to make impressive fools out of themselves in War, Sport, Tuxedos and similar harmful and fruitless manly ventures.
But ah, we are sidetracked. There are still more children of Eris to be considered.
III : Not very bright things
These then are the lesser children of Eris, the swarming multitudes if you so will: the Algea (Pains), the bloody Hysminai and Makhai (Fights and Battles), the scary Phonoi and Androktasiai (Murders and Manslaughters), and the Neikea, Amphilogiai and Pseudologoi (Quarrels, Disputes and Lies).
A clever mind might see that while Eris gave birth to daimons of Manslaughter, she didn’t make the Misogyniai (Woman-haters), who were the brood of Harmonia the greatly overrated goddess of societal conformity and dumb tradition instead.
One should always remember that the Greeks worshipped Harmonia and other equally disastrous and dangerous godlings — like Zeus of Thunderstorms, Kings, Taxes and Other Annoying Troubles, and Athena, the supposedly wise Goddess of War and Virginity (the writer cannot see anything wise in these attributes), or Aphrodite the ditzy Goddess of Sex, Sex and, Like, More Sex.
They weren’t very bright, the ancient Greeks, you see.
They certainly weren’t very good in choosing their gods. Come to think of it, no-one has been or is, or ever will be. Likewise, no matter how carefully one chooses a trepanation-drill or holing-nail, one still ends up with a hole in one’s head, and a slightly bummed feeling.
IV : Anemones and apples
All rumors of Eris haunting battlefields and similar places of ill repute are of course Greek fabrications — why on Greece would a female deity hang around in places that resembled nothing more than her own nursery?
The Hysminai and Makhai, Fights and Battles, remember? (After the little ones grew up, the wetnurse took up a less stressful position as a tax collector among the cannibal hermit barbarians of North Mongolia.)
Neither is Eris hard-hearted; merely frivolous and possessing a short attention span — but then again this is true of all gods. The only thing they can really concentrate on is a grudge. Well, the same is true of most men as well. And women. And maybe of animals as well.
Does anyone know of an anemone with a grudge?
Eris is mostly famous for the incident of the Golden Apple of Discord, which has been fully told already, so no more of that here. The tale of the apple which launched a million deaths doesn’t need much repeating.
V : The Second Apple of Eris
Another incident where Eris was involved also concerned a Golden Apple: Hercules, the famous strongman, found one one day wandering, and being a famous and entirely typical warrior hit it with his bludgeon.
The Apple was not squashed, but instead swelled into twice its original size.
Hercules screamed in rage, frothed a bit, and hit again, and again the Apple grew.
This continued until seven local villages had been crushed by the expanding Apple. Then some more openly pedagogical goddess intervened and told heavy-breathing Hercules that he had been bludgeoning the Apple of Strife, which naturally but grew stronger and greater with every bit of anger directed at it.
Hearing this, Hercules swore foully for some minutes and then strode away to kill some lions, not at all heeding the lesson. Some years later he died, no doubt because he hadn’t learned what the Apple of Eris taught of the manly skills of bloodletting, troublemaking and other kinds of strife.
But, having rolled the giant Apple away (after shriveling a bit, it became the island of Lesbos), Eris had just laughed, since she delights in those that refuse to see the consequences of their ways. They have earned everything that comes on them, and in fighting for their personal orders they only increase the flood of chaos that will be their undoing.
Ah, such is Eris, the sweet goddess of strife, discord and chaos, who delights in pointing out troubles and tearing open flaws, and who loudly laughs at everyone that boasts of certainty. Until you encounter Eris again, just remember that King Kong died for your sins.