I fell in love with Greek myths in the eighth grade, when I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Later, after studying Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, I better understood why most people are drawn to myths: They help us to project and symbolically play out our own fears and desires. Carl Jung wrote of universal archetypes—such as the Madonna, the soldier, and the rogue. Sigmund Freud wrote that art was the opportunity for adults to continue childhood play in a socially acceptable way. Joseph Campbell built upon the works of both Jung and Freud to describe The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which inspired George Lukas in the creation of Star Wars.
As a writer, I, like Lukas, wished to tap into that universal consciousness where fears and desires are shared. Myths make it possible to project universal fears, or what we often call our inner demons, into monsters that can be externally fought and defeated. The most universal fear is death. I created a saga for young adults in which death is not only faced and, in some ways, battled, but also embraced and transcended.
In the first book of this contemporary fantasy, The Gatekeeper’s Sons, fifteen-year-old Therese Mills meets Thanatos, the god of death, while in a coma after witnessing her parents’ murder. She feels like the least powerful person on the planet and is ready to give up on life, but the story forces her to fight. As she hunts with the fierce and beautiful Furies (the deities responsible for punishing the bad souls) to track down her parents’ murder and avenge their deaths, she falls in love with Thanatos and symbolically accepts her parents’ and her own mortality.
In the second book, The Gatekeeper’s Challenge, Therese has the opportunity to transcend death by accepting five seemingly impossible challenges issued by Hades, the god of the Underworld. All five challenges represent the universal fears of rejection, culpability, disorientation, death, and loss in the forms of a box not allowed to be opened, an apple that shouldn’t be eaten, a labyrinth meant to confuse, a Hydra that wants to destroy, and the allure of bringing back the dead. These same myths are recycled again and again through the centuries because they help us to recognize our inner demons and inspire us to defeat them.
The third book of the saga, The Gatekeeper’s Daughter, forces Therese to look inward. All gods and goddesses serve humanity or the world in some way, and in order to remain at Thanatos’s side, she must discover her unique purpose while protecting her loved ones against antagonistic forces. Throughout mythology, heroes have gone on long quests, often seeking an object. The object is not without importance, but self-actualization is the true victory in any hero’s quest, and Therese’s is no exception. Her journey to become a goddess with a unique purpose parallels the young adult’s transition into adulthood and self-fulfillment.
The fourth book, The Gatekeeper’s House, begins with an attack on the Underworld, and now that Therese is just like any other god, she is without the special favors afforded to humans. She’s on her own in this epic battle to rebind the unleashed souls and save the House of Hades while helping the Furies discover the identity of the attacker. She has to learn to put her big girl goddess panties on and run with the big girl goddesses if she’s going to be relevant. Think of Odysseus when he returns to Penelope after his long journeys. Heroes must remain relevant when they return home, and the heroes of myth demonstrate the need for social consciousness. Therese learns to look beyond her own needs and desires to contribute to the greater good and to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
The fifth and sixth books of the series, The Gatekeeper’s Secret and The Gatekeeper’s Promise, depict Therese transcending from the status of rookie god to become a key player among the Olympians. She joins the Athena Alliance, which plans to free Metis and Cybele and stand up for mothers and daughters who’ve been wronged by Zeus. Therese wants to help the Alliance to reform the pantheon and to establish true justice and democracy among the Olympians, even at the risk of her own happily ever after.
As young adults negotiate through adolescence and adulthood, they struggle with the same universal conflicts portrayed by the ancients. As modern readers, we should revisit those stories to help us with our own epic battles—both the internal and external ones.
Eva Pohler writes fiction and teaches writing and literature at a university in San Antonio, where she lives with her husband and three children. She is the author of The Gatekeeper’s Saga, The Purgatorium, The Mystery Book Collection, and the forthcoming The Vampires of Athens Series.
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The first book of her saga is free in all ebook formats and is also available in audiobook! You can find links to download the free book from your favorite retailer here: http://www.evapohler.com/books