Wrathblade – “God-Defying Typhoeus”

One of the most iconic scenes in world mythologies is that of the dragon combat, where a hero overcomes a great monster in order to secure both immortal fame and the earthly rewards of the rule of a kingdom. Perseus used the freshly severed head of Medusa to petrify the great sea monster Cetus and free Andromeda, and he then became king of Argos. Yet the act of heroic dragon combat is a small-scale imitation of cosmic dragon-combats undertaken by the gods in the days when the universe was young. Here too, the reward was both fame and a kingdom, that of the cosmos itself. In Babylonian mythology, the storm god Marduk slew the sea dragon Tiamat and used her corpse to fashion the world that he rules. The Egyptians believed that their chief deity, the sun god Amun-Ra, every evening sailed through the darkness of the underworld where he did battle with the chaos-serpent Apophis.

Surely influenced by these near eastern traditions, the Greek poet Hesiod offers the definitive version of divine dragon-combat in the Theogony, that being the showdown between Zeus and Typhoeus. Hesiod relates that victory in the war of Zeus’ Olympian brothers and sisters against the Titans led by his father Cronus was not enough to consolidate Zeus’ rule over the world. This is because the world itself, embodied by Zeus’ grandmother Gaia, resented that her children had been overthrown. In response, she coupled with another primordial deity, the deepest depths of the underworld known as Tartarus, to produce a rival to Zeus’ dominion. Here was set the final struggle between the gods of the sky and those of the earth. Typhoeus (aka Typhon) was the name of this chthonic challenger. His very appearance symbolized the chaos and ugliness (in the Greek view) of untamed nature, contrasted with the order and beauty of the human form and mind. Hesiod describes him thus (trans. H. G. Evelyn-White):

From his shoulders grew a hundred heads of a snake, a fearful dragon, with dark, flickering tongues, and from under the brows of his eyes in his marvellous heads flashed fire, and fire burned from his heads as he glared. And there were voices in all his dreadful heads which uttered every kind of sound unspeakable; for at one time they made sounds such that the gods understood, but at another, the noise of a bull bellowing aloud in proud ungovernable fury; and at another, the sound of a lion, relentless of heart; and at anothers, sounds like whelps, wonderful to hear; and again, at another, he would hiss, so that the high mountains re-echoed. And truly a thing past help would have happened on that day, and he would have come to reign over mortals and immortals, had not the father of men and gods been quick to perceive it.

Zeus’ duel with Typhoeus proved the greatest challenge to his rule he ever faced. Beyond his immeasurable strength, Typhoeus breathed fire and blasts of wind—a literal Typhoon! Zeus countered these assaults with his characteristic weapon, the thunderbolt. Trading blows of strength, fire, and electricity took its toll on the earth itself. It trembled to its foundations, and became so overheated that not only did the forests burn, the seas boiled and evaporated, and the earth itself melted. Hesiod compared the earth to the smith-god Hephaestus’ forge. Such was the violence to be inflicted not only upon the child of Earth, but Earth itself to establish Zeus’ dominion over her. Eventually, Typhoeus was overcome by a barrage of thunderbolts, and he was sent back whence he came into his mother’s earthly womb, beneath the Sicilian mountain of Etna, to be the source of its volcanic discharge. Zeus has reigned supreme ever since. The ore that was the earth was forged into an orderly empire.

The Greek epic heavy metal band Wrathblade open their debut album Into the Netherworld’s Realm with this track delivered from the perspective of a hypothetical observer, anticipating the apocalyptic clash that will determine the fate of the universe. The song is occupied largely with the graphic detail of the violence inflicted on Typhoeus’ variegated body by the surgical strikes of Zeus’ electric blades. The din of the battle comprises a tune of victory, suggested by the power and triumphant strains of the song’s lead melodies and vocals. Glory to the son of Cronus, woe to the conquered, and an eternal warning to all who would defy the king of the gods!

Aye the bruit of battle resounded on both halves
Giant Typhoeus and Kronion Zeus shall soon exchange shots
The giant one body but many necks of lions and serpents
Against the Kronides and his array of allies

Masses of trees and hillocks ‘re shower’d
Against dents of thunder that turn’d ’em into dust
Masses of high-rocks, launched volleys
Are blown away by the four winds’ counterblast

Zeus’ prime adversary’s battered by fiery bolts
These flyin’ coulters, smoking blades chop the giant’s heads down
A blaze’s jags a lion’ neck, ‘nother consumes a serpent’s throat
The boomin’ blows whelm the sky and pierce the monster’s trunk

The mirky smoke blur’d the Giant’s vision
His faces are spoiled and defaced by the four winds’ on-come

His corpus now droops for frailty and lack of puissance
Feeble lays his bruised back upon his mother Gaia
A rumbling burst of thunder screeches and trumpets Zeus victory
Thus mighty Kronion laughs aloud and gloats ’bout the fallen one

God-defying Typhoeus lies bleedin’
The boastful giants’ champion now’s bemock’d and bemean’d

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