Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe is a webcomic phenomenon that has legions of faithful readers clambering weekly to read the next episode on Webtoons. From cosplayers to artists, the unique character design and contemporary greek mythology retellings from Smythe have captivated and inspired people all over the world. The unruly horde at GateCrashers also happen to love Lore Olympus. In celebration of its return from mid-season hiatus, we present to you our roundtable discussion of this groundbreaking series that features the love story of Hades & Persephone at its heart.
No spoilers past episode 186.
Trigger Warning: Discussion of Sexual Assault
The Story of Hades and Persephone has been adapted frequently over the years. What is it about Lore Olympus that draws you to this specific adaptation?
Lainey: The way the story is told is done in a neat way that keeps to the version we all know and love but at the same time incorporates modern elements. One example being the use of technology for the storytelling, such as the media and how it affects Hades and Persephone, and their relationship. Not just them, but all of the characters.
Jon: I love the modern feel of this adaptation. It takes a brutally honest look at relationships and even presents its main male protagonist as a flawed, damaged, and genuinely supportive character. This might be the most wholesome take on the Hades/Persephone relationship to date.
Amanda: When I first discovered Lore Olympus, I was immediately drawn to the depicted artwork of Hades and Persephone. I personally favor the colors pink and blue, so seeing them contrast so well in this adaptation made me intrigued to read this story. Once I did, I was hooked!
There has never been a character who I felt I’ve related to more than Persephone. From her upbringing, personality, and inner powers, I have loved watching her grow into becoming the woman she is meant to be. Throughout the story, she has proven to be more than just a flower goddess. And with newfound independence, she realizes that she doesn’t have to live her life according to the standards of others. She sweetly rebels against her mother’s wishes by falling in love with the king of the underworld. What a badass!
Demeter has always been characterized in myths as protective of Persephone. How has the Demeter of Lore Olympus added or detracted to her place in this story?
Lainey: Demeter’s portrayal in Lore Olympus adds another layer to the story, shown in how her treatment of Persephone and hiding her from the other gods for so long kind of setup half of the conflict of Lore Olympus. She is kind of the catalyst for the whole story that way. She isn’t just demanding Hades return her daughter and being moody like in the original myth. She is more fleshed out as a parent and a big part of why Persephone reacts to situations the way she does.
Jon: Demeter really is a catalyst to the whole story because she’s downright sheltered Persephone. Not only has Demeter sheltered her daughter, but tried to mold Persephone into a daughter of her own image. This can be seen with forcing her into maidenhood in order to go to college.
Amanda: Demeter’s overprotectiveness of Persephone has greatly influenced the problems in this story. As a fertility goddess, Persephone is capable of becoming extremely powerful. Demeter worries that her daughter will be abused by other gods. So, to avoid these dangers, Demeter has never told Persephone the truth. Instead, she kept her occupied, isolated, and only trained Persephone to use her powers to fulfill expectations. There was no room for Persephone to express herself differently than her mother’s approval. It is one the reasons why Persephone committed her act of wrath and is up for trial. This could have been prevented if Demeter had chosen to be honest from the start. I hope that in time their relationship will become healthier. Demeter needs to view Persephone as an adult rather than a child.
Persephone lashed out and hurt/killed others after being confined and caged by her mother for years. How much of Persephone’s actions are her own fault and how much are these actions Demeter’s fault for raising her in that way?
Lainey: One of the things I have really enjoyed about Lore Olympus is the way the story shows multiple POVs, so while it could be easy to say Demeter shouldn’t have kept Persephone on such a short leash, we have also seen that Demeter is scared about what might happen if the other gods knew about Persephone, and even more afraid of the power her daughter might have been taken advantage of. We also saw that Persephone’s act of wrath and what caused it wasn’t as black and white as originally let on. There is also the humans involved to consider, so it’s hard to give any one party the blame.
Jon: I think the blame lies 100% at Demeter’s feet for the reasons I listed above. In addition, I think that because Demeter further sheltered Persephone instead of teaching her about her powers, this caused a further regression in her socially. Yes, Demeter had valid reasons for making sure her daughter was safe. But in the end, hiding Persephone instead of teaching her about what kind of goddess she would be ended up doing way more harm than good.
Amanda: Moments before Persephone committed her act of wrath, she had an argument with Demeter regarding her lack of independence. She is well aware that her mother wants to continue controlling her despite reaching adulthood. When Persephone angrily storms away and sees her nymph sisters die, this quick mixture of emotions becomes so overwhelming to her that she loses control. This is due to Persephone’s inner “feeling” that was left unexplored.
I think it’s clear that Persephone has no idea how to control this “feeling.” Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Demeter would have helped either. Perhaps if Demeter had granted more chances for independence, or at least would have been honest about why she’s so protective, this would have lessened the chances or damages of the act of wrath.
The myths of Persephone have always involved some form of sexual assault/rape. What are your feelings on the direction Lore Olympus took this vein of her story?
Lainey: I have appreciated how the assault storyline has been being addressed. It has felt real, with Persephone’s own guilt, to how she has been dealing with it. It has focused on Persephone and her healing more than the assault itself. The new direction, it being Apollo and not Hades, was a great way to do it. Hades has his trauma and Persephone has her own, and they are helping each other more than they know to move on from it.
Jon: I think LO handled this aspect incredibly well. It didn’t ever gloss over it. Rather, it depicted this element in the most realistic way possible. Something that Persephone had to learn to live with. When she does tell Hades what happens, there’s a definite change. Persephone opening up to Hades symbolizes that she is starting to accept and overcome what happened. While also ensuring that it’ll be something that will never happen again. In this, Persephone starts to accept the role of being a survivor.
Amanda: Though it is horrible to see sexual assault happen, I appreciate the way Lore Olympus addresses this sensitive topic. We see Persephone deal with the aftermath of the assault in a realistic way. At first, it is hard for her to talk about what happened, which is common amongst victims in similar situations. As the story progresses, we see that she has support from Eros, Hera, Hades, and her therapist, Chiron. I hope that Persephone will heal in time after this experience.
Open forum to go at Apollo:
Lainey: Worst character but in a good way. The writing portrays him as slowly losing his grip and getting more desperate to just get what he wants. He gives Demeter’s worries validity and I know it’s separate, but he makes me worry for Echo too. We know her myth and now Apollo might see her as getting in the way, so who knows what he might try to do about that. He is the character that you love to hate.
Jon: Fuck this pompous little piece of shit fuck. I hope he gets E V E R Y T H I N G that’s coming to him. What a little shithead who thinks he’s hotter than the sun. Pun intended.
ALSO WHY ARE ALL THE ASSHATS IN THIS SERIES PURPLE? ZEUS. APOLLO. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?!?
The episode that comes where he gets annihilated will give me the same feeling I got when Joffrey Baratheon was poisoned and just fucking ate it: TOTAL. EUPHORIA.
(EDIT: BOY HOWDY IT’S COMING)
Amanda: Two things: 1) FUCK APOLLO, and 2) This character has absolutely NO chance of ever being redeemed. He chose to commit an act that was extremely hurtful, illegal, and unforgivable. I truly hope he gets the punishment he deserves.
Who is your favorite side character/storyline of Lore Olympus and why?
Lainey: Hera has really grown on me. She has a story on her own and it gives her a lot of depth in how she interacts with Zeus and Hades, and really all the gods. She has a certain level of entitlement but she also earns respect and has become a big part of Persephone’s support system. She is not a pushover, which could have been an easy way to write her considering all the myths involving Zeus’ infidelity. I love Eros too, he is also such a good friend to Persephone, but right now I lean towards Hera.
Jon: Eros because he’s the most precious cinnamon roll of all time. He deserves all the happiness and deserves to be loved and protected at all costs.
Amanda: I am wondering how Eros and Psyche will restore their relationship. Eros told us how much he grew to love Psyche in the earlier chapters of the comic. Eros is always looking out for the love of others so seeing him be in love would be so sweet!
We got to see a very sympathetic backstory to Hades and to an extent, Zeus as well. What are your feelings on the characterizations made in Lore Olympus and the roles they fill in the current storyline?
Lainey: Hades’ characterization especially I have really enjoyed. You always see Hades as a villain, and I see why, but I always like to see him as a good guy. Having Hades as this sympathetic guy who really just needs someone in his corner works really well. Zeus, eh. I’m not sure I would call him sympathetic. But that said, the dynamics drive the story in interesting ways. They have very different relationships with the same women (Hera, Demeter, Persephone) in their lives. They are both kings, and brothers, but they see things differently. Zeus sees betrayal with the Demeter/Persephone trial and Hades sees desperation.
Jon: So, I’ll disagree and say that Zeus doesn’t really have a sympathetic backstory. Yes, he has his funnier moments, but I never felt any sympathy towards him. If anything, he just comes across as a pompous, pretentious himbo. In regards to Hades, I like that they made him just this awkward mess of a god. It makes him a lot more relatable and sympathetic. He’s someone you want to root for.
Amanda: I think when Hades shares his past with Persephone, this leaves an impact on the story. As a young god, Hades was forcibly trapped inside his father’s stomach. His father was afraid that his son would become too powerful and try to overrule him. Although Persephone was raised in “paradise,” she too was trapped by Demeter’s overbearing parenting style. Demeter was afraid of other gods taking advantage of her daughter. Seeing how they were isolated from others left them both with different, yet similar types of trauma. I believe that when they shared their upbringings, they were able to emphasize and further grow their bond.
Zeus did not experience as much trauma as his other siblings and traitors; therefore, I think he is less empathetic of others. This is primarily the case when it comes to Persephone’s trial. He amped up this case so harshly because he felt threatened that he was losing control. I’d argue that he is looking to upkeep his ego by involving himself in this case.
Does the myth of Hades & Persephone succeed more when Hades is a support system as opposed to the villain?
Lainey: Yes! As much as I can enjoy a good enemies to lovers ship, I adore Hades and Persephone’s friendship. They both really need someone in their corner and they get that with each other. Persephone needs someone who treats her like an adult, like her own person, and to encourage her to pursue her own interests. Hades is lonely and sad. He needs someone who doesn’t look at him and see the King of the Underworld. He is more than the power and Minthe didn’t see that. Hades and Persephone understand each other better, she isn’t scared of him.
Jon: I think it definitely works better than what the original myths portray. It makes the relationship feel more natural and relatable. In the original myth, Hades outright kidnaps her and she basically develops Stockholm Syndrome. In LO, the romance feels more natural. It goes through the stages every burgeoning relationship goes through.
Amanda: I don’t think that Lore Olympus would be as successful as it is if Hades were written as a villain. While other gods and humans find him to be unapproachable and intimidating, we are privileged as readers to see his most vulnerable moments. I have loved getting to know Hades’ personality. It feels like I know him. My favorite thing about him is seeing how well he treats Persephone. He has been nothing but supportive of Persephone through her happiest and toughest times. I think it’s one of the healthiest written relationships that I have ever read.
Do you think Artemis is a good friend to Persephone?
Lainey: I believe she is doing her best. It’s hard to say she isn’t being a good friend when she doesn’t know the truth of everything going on around her. Just because she doesn’t see the truth of what’s going on with the people in her life doesn’t make her a bad friend. Plus, we do see that when she realizes more and more that things aren’t okay, she gets really upset. Apollo is her brother, and she hasn’t known Persephone for very long so not knowing about the tension or how to handle Persephone’s behavior when that tension is hitting makes sense. She is looking for the truth, so I believe that is enough to say that even if she hasn’t been acting like the best of friends in the past, she is doing her best to be better now.
Jon: For me, it remains unclear. However, I’m leaning more towards the idea that she’s not a good friend. Especially with her revelation of getting off scot free from the act of wrath she and Apollo committed. She may seem like she wants to help Persephone keep her maidenhood, but it seems like she wants to put herself and her brother first.
Amanda: From the way that their friendship has been portrayed thus far, I feel as though they were friendly acquaintances living under the same roof. They may not be at a level where they could talk comfortably about sensitive topics; especially about Artemis’s brother, Apollo. It’s difficult for Persephone to tell Artemis about the detailed trauma Apollo caused without hurting her. Artemis knows that Persephone and her brother do not get along, but doesn’t understand why. I think once Artemis is finally aware, I feel that she may need some time to process and reevaluate her relationship with her brother and Persephone. Will she believe in Persephone? How will she view her brother? In the Greek Myths, Artemis is known to be a protector of women, so I believe it’s likely that Artemis will take Persephone’s side. In time, I think their friendship might grow stronger once the truth has been revealed.
How do you feel about the way Persephone’s power has been portrayed in Lore Olympus?
Lainey: I feel like a broken record saying that I like everything but I do! Despite her powers being about spring and nature, we see Persephone go out of control and that beautiful power can become destructive. And when I say out of control, I mean like Persephone struggles to handle her own power sometimes and it scares her, which is interesting to see. We have seen that her powers and her emotions go together, and even now we don’t have a totally clear view as to how they react. For example, her red eyes. We have seen it when she’s scared or mad, and right now I think it’s nerves from the trial that she can’t shake off. Seeing the duality of her kind demeanor and possibly reckless power even in the underworld (where things shouldn’t grow) is very neat.
Jon: I genuinely like how the power has been portrayed here. It feels like this wholesome energy that can bring such peace and serenity to everything Persephone touches. However, at the same time, the chaotic side of her power comes through every day due to relatable situations and feelings that are completely normal. Her powers are the manifestations of the situations around her. In a way, they’re an allegory for how people might feel when being thrust into situations beyond their control or understanding.
Amanda: I feel that Persephone’s powers have not been fully uncovered in Lore Olympus. Although she is still a young goddess, her upbringing by Demeter did not grant her opportunities to explore her capabilities. When Persephone displayed her powers to create an “unpredictable” version of spring, this contrasted with Demeter’s precise and organized embodiments of the season. Persephone was expected to master her mother’s vision of spring; never could she explore her own. By suppressing her powers, a glooming “feeling” dawned upon her. She felt that there was an unsettling presence that she could not explain. I predict that this “feeling” represents the hidden powers that she’ll uncover as she becomes more involved with the Underworld. Also, with Persephone being a fertility goddess, and her mother hiding this from her, I feel that she is more influential than she consciously knows. I predict that Persephone will be able to overcompensate Hades’ infidelity and eventually produce children together.
It’s been stated that by eating the pomegranate and gaining control of the underworld, Hades has given up his ability to create life and have children. How do you feel about this bit of symbolism and how it ultimately affects Hades?
Lainey: I haven’t seen that before, so I liked that new element to it. And it adds a very nice parallel with Persephone, being that she is the goddess of spring and how Demeter believes her to be a fertility goddess. For Hades personally though, I think it affected him more than he maybe realizes. He has several dogs, and we know he wants a relationship. He seems lonely. He seems like a family kind of guy and his not being able to have children is probably part of what makes him insecure about his station. Minthe even kind of used it against him.
Jon: I feel like it gives Hades some humanity. Because he can no longer have children, Hades feels some humility compared to the rest of his kind. He feels more sympathy towards those who might not be able to defend themselves. Hades sees himself in mortals and understands their plight, because he does not have the full powers of a god.
Amanda: Pomegranates, according to Greek mythology, are a symbol of abundance and fertility. When Hades ate the pomegranate in this adaptation, he acquired total control of the Underworld. Since Hades was unaware of his sacrifice, it was only after he consumed the fruit that he discovered he became infertile. It is interesting to compare how this symbolism is portrayed in different retellings of the myths.I believe that Hades’ infertility has affected perceptions of himself. Prior to meeting Persephone, he was in a relationship with Minthe who frequently criticized his inability to produce children. Minthe reinforced the idea that he was not worthy of romantic love. As Hades got to know Persephone, he wanted to tell her of this flaw before becoming too romantically involved. She ends up accepting him by giving him a hug of reassurance. Perhaps Persephone’s fertility goddess powers may be the way to rid his infertility curse.
Will Apollo face consequences for his actions?
Lainey: I like a happy ending so I want to say yes. I would love to see Apollo face consequences. Actually, I’m positive he will. More than one person knows what he has done, and it seems inevitable based on people investigating Persephone in general and his behavior becoming even more erratic. He is even harassing Hera and Zeus, and they are having none of it but Apollo still won’t back off. I look forward to him getting his karma.
Jon: FUCK YEAH HE WILL. LITTLE SHIT.
Amanda: I will be infuriated if Apollo doesn’t receive consequences. He’s remorseless, manipulative, and completely selfish. I have no doubt that Rachel will have him punished for his awful actions.
How do you feel about the way the story handled Persephone & Hades in the revelation of Apollo’s wrongdoings?
Lainey: Hades has a large reaction, literally lol, and his wanting to confront Apollo right away feels real. Above all though he wants Persephone to get what she wants. She doesn’t even know what she wants. There’s so much more too, like during the trial. There’s a lot still to be seen for dealing with Apollo and I look forward to Hades and Persephone getting to see him facing consequences.
Jon: I think it handled wonderfully. Hades didn’t recoil from Persephone but instead offered his support. Even when he was ready to kick that purple douche canoe’s ass, he still listened to Persephone. He was respectful of her wishes. Her choice. And in that, he offered his care and support during the difficult revelations.
What myth or God would you like more of or covered in the future?
Lainey: Right now I am actually really interested in seeing more with Hephaestus. There are these hints of backstory involving him and Hera and the tension in that relationship, plus his relationship with Zeus. Knowing the classic myths, I almost want to theorize, but given the new interpretations of the myths, I don’t want to jump to conclusions. So I think it would be very neat to know more about him and how he has gotten to where he is as this loner hacker god with a sassy AI sidekick.
Jon: I would love to see more on Hermes. He’s so aloof and it feels like we barely see any of him. I would also love to see more of Aphrodite and her relationship with Eros.
Amanda: As for characters we’ve already seen throughout the story, I would like to see Chiron, Persephone’s therapist, appear again. Since Persephone is still working through her traumas, I feel that Chiron has more tools and coping strategies to offer Persephone. Healing often takes months or years to deal with, so having that represented more than once may help others who’ve dealt with similar experiences.
As for characters we’ve haven’t met, I think Dionysus, the God of Wine, would be a cool addition to the story. I’d imagine he’d be the type of god to have a good time, drink wine, and watch all the drama unfold around him.
Read Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe on Webtoons every Sunday.