I have been working out the deeper underpinnings of The Archon of Gloucester over the past couple of days, and I have been startled to discover that Paul's story in SPH had a chthonic basis that I never intended or realized at the time that I was writing it.
I wanted Paul's story to be one of redemption. I'm sure I did not give that theme the best possible treatment, but it is my firm belief that, if you truly wish to atone for something, you should atone for it, by doing something proactive, instead of just submitting yourself to death. While, granted, I didn't want to kill Paul off in the first place because I adore the character, I also did want him to do something that truly would better his world from the damage he had done to it. And so, in the RPG, I sent him to Azkaban with every intention of him eventually being released from it.
It never occurred to me during the game that I was essentially writing Persephone's descent into Hades and Inanna's descent into the underworld.
Having become more familiar with the Inanna myth in the last couple of days, I see some striking parallels between Inanna's story and Paul's, mainly with regard to Inanna having to give up all of her protections before she was allowed to enter the underworld. Paul gives up some things, too:
- Loss of freedom, as he willingly submits to apprehension by the Wizarding World authoritie.
- Loss of life--he fully expects to die (or at least waste away) from the Dementor's Kiss.
- Loss of family--his mother, his newly-found father, his son Seth, his wife Lilith, even his ex-wife Elizabeth.
- Loss of his old life--Even though he survives Azkaban, he can never again be Paul Graves; he must remain Gareth Adams. He can never again be a father to his son; Seth must become a man on his own and find his own way.
- Loss of identity--After a certain point, Paul cannot even remember who he is. His dreams and waking hallucinations are scenes from his life, but he cannot recognize his family.
- Loss of the ability to love--Even though he at first tries to cling to his feelings for Lilith and his religious devotion, Azkaban is so psychically overwhelming that he loses even those. At best, he is able to deduce that he must love Lilith very much, because he remembers her so deeply. But while in Azkaban, he can't feel it.
- Loss of self-ignorance--He realizes that, though he absolutely hated being a Death-Eater, there was one aspect of it that he loved, even craved. This knowledge is shattering to him.
Part of his transformation from Death-Eater into penitent requires him to renounce the DE safeguards which had been placed on him to prevent him from divulging DE secrets. He has to unweave these from himself so that he can give useful information to the DMLE, and the unweaving is painful and exhausting.
In a scene that I think never saw print in the RPG, he sees the spark of light that enables him to persevere through the darkness--Contesse von Grobenzell's visit to Azkaban, in which she meets Paul bue doesn't recognize him. She is there to mourn for an old friend who died in Azkaban, and she sings songs by Hildegard of Bingen while there. She is the one reminder of humanity, beauty, and love that Paul has while in Azkaban.
Lastly, once released from Azkaban, Paul has to accept the transformations that his stay in Azkaban have wrought upon him, and he must find a new way to live, as Gareth Adams.
In so many myths, descent into the underworld carries with it themes of death of the old self and rebirth of a new self. This is closely tied to the idea of plot and climax in fiction writing. no matter what the story, our characters undergo during the plot's fulfilment a rite of transformation and growth. All stories are chthonic, whether they be of the Earth or not.