The swan lay down its head on Tam’s lap. A tear streamed from its eye and began to glow. Light surrounded it, transforming it into a man.
What he’d done was unforgivable. But he seemed so innocent like this.
Tam cradled his head. “No more, Zeus.”
She twisted his neck.
For all Zeus did for humanity, according to Greek myth, he did less for women. Manipulating and tricking them into sleeping with him—even raping them—Zeus did women a great injustice. Not only from his actions but from the consequences resulting. It set the idea that women were easily seduced, objects for sexual measures, and untrustworthy to be loyal.
Of course, the myth of Zeus was created by humans, and therefore only a reflection of humanity at the time, but the stories still had a life of their own. In a sense, Zeus did exist, as a metaphor for society in Ancient Greece. To treat Zeus as merely a fictional character underplays the effect he had on humans and society and, in turn, further disservices women.
While the myth has ceased being believed as reality, the effects and similar situations have lived on through society. These have infected fiction.
Starting with the early fairy tales and fables and branching into the various genres that have emerged over the centuries, it was always the men who saved the women—that poor, helpless, hapless damsel in distress—never the other way around. Only recently have we seen fiction and fairy tale retellings that reverse the roles and have women saving the men.
But still there is the unbalanced nature of the sexes in fiction. One saving the other perpetually.
Not only does this encourage inequality, either for women or for men or otherwise, it is not relatable, realistic, or achievable. It breaks suspension of disbelief—a vital aspect of storytelling. The characters lack agency, seeming to only follow their apparent destiny or fate, stripped of will and therefore of character. They end up being little more than cardboard cut-outs for all their usefulness to the reader.
Back to Zeus, known for transforming into a swam and seducing or raping women, what if his victims had agency—a will. That, for once, the Fates weaved in no-one’s favour and each person had to be accountable for themselves and their actions. Why, they’d bring Zeus down like the fowl beast he was, like they would any fowl they planned to prepare for dinner.
In this scenario, no one saves anyone. Vengeance was had. The victim turned her attacker into her victim, and the hunter became the prey. That anger, the thirst for vengeance, hate, and bloodlust are emotions readers can relate to. Chivalry (as in the actual chivalry: battle manners, not men being courteous to women), fearless courage, total faith in the metaphysical, and two-dimensional heroism are not what the average person experiences and probably never will.
And in the situation the woman was placed, the former emotions would come as naturally to the reader as it would the character.
Zeus deserved it. No sympathy was shared on his behalf. And we end up with a natural villain. She saved herself. Took agency. Became a real person. And the story’s end, subsequently, can be satisfying in its resolution. Not because of the plot but from the choices of the character.