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The God Beneath the Sea
The God Beneath the Sea cover.jpg
Front cover of first edition
Author Leon Garfield
Edward Blishen
Illustrator Charles Keeping
Cover artist Keeping
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's novel, Greek myth
Publisher Longman
Publication date
26 October 1970
Media type Print (hardcover & paperback)
Pages 168 pp (first edition)
ISBN 978-0-582-15093-5
OCLC 130582
LC Class PZ7.G17943 Go
Followed by The Golden Shadow 

The God Beneath the Sea is a children's novel based on Greek mythology, written by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen, illustrated by Charles Keeping, and published by Longman in 1970. It was awarded the annual Carnegie Medal (Garfield & Blishen) and commended for the companion Greenaway Medal (Keeping) by the British Library Association. Pantheon Books published a U.S. edition with illustrations by Zevi Blum in 1971.

The novel begins with newborn Hephaestus (the titular god beneath the sea) cast from Mount Olympus by his mother Hera. He is raised in a grotto by Thetis and Eurynome and the two goddesses tell him various Greek creation myths. The novel continues with myths of the Olympians and the age of gods and mortals, and concludes with Hephaestus returning to Olympus, having been cast down for a second time after reproaching Zeus.

Garfield, Blishen, Keeping, and Longman collaborated on a sequel entitled The Golden Shadow (1973, ). It is based on myths of the later heroic age, when divine activity was limited.


The God Beneath the Sea is divided into three parts. Part one begins with the image of the infant Hephaestus plummeting from Olympus to the ocean. Thetis saves the baby and takes him to the grotto she shares with Eurynome. They raise the baby, telling him stories of Greek myths and giving him a hammer and anvil to play with. Part one concludes with Hermes inviting Hephaestus back to Olympus at Hera's bequest, and Hephaestus claiming Aphrodite for his wife. Part two tells the myths of Prometheus and Pandora, and part three tells various myths of gods interacting with mortals. The novel concludes with the Olympians unsuccessfully attempting to overthrow Zeus, and Hephaestus returning to Olympus from Lemnos, having been cast down from Olympus for a second time after reproaching Zeus.

Part I

In Part I, "The Making of the Gods", Thetis and Eurynome tell Hephaestus stories of the Titans and Olympians, in hopes of quelling his restless nature. They begin with the myths of the Titans emerging from Chaos, then tell of the birth of the Cyclopes and Hecatonchires, and the overthrowal of Uranus by his son Cronus. They tell of Cronus' ascension to the throne with his queen Rhea, and his descent to madness after the Furies torment him nightly with prophecies that he, like his father, would be overthrown by his son.

Hephaestus grows uglier and more violent with age. Thetis and Eurynome give him a hammer, anvil and forge to vent his fury and discover he is a gifted smith. Hephaestus' most beautiful creation is a brooch depicting a sea nymph and her lover; he threatens to destroy the brooch unless Thetis tells him who he is and how he came to live in the grotto. The goddesses resume their tales: Rhea and Zeus conspire to overthrow Cronus. The avenging children of Cronus defeat and imprison the Titans, sparing Rhea, Prometheus and Epimetheus.

The gods fashion their home on Olympus, and Zeus seduces Hera by transforming himself into a cuckoo. Their child is hideous and misshapen, and Hera throws the child out into the sky. At the revelation of his parentage, Hephaestus breaks the brooch, and half is washed to sea. His desire for vengeance are tempered by the realization of Zeus' immense power. The narrative then shifts from Hephaestus and the goddesses to recount concurrent events amongst the Olympians, including the arrival at Olympus of Apollo, Artemis, Athene and Hermes.

Pregnant again, Hera overlooks Zeus' infidelities, resolving to remain calm to avoid another monstrous child. Hera gives birth to her second son, Ares, and the immortals come to Olympus to honor the newborn god. Zeus commands Hermes to find a gift for Ares. Hermes finds the lost half of Hephaestus' broken brooch and returns it to Zeus as a gift. Zeus creates Aphrodite in the image of the brooch's nymph. Hermes then reunites the broken half of the brooch with the other half, which is worn by Thetis.

Hera, struck by the beauty of the brooch, demands to know who fashioned the brooch, then dispatches Hermes to fetch Hephaestus. Hermes returns Hephaestus to Olympus; Hephaestus forgives Hera and asks Zeus for Aphrodite as a wife. Ares demands a birthright from Zeus, and Zeus makes him god of hatred, discord and war.

Part II

In Part II, "The Making of Men", Prometheus makes men out of clay and the substance of Chaos to inhabit the earth, fearing that Zeus will give the earth to one of his children as a plaything. At Zeus' behest, Hermes commands Prometheus to destroy his creations. Instead, Prometheus teaches his creatures to sacrifice and worship Zeus. Prometheus offers Zeus the choice of two portions as sacrifice; Zeus mistakenly chooses the poorer portion, and in retribution forbids mankind the use of fire. Prometheus steals fire for them in defiance of Zeus. He continues to watch over mankind, finding strange impurities in the substance of Chaos he'd used to create them. These he scrapes away and hides in a sealed jar.

Zeus commands Hephaestus to make a woman. The Olympians bless her with gifts, and Zeus names her Pandora. Hermes gives Pandora to Epimetheus as a wife. Zeus punishes Prometheus by chaining him to a pillar in the Caucasus, where a vulture eats his liver daily. At night his wounds heal, so that his punishment can begin anew the next morning.

Pandora eventually finds Prometheus' hidden jar. Opening it, she releases malignant furies on mankind: madness, old age, vice and sickness. All that is left in the jar is a chrysalis that works as a healing balm. Hermes consoles the despairing Prometheus that hope was left behind for mankind, "for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?"

Part III

Part III, "Gods and Men", begins with the tale of Lycaon turned to a wolf by Zeus after treating him with disrespect. Zeus begins a deluge. Prometheus shouts a warning to Deucalion, who makes a sea vessel to survive the storm with his wife, Pyrrha. They land at Mount Parnassus, and after praying they repopulate the earth by casting stones over their shoulders. The stones transform to people when they land.

The novel then tells of Persephone's abduction by Hades, and Demeter's search for her. After learning of Persephone's abduction from a shepherd, Demeter swears to Zeus that she will withdraw her blessings from the earth unless Hades returns Persephone. Zeus agrees to let Persephone return if she has not tasted the food of the dead. Ascalaphus, a gardener in the underworld, remembers that Pandora ate seven pomegranate seeds in Hades, and Demeter turns him into a screech-owl. Rhea intercedes and Demeter agrees to let Persephone live with Hades for three months of the year.

The novel tells myths of Autolycus, the son of Hermes and Chione, and Sisyphus. Autolycus steals the cattle of his neighbor Sisyphus and sends his daughter Anticleia to Ithaca to marry Laertes, who raises Odysseus, the son of Sisyphus and Anticleia, as his own. Sisyphus spies Zeus ravishing the daughter of the river god Asopus and tells Asopus where he had seen them in return for a gift of an eternal spring. He tricks death by trapping Hades in his own manacles. Hades is freed by Ares, but Sisyphus escapes death a second time by deceiving Persephone. At last Hermes takes Sisyphus to Tartarus, to be condemned to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity.

Meanwhile, Hera and the Olympians conspire to imprison Zeus in a net while he is distracted raining thunderbolts on Asopus. Thetis fetches Briareus to free him. Zeus punishes Hera by hanging her in the sky, and sets Poseidon and Apollo the vain task of building the doomed city of Troy. Hephaestus, seeing Hera's punishment, berates Zeus, and Zeus throws Hephaestus for a second time from Olympus. Hephaestus lands on the isle of Lemnos and is nursed to health by the locals. He returns to Olympus and is greeted by Hermes. At the novel's conclusion, Autolycus muses in a letter to his daughter that his grandson Odysseus may one day visit the new city of Troy.

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