The Lighthouse Analysis: VIII. Mythology-Sirens

27 Aug

There are many references to mythology in The Lighthouse movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re themes of the movie, because none of them are carried out in an entire story arc.

The singing mermaid-like creature in the movie is reminiscent of sirens. Sirens were human companions of Persephone. After she was carried off by Hades, they sought her everywhere and finally prayed for wings to fly across the sea. The gods granted their prayer. In some versions Demeter turned them into birds to punish them for not guarding Persephone. In art the Sirens appeared first as birds with the heads of women and later as women, sometimes winged, with bird legs (1). Though early depictions of the Sirens showed them as half-woman half-bird creatures, similar to harpies, who lived by the sea. However, later on, Sirens were said to have female heads and torsos, with fish tail from their navel downwards. Around the Middle Ages, the Sirens morphed into the figure that we now call mermaids (2).

The movie also depicts both the siren/mermaid-creature, and birds (though separately). In the Lighthouse, the birds are said to be the souls of dead sailors, so that is adjacent to the sirens getting wings, and having hybrid heads of women, tails of fish, and wings of birds.

The Sirens seem to have evolved from an ancient tale of the perils of early exploration combined with an Asian image of a bird-woman. Anthropologists explain the Asian image as a soul-bird—i.e., a winged ghost that stole the living to share its fate. In that respect the Sirens had affinities with the Harpies (1).

This soul-bird concept is closer to what the movie was doing: A singing siren and in addition the birds that represent souls.

The Sirens stayed on an island near the strait of Scylla and Charybdis after the search for Persephone ended. From there, they would prey on the ships passing nearby, enticing the sailors with their charming singing. Their singing was so beautiful that they could make the wind stop to listen to them. It’s from these singing creatures that we get the English word siren, which means a device that makes a warning noise. With their musical ability, they attracted the sailors from the passing ships, who would come closer and closer to the dangerous rocky coast of the Sirens’ island and ultimately get shipwrecked and dashed on the rocks. According to some myths, the corpses of their victims could be found all along the shores of their island (2).

Younger was drawn to the fishy woman in a supernatural way. The siren/mermaid made a high pitch “singing” and was also an omen of impending danger.

The Sirens symbolize temptation and desire, which can lead to destruction and risk. If a mortal stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds of the Sirens, they wouldn’t be able to control their desires and this would lead them to their death. As such, the Sirens can also be said to represent sin (2).

The movie is trying to convey how Younger has split into Id and ego precisely because he cannot control his desires. As the parts of himself are coming back together (strongly symbolized by the two “men” dancing) Younger’s vices and impulsivity return in his character.

Some have suggested that the Sirens represent the primal power that females have over men, which can both fascinate and frighten men. After Christianity began to spread, the symbol of the Sirens was used to portray the dangers of temptation. The phrase siren song is used to describe something that is appealing and alluring but also potentially dangerous and harmful (2).

Same concept in the movie. Younger is always magnetized and attracted to the siren/mermaid. In the beginning of the movie his interactions with her are fleeting, then toward the middle of the movie, they are longer and more substantial, and at the end he tries to copulate with her fishy nether-regions. This helps show his Id returning to his personality, the break of his delusion. It also shows man’s temptations toward the feminine, which purportedly leads to other temptations. Finally, the movie uses this as a key indicator things are going to get bad.

Sources:

1) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Siren-Greek-mythology

2) https://symbolsage.com/sirens-greek-mythology/

3) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Odysseus

4) https://symbolsage.com/odysseus-trojan-war-hero/

5) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Prometheus-Greek-god

6) https://symbolsage.com/prometheus-greek-mythology/

7) https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Trident_of_Poseidon

8) https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-odyssey/book-12

9) https://www.uniguide.com/cyclopes

10) https://www.theoi.com/Titan/Aiolos.html#:~:text=AIOLOS%20(Aeolus)%20was

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