Marvel’s Eternals tells the story of ancient aliens with extraordinary powers. Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4, Eternals released on November 5. The film brings a new superhero team to life. But it also gives life to modern representations of mythological figures. Mythology has long been a part of our existence, created to answer humanity’s scientific and spiritual questions. In today’s world, we have our modern myths, such as the tales of the MCU. But the earliest stories still enchant us. Here’s how Eternals and mythology go hand in hand.
Marvel and Mythology: Who Are the Eternals Based On?
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought its fair share of mythology to life already. The Thor films are direct reinterpretations of Norse myths. Thor, Odin, Loki, Hel (a.k.a. Hela), and the rest all weave into Marvel’s world. In Eternals, we can expect more of the same, although with a twist.
In some cases, in Eternals’ comics, these “aliens” are responsible for the in-universe versions of their inspirations. How is that for Myth-ception? The gods of mythology inspire the Eternals, and the Eternals create the gods of mythology in their own fictional world.
In most cases, the correlation between a mythological figure and an Eternal seems obvious. But in others, the connection reads murkier. Each Eternal’s mythological counterpart offers us clues about possible storylines and fates. This article examines the central figures from November’s Eternals.
All the Eternals‘ Characters and Their Mythological Counterparts
Here is every Eternals character and their basis in mythology:
Makkari, a.k.a. Mercury / Ikaris, a.k.a. Icarus / Sersi, a.k.a. Circe / Thena, a.k.a. Athena / Ajak, a.k.a. Ajax / Ajak Also Relates to Quetzalcoatl / Gilgamesh , a.k.a. Gilgamesh / Kro, a.k.a. Cronus / Phastos, a.k.a. Hesphastus / Eros, a.k.a. Eros /Sprite, a.k.a. Puck and Other Fairies / Kingo Could Be Kingu /
Druig’s Counterpart May Lie In Slavic Mythology
The Eternals’ Makkari Is Based on Mercury from Roman Mythology
Makkari, played by Lauren Ridloff, is based on Mercury from Roman mythology. Though Makkari has an Eternal’s standard immortality, the character also possesses superhuman speed. Makkari is the fastest Eternal in existence. Additionally, Makkari can think preternaturally fast, allowing her to read and process information rapidly.
This speedy boost makes much sense when it comes to Makkari’s mythological counterpart, Mercury. In Roman mythology, Mercury is the god of travelers and merchants. He is associated with Greek mythology’s Hermes, a god known for being fleet of foot. Hermes’ winged sandals are iconic. Mercury also acts as a bridge between gods and mortals, often serving as a mediator of sorts. Could Makkari be the person who unites the Eternals and the MCU’s more earthly heroes? Mythology says yes. Makkari’s quick thinking and vast array of knowledge will surely come in handy in this role.
Additionally, Mercury transports the souls of the dead to the underworld. We’re not sure how that could impact Eternals, but the MCU has played with notions of the afterlife. Possibly, the MCU’s multiverse contains it. We wonder if Makkari connects to this realm somehow.
Finally, Mercury and Hermes are both gods of tricksters, often mischievous themselves. We’ll have to watch out for Makkari pulling pranks.
The Eternals’ Ikaris Is Based on Icarus from Greek Mythology
Ikaris, played by Richard Madden, is based on Icarus from Greek mythology. Icarus wasn’t a god but a figure of myth. In Greek mythology, Icarus is best-known for flying too close to the sun. But there’s more to him than that. Icarus was the son of a famous inventor, Daedalus, who built the labyrinth which housed the monstrous Minotaur of Crete.
Crete’s king didn’t want anyone to know how his maze worked, so he imprisoned Daedalus and Icarus in a tower. But the genius craftsman designed a way out. Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus so they could escape. The catch? These wings were held together by wax. Famously, Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too high nor too low. Too high and the wings would melt from the sun’s heat, too low, and the ocean would dampen the wings, rendering them useless.
Like some myths, this is a morality tale. It instructs listeners not to be too cocky nor complacent. Unfortunately, Icarus succumbs to hubris. He flies too close to the sun, his wings melt, and he falls to his death.
It is fitting, thus, that like Icarus, Ikaris is known to be an excellent flier. Ikaris can also levitate himself and others at speeds of 850 miles per hour. Interestingly, he can rearrange molecules of other substances. In a sense, this too fits because the pinnacle of Icarus’ story comes when the sun rearranges his wings’ molecules.
Having Icarus as a namesake is ominous for Ikaris. We hope he can balance his hubris and his humility to better effect. Perhaps this time, Icarus will fly at the right height. Or maybe he’ll repeat the mistakes of old…
The Eternals’ Sersi Is Based on Circe from Greek Mythology
Sersi, played by Gemma Chan, is based on Circe from Greek mythology. In Eternals, Sersi has a strong connection to humanity. Additionally, she and Ikaris are soulmates, and their relationship spans centuries.
In mythology, Circe’s story revolves less around kindness and love. Instead, Circe is a powerful sorceress. Through a combination of magic and drugs, she transforms humans into animals. When the hero Odysseus finds his way to her island, she turns his men into swine. But Odysseus, protected by a gift from Hermes (or is that Makkari?), remains immune. Odysseus challenges her to return his men. Circe does and, impressed by Odysseus, invites him to stay on her island. They spend a year together. So, in the end, love does enter the equation. It’s hard to say if Circe will live in Eternals‘ Sersi, though they are the same in the comics. But the two are both powerful beings, not to be crossed.
The Eternals’ Thena Is Based on Athena from Greek Mythology
Thena, played by Angelina Jolie, is based on Greek mythology’s Athena. In the comics, Thena is the daughter of Zuras, leader of the Earth’s Eternals. Zuras and Thena resemble Athena and her father, Zeus. This means Thena is often mistaken for Athena, but they are not the same in the comics’ world.
In Greek mythology, Athena is the goddess of wisdom and war. She was born from Zeus’ skull and thus possesses boundless knowledge. Though she can be aggressive, she also rules over peace and hand-crafts. With Athena as a namesake, fans can expect Eternal‘s Thena to be a fierce combatant and a brilliant military mind, as well as a scholar. At times, Athena becomes enraged and acts thoughtlessly. Thena may fall prey to the same reflex. Despite that, softer hidden depths could emerge.
The Eternals’ Ajak Is Based on Ajax from Greek Mythology
Ajak, played by Salma Hayek, is based on Ajax from Greek mythology. Ajax is also not a god but instead an exceptional human. Ajax’s strength and bravery earned him much renown. He is second only to mythology’s Achilles.
In the comics, Ajak is an archeologist (and male). This is a fun nod to the idea that Ajax is a popular figure from mythology in our world. He is also a wrestler, winking at the battle-tested fierceness of his namesake.
The Eternals’ Ajak Is Also Related to Quetzalcoatl from Mesoamerican Mythology
Ajak also assumes the identity of the chief Mesoamerican god Quetzalcoatl in Marvel’s comics. Quetzalcoatl is often depicted as a mix of a bird and a rattlesnake. The god’s name comes from a combination of the “Nahuatl words quetzal (the emerald plumed bird) and coatl (serpent).” He is the god of wind and rain and also the primary creator of Earth and its people.
Among other things, Quetzalcoatl patrons learning, agriculture, science, and the arts. Additionally, he invented the calendar. So while Ajax offers brawn, Quetzalcoatl adds brains to the equation. A combination of things we’d love to see in Ajak.
Hopefully, the MCU’s Eternals lean into this aspect of the character and bring this Mesoamerican myth to life.
The Eternals’ Gilgamesh Is Based on Gilgamesh from Sumerian Mythology (“The Epic of Gilgamesh”)
Gilgamesh, played by Ma Dong-seok, is based on Gilgamesh from Sumerian mythology. “The Epic of Gilgamesh” is an ancient poem from Mesopotamia. It was recorded in the Akkadian language and exists as one of the earliest pieces of literature in our records. The poem features the demi-god Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, the king of the Mesopotamian city-state Uruk, is part mortal and part divine. Though he quests for immortality, he never obtains it. But obtains instead an understanding of the meaning of life.
The Epic of Gilgamesh tells a story of friendship. It pens the original bromance, as it were. When Gilgamesh becomes too arrogant, the gods create Enkidu as his rival. Enkidu represents the natural world, whereas Gilgamesh represents the order of society. The two initially fight but become friends. Though there’s no word of an epic bro for the Eternals’ Gilgamesh, it would be a fun nod if one appeared. That said, Gilgamesh will be known for strength and kindness, echoing the myth.
The Eternals’ Kro Is Based on Cronus from Greek Mythology
Marvel Studios/Ashley Van Haeften
Kro, whose actor remains unannounced, is based on Cronus from Greek mythology. Kro is not an Eternal but a Deviant. According to Marvel, Deviants are an “evolutionary offshoot of humanity which is cursed with an unstable genetic code causing random characteristics to crop up every generation.” In Kro’s case, at least in the comics, a combination of rare traits grants him an incredibly long life. In essence, Kro’s gift is time.
This is fitting because Cronus is linked with Chronus, the personification of time in philosophy and literature. “Chronos” is also the Greek word for time. And, over time, all these ideas have become virtually indistinguishable. Cronus also informs Kro, because like Kro, he is close to being a god but not a god. Kro is immortal and powerful like an Eternal, but he isn’t one. In myth, Cronus was a crucial part of the universe’s creation but is termed a titan, not a god. Eventually, Zeus overthrows Cronus and locks him away in Tartarus. Could this fate await Kro, too?
The Eternals’ Phastos Is Based on Hephaestus from Greek Mythology
Marvel Studios/Wikimedia Commons
Phastos, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is based on Hephaestus from Greek mythology. In mythology, Hephaestus is the god of the forge. And this makes a lot of sense because Phastos is a great inventor in the Eternals. Hephaestus’ creations are lauded throughout myth. He even sculpts the first human woman. Hephaestus also forges many of myth’s weapons, such as the shield of Achilles.
Like his godly counterpart, Phastos moves humanity forward technologically, helping the world evolve.
The Eternals’ Eros Is Based on Eros from Greek Mythology
Marvel Studios/Bertel Thorvaldsen
Eros, played by Harry Styles, is based on Eros from Greek Mythology. Styles’ Eros made a surprise appearance in Eternal’s after the credits scene. In his earliest versions, Eros was depicted as a primordial being, the son of Chaos and companion of Aphrodite. But the most common version of Eros is the Eros who is the son of Aphrodite and Ares.
Given that Aphrodite is the goddess of love and Ares is the god of war, it makes sense that their son is the god of sexual attraction. Eros is most commonly represented with a bow and arrow that he uses to strike people. Eros is a more devious version of Cupid if you will. A person struck by Eros’ arrow loses all common sense and logic. Their reason becomes overpowered by maddening love and lust.
Like most gods, however, Eros gets a taste of his own medicine. Aphrodite, jealous of a human woman Psyche, orders Eros to make Psyche fall in love with an ugly creature. But Eros accidentally pricks himself with his arrow and falls in love with Psyche himself. Though he tries to keep his identity a secret, she eventually uncovers the truth. Eros feels betrayed by her actions, but eventually, after Psyche completes arduous tasks set by Aphrodite, they get back together.
In Marvel’s comics, Eros is quite similar to mythology’s Eros. He has the standard powers of an Eternal, but uses those powers to manipulate and seduce women. He’s also something of a lothario. Interestingly, Eros is Thanos’ brother and the uncle of Gamora and Nebula. It definitely feels like he’ll have a big role to play in the MCU going forward. But whether he has to face his own music after finding a Psyche of his own is yet to be seen.
The Eternals’ Sprite Has a Loose Connection to Puck/Tricksters/Sprites from European Mythology
Sprite, played by Lia McHugh, has a more diffuse connection to mythology than other Eternals. There have been many sprites throughout European mythology. In their broadest definitions, they are elves or fairies. But often come kissed with mischief. One of the most famous fairies of this ilk is A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘s Puck. Puck is a devilish fairy, not entirely evil but mildly aggravating. His meddling ways move the plot along.
Like the sprites of mythology, Eternals’ Sprite has more power than it seems. Though she has lived for centuries, she remains stuck in the appearance of a 12-year-old. Folklore sprites often act childishly. And in the Eternals’ comics, this was the case with Sprite. However, in the movie, the situation has a twist—Sprite’s mind ages but not her body. Much like fairies, Sprite holds narrative darkness not immediately evident. But we’ve yet to see if Sprite carries mischief in her.
The Eternals’ Kingo Could Be Based on Kingu from Babylonian Mythology
Marvel Studios/Wikimedia Commons
The Eternals’ Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, does not have an apparent mythological association. However, he could be based on Kingu from Babylonian mythology. According to myth, Kingu’s mother, a goddess, “gave Kingu the Tablet of Destinies, which he wore as a breastplate and which gave him great power.” Later, he was killed, but the gods used his blood to create the first humans.
It seems both Kingu and Eternal‘s Kingo share skills in fighting. And they both seem to crave a certain level of power. It will be interesting to see if Kingu’s myth informs any of Kingo’s stories.
The Eternals’ Druig Does Not Appear to Have a Counterpart (But Here Are Some Theories)
Marvel Studios/Wikimedia Commons
Druig, played by Barry Keoghan, does not have a clear counterpart in mythology. Although his name sounds like the word for friend in Russian, друг or “droog,” it appears Druig is anything but that. Druig will be a villain in the Eternals film. He is an Eternal who sides with the Deviants. In the comics, Druig specializes in manipulating reality. He also enjoys flying using fire or earth platforms that he generates.
This elemental connection may see his mythological origin in Druids. His name does resemble the word, after all. Druids are Celtic priests connected to the natural world. Though druids are often peaceful, in certain myths, they were seen more as sorcerers.
In the comics, Druig hails from the Slavic regions. However, none of the Slavic deities seem to align with him.
Mythology often informs our modern stories. Marvel’s Eternals follows a long tradition of storytelling as it borrows and evolves mythological tales.
Rotem Rusak is the News Editor for Nerdist. Her bylines have appeared in The Mary Sue, Screen Rant, Bam Smack Pow, and more.