Sunday, April 5, 2020

Eternian History Revealed

Eternian historians tend to agree that aspects of the Masters of the Universe myth and literary cycle are rooted in fact, though the historicity of any given aspect of the corpus is likely to be a matter of debate. There several recognized strata of textual sources forming the cycle, each paralleling a series of popular entertainments on Earth. Earth scholars have been slow to treat the Masters of the Universe mythology as an area of serious study, in part due to the bowdlerized form of its transmission, but also to the fanciful, even frivolous translations, done to serve the needs of a toyline.

The name of central figure of the mythos, for example, is risibly rendered as "He-Man." While this is not a wholly inaccurate, literal translation of his title[1] in the earliest texts (which could be read as something like "Supreme Man" or "Male Exemplar"), it seems to have been understood as something more like "Powerful Hero" or "Mighty Person" at the time those texts were written. Such carelessness is rife in widely available translations.

The most widely known version of the mythology, forms what is essentially the "Matter of Eternos," particularly focusing on King Randor and his court. The term "Masters of the Universe" arises from this era and refers to the elite warriors, comparable to the Knights of the Round Table, whose exploits are primary focus of the various epics and romances. He-Man is central to these stories, as the secret, heroic identity of Randor's son Adam, who is otherwise portrayed as callow or even foppish. He-Man's inclusion is unhistorical, but the Randorian Renaissance is a matter of historical record, and some of this Masters of the Universe are likewise attested.

The historical He-Man is believed to belong to the oldest strata of tales. These stories are simpler and portray a more primitive world still suffering the effects of the Great Wars, far removed from the technological rediscovery and courtly sophistication of Randor's time. This He-Man is a folk hero, who leaves his tribe to began taming or reclaiming the wilderness. He contends with monsters and personifications of cultural competitors.

One of the key events in these early myths is He-Man's encounter with a green-skinned Sorceress who gifts him with ancient weapons and armor from a cache hidden in a cave. In some myths of this strata, she is referred to as a goddess. The confusion regarding her identity likely later editing of the stories to preserve the importance of the Sorceress of Grayskull or her cult.

The earliest depictions of the Sorceress/Goddess show her in a cobra headdress. Many scholars believe this to be an important and revealing historical detail, reflecting the continued influenced of the Serpent centered religion of the conquering Snake Men. In contrast, by Randor's time, the Sorceress is clad in feathers and associated with the Eternian falcon, the Snake Men and their cultural having been thoroughly demonized.


1. Initially the title was thought to have been the character's actual name, but it appears in other records of that era clearly not referring to the hero. Perhaps the Eternian chroniclers were unaware of his original name among his tribe. This lack of identification is consider significant by those who doubt a single He-Man existed historically, instead viewing him as at least a composite of several real individuals, if not completely mythological. Some have seen Wun-Dar of Tundaria as the original of the He-Man character, noting the similar stories told about them, but it seems more likely some of He-Man's exploits were attributed by the Tundarians to their local hero.


Erik Jensen said...

Love it.

Alex Osias said...

The cobra head dress Sorceress is surprising, yet familiar. Was that from a very early illustration?

Anne said...

I kind of want to find some random commentary on King Arthur and just replace the names to make it about He-Man.

Incidentally, and speaking of myths that shift over time, I swear in at least one of the comics that came with the action figures, Teela is the Sorceress's secret identity, in the same way that Adam is He-Man's. I recall those comics not all being consistent with each other, and definitely not with the cartoon.

trollsmyth said...

Love this! ;D Thank you for writing it.

Trey said...

@Anne - It is indeed confusing. The Sorceress and the Teela toy look alike (except for green skin in the earliest stories) and the Sorceress' name is ultimately revealed to be Teela Na. Teela's origin revealed her to be the daughter/clone of the Sorceress.

@trollsmyth - Thanks! Glad you liked it.

yaldabaothOfficial said...

Thank you for writing this. I'd love to read more on Eternia or this legendary figure we call "He-Man". Possibly you have a few insights on the matter of how references to Earth are possible to exist in various Eternian lores?

Trey said...

@yaldaboathOfficial - Since everyone seems to like this post, I'll probably write more along these lines, though may veering slightly into a more rpg-able direction.

Trey said...

@Alex - The Teela toy, of course, had the headress and the Sorceress/Goddess looks just like the Teela toy (except for green skin in her first appearance) through out the first two waves of minicomics and I believe the DC comics mini-series.

Jonathan Linneman said...

This is amazing.