Let us continue the story of Greco-Roman mythology. No, let us think about “God” before that. What attributes come to mind when you think of god? Many will think of an almighty, a perfect being. And yes, this is true. However, Hephaestus, the god of fire, metalworking and stone masonry is completely opposite to these general perceptions of god. He is often depicted as a lame and ugly man in a working suit, holding a hammer and tongs.
Then why is Hephaestus portrayed as a lacking deity, unlike his perfectly beautiful fellows? First of all, blacksmiths of ancient Greece are assumed to have physical health issues due to arsenic poisoning as they process iron. In fact, long-term exposure to arsenic harm the skin and causes hair loss. Second, iron manufacturing was advanced technology at the time. Thus, social leaders deliberately made craftsmen disabled and treated them well so that they would not run away. These humble lives of Greco-Roman blacksmiths were reflected in their patron god Hephaestus, hence he had no choice but to have a somewhat defective appearance.
So what does Hephaestus look like if we re-imagine his figure at this point, about 2,500 years after ancient Greece? Has the quality of blue-collar workers’ lives have improved over time, thereby turning him into a charming and attractive god?
Unfortunately, nothing has changed much. Most of the workers are still not treated as they deserve. The vast majority of blue-collar workers are paid far less despite their hard labor. They are also exposed to a high risk of injury due to poor working conditions. Even if workers manage to survive all dangers and perils, many still suffer from health issues. Not to mention the spare time for any leisure activities, they barely afford to get a medical checkup. Some people even think “blue-collar” on their uniforms is a shame. What a tough life!
Let us get back to the matter at hand. Many people forget about whom Hephaestus married: Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty. Have you ever thought about how these two clashing concepts, defectiveness and beauty, can mingle with each other? Probably, it is because that is where the true beauty comes from―you need to get ugly sometimes.
We take some perks of the modern worlds for granted, neglecting all the tears and sweats poured into luxuries we enjoy today. But as you can see, those efforts make our lives much better. Do not you think that is the true beauty, making our lives stunningly beautiful? The Argus hopes we all appreciate what they have accomplished, what we enjoy, and what will still be pioneered by their bare hands.
By Na Geum-chae