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Whenever a fictional story involves non-Christian themes, a western adaptation will emphasize the elements most familiar to followers of Christianity. At times, they will be totally rewritten to turn all of the members of the religion into direct analogues of Christian figures.
In mythologies without an "Ultimate Evil", the least likable deity (usually the one in charge of death or fire) will be Flanderized into a God of Evil who is a direct analogue of Satan. Any depiction of the afterlife will be transformed into either Heaven or Hell. The chief male deity will always be a stand-in for God. Servants of the chief male deity may be turned into angels, or other gods will seem so subservient they may as well be angels, despite them being at each other's throats in most mythologies.
That is, it takes a real-life religion and turns it into Crystal Dragon Jesus. May either be a form of Viewers are Morons or Did Not Do the Research, depending on how much the writers understood the original religion.
It should be noted that this has happened a number of times historically. As proselytizing sects spread into new regions, they often incorporate existing beliefs into their canon, in order to make the new religion more palatable to others. For example, the medieval story of the hermit Josaphat (not to be mistaken with the King Jehoshaphat of Judea, or the 17th-century martyr St. Josaphat) was a Christianized version of the life of Gautama Buddha. Often polytheistic cultures "converted" to Christianity simply transferred the worship of individual gods to the saints that most resembled them.
See also Everybody Hates Hades, Nuns Are Mikos, Faux Symbolism, The Theme Park Version, Sadly Mythtaken, Crystal Dragon Jesus, Messianic Archetype. Contrast Lowest Cosmic Denominator. This will often include a Mythology Upgrade.
- The Marvel Universe version of the Norse gods follow suit, with Thor = Jesus, Odin = God, Loki = Lucifer, and Surtur = Satan. It should probably be noted that Loki was often a villain in the myths, but this is largely due to the mythology itself being Hijacked by Jesus,
- Well, Loki was portrayed as a very nasty person even before Christianity reached the Norse but Odin was just as bad, perhaps worse, and Loki was mostly just trying to amuse himself with tricks rather than take over the world or similar.
- Surtur contrary to mythology where he is a neutral force who merely fulfills a cosmic role, in the comics he actively tries to bring about Ragnarok instead of waiting. The whole devil look and feud with Odin are exclusive to comics.
- Kyknos, Ares's son, who wanted to build a temple out of skulls for his father and was thrown into Thartharos by Hercules, is depicted as a traditional Satan-figure in the Marvel mini series Dark Avengers: Ares. He has yellow-red skin, hooves and very obvious, big horns on his head. In the traditional texts he isn't described that way (which makes sense, because big horns would indicate a God of Woods and Animals or similar).
- In American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Journey to the West is hijacked by Jesus up the wazoo. Apparently the Monkey King and the monk's entourage were the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. Also, the numerous Heavenly Hosts who populate the story are angels or demons or such, and are all ruled by Tze-Yo-Tzun, aka He Who Is, one of the names of God. This is specifically footnoted. This was completely deliberate on the author's part: the blending of religions reflects the blending of cultures that produces Jin, and that he needs to accept in himself. The story is a very Asian-American story, and the author blended elements of Asian culture and American culture (including his own religion -- Christianity).
- Disney's adaptation of Hercules, featuring Hades as Satan, Zeus as God (and a Bumbling Dad), Hercules as Jesus, and the other Olympians as angels. To protect family values, Zeus's "special relationship" with mortal women was ignored, making Hercules a son of Hera, and poisoned (by Hades, of course) with mortality. This moves Hera out of her original Clingy Jealous Girl and Big Bad roles in the original myths. Interestingly enough, the movie does nothing to rectify Hera's status as Zeus's sister, however, outside of just not mentioning it. Hades was one of the few Greek Gods who didn't routinely screw with mortals or curse them, and could even be convinced to help them (Orpheus). Granted, kidnapping Persephone wasn't very nice, but that's probably the worst thing he ever did. And he was genuinely in love with her, at least. And it was a deal with Zeus as a way of compensating for him getting the short end of the deal (being in charge of the Underworld instead of Sky or Sea). The guy was just misunderstood!
- However, Christianity later adapted many Greek terms for ideas regarding cosmology, morality, and metaphysics to match their Jewish equivalents. The Bible literally presents "Hades" (as in a personification of death or "the grave") as Satan's ally.
- This isn't the first time Hades' image was hijacked. Disney's The Goddess of Spring, a pre-cursor to Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, made the merger between Satan and Hades even more blatant. The Nostalgia Chick gave her review going on in detail about how poorly this was handled.
- Disney did it again in Aladdin. Despite taking place in a Middle Eastern setting that should have been Islamic all the way (in fact, the sultan mentions Allah in the first movie, albeit as part of a throwaway line about stubborn daughters), in Aladdin and the King of Thieves, the wedding of Aladdin and Jasmine is suspiciously Catholic-looking.
- A more minor example is Chernobog from Disney's Fantasia, though named for and based on a Slavic god, he was at least once referenced as Satan by Walt Disney.
- Chernobog also shows up, as a euphemism for Satan, in the legends surrounding Slavic (especially Ukrainian) monasticism; Bald Mountain (Lysa Hora) is where witches' Sabbaths are held and Slavic legends often depict diabolical power being defeated by holy monks. It's a almost painfully accurate representation of a legend, just not an ancient one. The only inaccuracy is using a Latin Ave Maria rather than one in Slavonic.
- The movie Constantine converts John Constantine of Hellblazer from a shifty, almost amoral magic user into a freelance exorcist, removing all non-Christian (and for the most part non-Catholic) mythical elements. In the comics' canon, John does have a certain "relationship" with Heaven and Hell, namely that they both get up his arse. The fact that Hell in particular wants his soul in a bad way comes up on a constant basis. Of course, all kinds of other entities exist in comic canon as well. In fact, in the Hellblazer canon, God is distant and (probably) uncaring and Hell is ruled by three deific beings. Rather than sacrificing himself and being cured by Satan, Constantine cures his own lung cancer ON PURPOSE by selling his soul to all three of the kings of hell, for rewards, one after the other, and then killing himself. They can't take him without starting a war and they can't give him to Heaven because of the suicide clause, so they heal him up and start planning revenge.
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is based on films from the 1930s, which commonly reduced various foreign cultures into caricature. In the film, the complex and sophisticated religion of Hinduism is reduced to nice people worshiping Shiva and murderous Thuggees worshiping Kali. The Thuggees behave like stereotypical Satanic cultists. The real Thuggees did worship Kali, but no more so than the Ku Klux Klan worshipped Jesus. While they did tend to ritually murder people, it was by strangulation, not ripping hearts out of someone's chest. It wasn't just the British who worked on eradicating them. And, incidentally, Kali herself is Shiva's wife. Not the estranged kind, either.  In Indy's defense, though, he does briefly note that the Thuggees are a heretical sect.
- To clarify it, Kali is a good goddess but there is a demon ACTUALLY worshiped by Satanists called Kali. Note that there is no relation between the two entities. The confusion exists because, English not having the level of vowel representation Indian Languages do, the names of both the demon and the Goddess are written with the same spelling. 
- Most mummy movies, including those of The Mummy Trilogy, portray gods such as Anubis and Seth as expys of Satan. In reality, Anubis was a protector and judge of the dead and all round Pretty Cool Guy when compared to some of his sibling gods while Seth was originally god of the deserts of lower Egypt, the legends of his scheming and murder of Osiris a later myth. In fact, the statues found next to Tutankhamun, called Shabts, would be more appropriate. Of course, while it's true that Anubis was considered a kindly protector whose main concern was making sure souls made it safely to the afterlife, he's also the guy who checked if your soul was worthy of the next life and tossed it to Ammut to snack on if it wasn't...In this way, he is more like the Christian God than Satan, as on Judgement Day, he is supposed to throw all sinners into the Lake of Fire.
- In the movie version of Percy Jackson and The Olympians, Hades is, once again, a villain though not the Big Bad. Who is apparently portrayed as a fiery devil-creature, though that's just his favored form. The Hades from the book version seems to be this trope at first, but Ares is the real villain.
- The new Clash of the Titans: Hades is the bad guy in the remake. However, at least the writers tried to provide some form of justification in that in this version of events, he was tricked into taking control of the underworld by Zeus. The blow is further softened by virtue of the fact that the rest of the gods are generally portrayed as all around dicks; particularly since the story of Medusa's origin is told as the "Poseidon raped her and Athena punished her for it" variant. On the other hand, it then turns Zeus into Jesus by having him bring Io back from the dead, despite the fact that only Hades can raise the dead. To make matters worse, it essentially makes Zeus an Expy of the Abrahamic God by having him be the creator of mankind, when in reality - or mythology, really - it was a Titan called Prometheus who created man from clay. This is where the subtitle of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein comes from.
- Though not totally hijacked, the live-action film The Last Airbender incorporates Christian themes into places the TV show did not, notably, the use of crosses. Aang, an Airbender whose culture is based on Tibetan Buddhism, has his trademark arrow tattoo changed to resemble a cross.
- Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain novels, set in a fantastic version of Wales, used Arawn, the Celtic god of the underworld, as an evil force similar to Tolkien's Sauron. The existence of an ultimate force of good, on the other hand, isn't really mentioned.
- Unless you count the Sons of Don. You could make a pretty good parallel between Gwydion and Jesus in The Book of Three.
- He also, at least, acknowledges that Arawn is "considerably more villainous" in his version, so at least he's aware of the situation.
- In Wielding A Red Sword, from Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, the Hindu protagonist equates Satan with Shiva... who is supposed to be a highly positive force of rebirth and renewal.
- Ironically, later books show that Satan is indeed something of a positive force.
- Michael Chabon's novel Summerland is a real doozy. It takes place largely in a world that cheerily mashes together Native American and Norse Mythology. This leads to the reveal, utterly brain-breaking if you know your mythology, that Coyote Changer is also Loki AND the Devil. Seriously. (And for its next trick, the rules of the Universe are based on those of baseball.)
- Believe it or not, the Cthulhu Mythos fell prey to this very early on, as August Derleth, who arguably rescued H.P. Lovecraft from total obscurity, attempted to shape the Mythos into a coherent Shared Universe, in an essay, framed it as a struggle between good and evil pantheon, the former represented by Nodens, an actual minor deity from real life mythology, who had a cameo in one of Lovecraft's stories. This did not catch on.
- Note, however, that there are still writers who like Derleth's idea of having two factions of gods fight each other, even if they reject the idea of painting those two factions as good and evil.
- In Lord of Light besides the fairly accurate Hindu gods there is also an obvious Jesus metaphor among the cast of deities. However the hint that he's supposed to be playing Jesus is "well there's an evil necromancer to the West".
- Inverted in Jericho Moon, in which the Hebrews' Yahweh is suggested to be the Canaanite pagan god El on a monomaniacal ego trip. Yahweh's angels, when their forms are revealed, turn out to be indistinguishable from the amorphous demons of Egyptian paganism seen in the previous novel.
- Subverted in The Lightning Thief, the first novel of Percy Jackson and The Olympians. When Zeus' master lightning bolt is stolen, the first suspect is Hades. Hades is believed to have stolen the master bolt in order to start a rebellion. As it turns out, the thief was actually the lead character's camp counselor Luke.
Live-Action TV Edit
- Although most of the gods being jerks was inherent in the premise, the universe of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess was strange about this depending on the situation, especially Ares, who tends to waver between being a Jerkass and being pure evil depending on the needs of the plot. Hades was usually treated as just a dark but very overworked and unappreciated ruler of the Underworld. Eventually the producers of Xena seemed intent on making up for lost time; in the last two seasons the prophet Eli was an exceedingly thinly disguised Crystal Dragon Jesus and Xena was put on a quest to kill all the Pagan gods.
- A darker metaphor occurred with Dahak. Early appearances and descriptions to his cult sound like analogue of early Christians, before we found out he was an unrelated evil god. Ironically, the references are kept and added to afterward to deliberately creep out the audience. Dahak derives from Azhi Dahaka, of course.
- The second season of True Blood takes all the complexities and ambiguities out of the Dionysiac experience by identifying it with the Abrahamic concept of evil. They even describe Dionysos as "the horned god."
- The Doctor Who story Pyramids of Mars portrayed the Egyptian god Set/Sutekh as a Satan-type -- and a Sufficiently Advanced Alien to boot. However, the Doctor implied that Sutekh's people might not strictly count as good guys, either.
- The depiction of Hecate in Charmed. "The Wedding from Hell," pretty much reduces an In Name Only use of Hecate's name without ever using enough of the mythology that it was ever a "depiction of Hecate." Which still makes it a Hijacked by Jesus, since Hecate is certainly not this kind of generic evil goddess.
- Stargate SG-1 at various points:
- An arc theme in the series is the slow discovery of the Jaffa that their masters the Goa'uld are not gods, but tyrants posing as gods. All well and good, but a big part of it is usually the discovery that the Goa'uld are not omnipotent or omniscient (for example, when Teal'c disobeys Apophis behind his back and finds Aphophis does not know about it) - even though those traits were never associated with the pagan gods the Goa'uld play the roles of.
- In one episode, SG-1 come upon a small population of people who had developed from ancient norsemen (vikings, if you will) into what was basically a 17th century society. Instead of retaining their original pantheon, they had developed a cult centering solely on Freyr who, in reality, was of course the Sufficiently Advanced Alien responsible for bringing them there in the first place. Notable features of this cult included gathering in a suspiciously church-like building at regular intervals, branding Freyr their "saviour" and the complete and total resignation to the will of their deity. All in all, it reads more like an attempt by the writers to use an "uncooperative, xenophobic, holier-than-thou, super-religious rural Christian" stereotype without running the risk of offending any Christians.
- Interestingly, the people of the previous Norse planet worshipped only Thor.
- The History Channel apparently once had a series called "Clash of the Gods." The episode about Hades was pretty accurate until about halfway through this part. It may be based on some beliefs (Hades was of course not depicted as a god, but as a servitor of Ol' Scratch) that became very popular, as seen in The Divine Comedy.
- The series in general tends to draw a lot of analogies between pagan myths and biblical stories, whether or not there's any actual historical connection between them.
- The show has also inverted this on occasion; the episode on Zeus draws parallels between Zeus being seen as the highest, most powerful god and the rise of monotheism, basically saying that Zeus was the source of most people's idea of the Abrahamic God
- An interesting variation took place in a Christmas Episode of Northern Exposure, where the town of Cicily combined Christmas traditions with the local tribe's "Raven Festival", based on the story of Raven and the Sun-Holder's Daughter. While this is a traditional Raven story among some tribes and the depiction in the show is fairly accurate, it does make Raven seem like a Crystal Dragon Jesus. In one of the few points where Joel's receptionist Marilyn Whirlwind spoke more than a few words at a time, she told the story to Joel:
"A long time ago, the Raven looked down from the sky and saw that the people of the world were living in darkness. The ball of light was kept hidden by a selfish old chief. So the Raven turned itself into a spruce needle and floated on the river where the chief's daughter came for water. She drank the spruce needle. She became pregnant and gave birth to a boy which was the Raven in disguise. The baby cried and cried until the chief gave him the ball of light to play with. As soon as he had the light, the Raven turned back into himself and carried the light into the sky. From then on, we no longer lived in darkness."
Mythology and Religion Edit
- Christianity itself has done this to its Jewish source material, The Bible. Christian interpretations of Old Testament stories and passages generally have a very firm retconning agenda which, for those familiar with the rest of the works in question (and especially for those who speak Hebrew) are often inconsistent, incorrect or out of place.
- Older Than Print: Norse Mythology has been influenced by Christianity in several ways, which is often taken even further in works that draws from the myths.
- It's often believed in the scholarship of Norse Mythology that Loki was the pretty standard Trickster Archetype found in about half the tales, not the sudden betrayer of the gods/Satan analog that shows up part way through Snorri Sturluson's writing.
- Surtr is a relatively neutral giant who fulfills a cosmic role, but is often the Big Bad in his modern appearances. He does fight in Ragnarok alongside the other giants, which is considered the evil side.
- It has been claimed that the story of the Holy Grail and the Spear of Destiny are likely Christianized versions of older myths. For example, the Fisher King is Bran the Blessed !
- In one theory (but by far not the most popular one, not that there is a most popular one), King Arthur was originally a Celtic hero-king which doomed the old "England" because he first got the power of the holy vessel (more likely a cooking pot, later grail) and digged up the head of Lug in Lugdunum - that way, he broke the spell protecting his country.
- One of the less-known stories in the Finnish national epic The Kalevala is the story of Marjatta, a virgin who is impregnated by a lingonberry. (No, not that way, she eats it.) She gives birth in a stable to a son who becomes the king of Karelia. Seeing that all the stories in The Kalevala were collected in early 1800s, this just can't be coincidental. It's likely that it was made up by Elias Lönnrot who collected folktales and songs into a unified national epic, and cut out the most contradictory bits, and added things here and there to tie events together better. It was supposed to symbolise Christianity overtaking the pagan beliefs, as the god-hero Väinämöinen is forced to leave the lands after first trying to condemn the child to death. Interestingly though, Väinämöinen vows to return when people once again have need for him.
- Parodied in Finnish comic artist Petri Hiltunen's Return of Väinämöinen newspaper strips, where he reveals in embarrasment that he decided to leave when people started to look more closely to the whole "lingonberry"-bit.
- The god Endovelicus from the Lusitanian Mythology, originally a quite well loved god of health and light and eventually incorporated into the Roman Pantheon, became identified as Lucifer once Christianity settled in, which is quite weird considering most people back then had the Light Is Good trope taken very seriously and yet the opposite was what was implied as both Lucifer and Endovelicus were firmly light aligned (Lucifer means "light wielder"). Note that the god Neto from the same pantheon followed Light Is Not Good more closely however.
- The Navajo of the American Southwest. When Christians first came to convert them, the missionaries spoke of God and Jesus. After a bit of listening, the Navajo decided that God and Jesus were the White Man's names for figures that already existed in their stories.... the old man who carries the sun, and his eldest son, who carries the moon. The kicker is that within this story, the old man and the son were members of the tribe.... so in hijacking Jesus, they essentially made him an honorary Navajo.
- The Iroqouis. Their creation story had Sky Woman falling to the Earth, with the animal spirits making Turtle Island for her to live on. She gives birth to Lynx, who in turn has the twin boys Sapling and Flint, all of whom shape the world. Then it got hijacked, putting Sapling as God and Flint as Satan.
- Celtic Mythology was not written down until after most Celts had converted to Christianity — as a result, gods were converted to kings and heroes, and millennia-long curses are broken by priests. It's all pretty muddy.
- Saint Bridget, a female saint who is suspiciously like the Celtic goddess, Bridgid.
- The Fair Folk went from... the Fair Folk, who were all right if you didn't offend them, to evil spirits who couldn't stand church bells/crosses/a priest.
- Syncretism, in general, is a fairly common phenomenon, specially when a new religion tries to expand in a new area and portrays itself as not really rupturist with but some "improved" or "accurate" version of whatever religions existed there previously. The Ancient Greeks and Romans immediately drew parallelisms between their gods and those of the peoples they conquered, and it's been pointed out that part of the iconography of the Virgin Mary in the Mediterranean area is drawn from classical fertility godesses, mostly Isis. In Mexico the Spanish missionaries drew deliberate paralellisms between Jesus and Quetzalcoatl, the "good god" of the Mesoamerican pantheon who abhorred human sacrifice (while obviously preaching against those who were all for it).
Tabletop Games Edit
- Scion Companion features an organization that are doing this in-world; they find young, inexperienced Scions, and convince them that their powers come from the Abrahamic god instead of one of those nasty pagan ones. Their goal is to drag all of the other gods into the Abrahamic mold, creating a "one true God". The book states they've already done this to a couple of pantheons (the Yoruba are specified). Given the closest we've seen to their ideal is one of the Titan avatars, their possible success is not portrayed as a good thing.
- Part of the Sovereign Host's success in spreading in Eberron is noted to be their ability to pull off Hijacked By The Host and integrate the traditions of minor religions into their own ("Oh, your ways are fine. By the way, we call Diety X of your pantheon Dol Dorn...").
- In-Universe example: The King and I has the Show Within a Show The Small House of Uncle Thomas, in which Buddha is a very obvious stand-in for Jesus. The is part of the joke.
- Shakespeare's Winter's Tale nominally takes place in pagan countries, where they consult oracles. The veil is thin enough that at one point they have a discussion of the doctrine of original sin.
- Shakespeare usually avoided this though - especially as it allowed him to present suicide as honorable, so long as it took place in a non-Christian culture.
- The Valkyrie Profile series is based on Norse myth, featuring Odin, the titular Valkyries, and the rest of the Aesir, but also feature very Christian-looking chapels, crosses, and other such artifacts.
- The main series of Shin Megami Tensei takes this very literally. When the Earth was young, according to Echidna and Mem Aleph, it was ruled by all sorts of pantheons with their own adepts and followers. At one point, though, the Abrahamic God grew in power and overthrew all others, casting them down into lower astral planes (Atziluth in the original stories, Makai in current continuity) and turning them (and their cults) into demons. For example, Astaroth is literally a corrupted and demonized form of Ishtar... while more "acceptable" pagan gods like Thor have thrown their lot in with YHVH, choosing to become mere lackeys in order to prevent their own destruction or similar literal demonization. Only when a breach opens between our world and the lower planes (the Demon Summoning Program, the Conception, the Schwarzwelt) do the "demons" get the chance to fight back to regain their old power.
- But likewise, many of the demons in the game are all aligned as their story would be aligned and are true to their description. Anubis, a god of the dead is portrayed as a neutral good demon, not a chaotic evil demon as many would have believed because that's not what his job was about. In the same way, while Demiurge was considered a god, the acts that he commited would qualify him as Lawful evil because he is not a good guy.
- Final Fantasy Tactics seems to do this with the suspiciously-Catholic-like church in Glabados concerned with the worship of Saint Ajora. As the plot progresses however, the idea becomes the target of Deconstruction starting with Queklain as a Sinister Minister, and is ultimately subverted the the end of the game, when the nature of St. Ajora herself is revealed. Then it becomes either a Path of Inspiration or a Corrupt Church, depending on the individual closeness to the Secret Circle of Secrets of any given member of the church. It should be noted that this is not a Western work, but also that the Glabados church -is- the only game in town, so their brand of monotheism appears to be the norm.
Western Animation Edit
- Hades (and occasionally Ares) in the Justice League cartoon was also painted as Satan, or a reasonable facsimile.
- Even more explicitly, Justice League Unlimited showed Tartarus as an analogy to Hell to the point that it actually had demons that shirked in fear from Hawkgirl when they mistook her for an angel. Hawkgirl muddies the waters a bit when, a moment later, she hopes they don't run into any smart denizens of Tartarus.
Shayera: That's right, I'm an angel! You can mess with me if you want to, but I don't think you don't want to mess with the boss! (points up)
- Though, really, it's sort of coming full-circle. Tartarus is supposed to be a pretty nasty place & infact served as the inspiration for many depictions of Hell. The earliest Abrahamic sources refer instead to Sheol, which is closer to the ordinary Greek afterlife of Hades.
- Class of the Titans can both avert and succumb to this. While Hades isn't presented as completely evil, his realm still looks like hell. Also, he seems a bit of a... girlish man. Its the voice. The other Gods may have their problems, they do some nasty things to mortals, but they're all still mostly good and Zeus' apparent, um, fooling around with others is never mentioned and his relationship with Hera seems healthy and strong. Kronos, the big bad of the series, is however a close allegory to Satan as he pretty much wants to bring about the apocalypse. Other myths and legends are shifted around and can either be really inaccurate or pretty damn close enough. Of course one must keep in mind, this is a kid's show.
- ↑ although this usually leads to major Did Not Do the Research because such opposition is actually typical for Manicheism, not Christianity
- ↑ Technically, Parvati is Shiva's wife, and Kali is the darker aspect of her, who awakens to strike down Evil when needed.
- ↑ For those interested, the approximate pronunciations are as follows: the Goddess's name is "Kah-lee", whereas the demon is "Kully". The proper transcriptions are Kālī and Kali.