Furies on the Road: Greek Myth in Mad Max

The Fury Road

The latest installment of the Mad Max series follows Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she drives a ‘war rig’ through hostile wasteland. It’s a road movie set in a post-apocalyptic Australia about nitro-charged V8s, but it also has some fairly direct references to ancient Greek mythology.

Furiosa is transporting precious water belonging to the warlord Immortan Joe. Seeing it as her best chance of escape his tyranny, Furiosa smuggles out the women Joe holds as slave ‘wives’ so she can return to The Green Place (an agricultural oasis in the desert), and the matriarchal society from which she was kidnapped as a child.

The Furies

Appearing in both Greek and Roman mythology, The Furies (also referred to as The Angry Ones) were female spirits of vengeance. Tales usually refer to there being three Furies, and they were spirits who upheld justice and moral order. They tormented the guilty, being particularly associated with punishing those who had murdered a family members. Fierce and an equal to the gods, the Furies were but malevolent, and those who had done no wrong had nothing to fear from them. In one story they become the protectors of the city of Athens.

Hecate

The triple goddess is a divinity who appears in many cultures; associated with the Greek goddess Hecate, she is often represented as either a triple faced goddess or as three individual women who are different aspects of the goddess.  These representations take the form of what were considered the three phases of womanhood; girl, woman, widow (more archaically referred to as maiden, mother, crone). They three are often depicted each as a ruler of earth, the heavens and the underworld.

On Fury Road

In Miller’s Fury Road, the central female characters represent, in various ways, each of these archetypes. Collectively, they are the Furies. They bring retribution to the warlords, who represent the greed and violence of mankind. The warlords are the remnants of those men ‘who killed the world’ with war and nuclear weapons, and Furiosa leads the others in the charge to bring vengeance down upon them. As much as they are fighting to assert their humanity they are fighting to avenge the death of Mother Earth.

They can also be seen as representing the triple goddess. The wives represent the aspect of Hecate as a girl; this aspect has dominion over earth; having experienced the worst of humanity as slaves of Immortan Joe, they have yet managing to retain their own humanity.

Furiosa is Hecate as woman, with her dominion being the heavens. Having been born in The Green Place, she has promised the others a better life and that she will deliver them to that paradise.

The Vuvalini represent Hecate as widow. Their dominion is the underworld, the now poisoned and abandoned swamp that The Green Place has become.

Furiosa tells Max she is motivated by a need for redemption. Her original intention is to find this through rescuing the others and returning home. She achieves this and much more, not only finding her own redemption, but delivering retribution and vengeance upon the warlords.

The narrative of Fury Road is driven by it’s female characters, and it is their story being told even if Max’s name comes first in the title. For much of the movie his sole motivation is to run from reality and the past that haunts him. It is Furiosa who, as well as rescuing the inhabitants of Citadel, Gastown and Bulletown, also rescues Max through helping him reconnect with humanity.

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