Posts Tagged ‘Persephony’

“Myth is a powerful force in my life dude.” – Shelby

Adventure Time, Come on bring your friends. We’ll go to very distant lands. They weren’t kidding. In Little Brother, the eleventh episode of season six, the writers dig deep to create an artistic story sprinkled with mythological refrences.

THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD, like this poster. You know what I mean. Don’t go any further.



Little Brother focuses on a new character spawned from Shelby’s tail. Shelby is throwing a party in Jake’s violin. The party turns into dancing and Shelby is jealous of Dancing Bug.  Shelby does some parcour to impress a girl. Losing his grip, he falls and cut’s off his own butt. Being a worm, the butt comes to life. Shelby is shocked because he has a little brother and names him Kent. His little brother is annoying and so he asks Jake for advice on dealing with a little brother. Jake tells Shelby to give him a sword and go on adventures. What Jake meant was to build the same kind of relationship he has with Finn, where they go out and adventure. Those adventures build on their friendships. Shelby wants quiet time though, so he gives Kent a sword and sends him out into the world. Due to his youth, Kent doesn’t know fear and he runs into the tree to find adventure. Once inside the tree he encounters an evil white rat gnawing at the roots of the tree. The Rat kicks his butt and he wakes up in the leafy village amongst the roots of the tree. Waking up, Leaf Beard, tells him he had the stuffing knocked out of him by the Rat King. Kent drinks dew offered him and then embarks on a quest to build a sword to vanquish the Rat King. First, he is tempted in the hall of singing crystals with infinate wealth. With no use for wealth he passes the test and gets Mystic Ore. Second, he is tempted by love and offered one of three wives. He has no need for love or the responsibility of family and passes the test. He receives the Mystic Earth. Thirdly he is offered the chance to drink from a magic sprind and receice Life Eternal. He’s just born and has no concept of his own mortality so he has no need for eternal life. Passing the final test he receives the sacred flame. Bringing them back to the Blacksmith, they make a sword called PUNCH PARTY!  Facing the Rat King, he senses Kent’s power and offers him the chance to become a God. Kent refuses. Using the sword Kent takes the teeth of the rat king but lets him live. Shelby sees what Jake and Finn have and realizes how much he misses his brother. Returning home Kent recites his tale and Shelby writes down the story told him. Shelby is forelorn because he has to say good by to his little brother. Since he took the dew of the underworld he has to return there, by their law. That Spring, the tree bloomed for the first time.



Little Brother is  a classic mythological story that is influenced by the Persephone tale and the tale of three temptations of the Buddha. If you aren’t familiar with Persephone she was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. This is Persephone light, so you get the idea. Persephone was sought after by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. He abducted her and as long as Persephone didn’t eat or drink anything she could return to the surface and her Mother, Demeter. Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds while she was there but the Gods struck a deal. Persephone had to spend six months in the Underworld and then she could spend 6 months on Earth. In protest Demeter decrees that while her daughter is in the Underworld, nothing shall grow and the Earth shall grow cold. This is why we have the seasons. The basis of Kent’s story shares many of the elements in the Persephone story and results in his need to return to the roots of the tree. In the episode it was the dew of the Underworld instead of the food of the Underworld, but same concept. Hopefully that also means he will return every spring.

The Buddha, when he reached enlightenment he sat beneath the Bodhi tree. Mara, the Demon, sent three temptations to try and keep him from his path. The first were his three daughters, the temptation of the flesh. The two stories vary here, one version says that they threw the elements at him to scary him. Another says they lead soldiers to war with him and he won with his virtue. Lastly, Mara whispered how proud he was to instill pride. The temptations that Kent face are very similiar, the daughters, the wealth and eternal life. Kent was offered three temptations while traveling with in the tree. He was so new to life that nothing but what his brother asked him to do mattered.

There are many comparison’s visually to the Nutcracker and to Lord of the Rings in the episode as well. Here are a few little galleries.

The Evil Rat King looks like the Rat King in the Nutcracker. Look at his cute little crown.

The broken sword reminds me of Aragon’s sword from the Lord of the Rings.

The writing of the book is like in the Hobbit.

Why is this important?

Lots of little kids have little brothers, so they relate to the daily annoyance of having a younger sibling. They also relate later in life not having a great relationship with their siblings, pushing them away and never spending quality time together. We go out into the world and slay our dragons. Those days in the sun can never be recaptured. That person we become can never be affected in the same way by that relationship.

The episode also has an environmental message about the roots of the tree of life. The roots are the basis, reaching deep into the earth and carrying nutrients to the highest point. Chewing at the roots keeps the rest of the tree from florishing.

Over all, this is my favorite episode in the series. I had goosebumps at the end when Shelby said it was the first time the tree had bloomed. Adventure time is definately maturing as the series goes on. They are still doing silly episodes but this one was fun and serious at the same time. The writing showed depth, playing on the themes of regret and finding your way in the world. They cover life, death and rebirth. I hope they continue to write episodes that show this much depth and intelligence. It’s worth watching and then rewatching a few times to get all the references and subtext.

Good job guys and gals. Keep up the good work.