The Hidden Myth behind “The Phantom of the Opera”

Yes, the random, pointless Phantom of the Opera posts are back! Did you think I’d given up on them? Bwahahahahahahahaha! Really, with this being My Turn to Talk’s birthday month, it made sense to bring back some PotO posts since Phantom has been a big part of this blog from its very beginning.

The other week I was watching My Fair Lady for the first time, and that, of course, got me thinking about the Greek myth of Pygmalion. Pygmalion, according to Greek mythology, was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he was making, a statue of a woman of unsurpassed beauty (before you start saying “Weirdo,” remember that this was the same culture that gave us Oedipus Rex). During a festival in honor of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Pygmalion asked the goddess to bring him a woman who was like his statue. He didn’t dare say that he wanted the statue to be alive because that would just be crazy, but Aphrodite knew his unspoken request. She brought the statue to life for him, and sculptor and sculptee lived happily ever after.

What does this have to do with The Phantom of the Opera? Well, Pygmalion was pouring all of his skill into sculpting the perfect statue of the perfect woman, and the end result was all of his ideals brought to life right in front of him. Quite similarly, Erik used his passion for music to mold Christine–more specifically her voice–into his perfect ideal for what the human voice should sound like. Most people see only the parallels to Beauty and the Beast, but the story of Pygmalion is present in the narrative as well. Christine was Erik’s pupil; his tutelage formed her voice into one of the greatest sounds of all time. Like Pygmalion, he poured all of his skill into creating the perfect singer, and the end result was a woman who encompassed everything he loved about music. In a way, you could almost say that she became the personification of music to him.

Of course, it’s important to remember that Erik’s obsessive, homicidal tendencies ensured that they did not live happily ever after. Impersonating a heavenly being is never a good idea for a relationship, ever. Nor is stalking. Or kidnapping. Or anything that makes you look like a creeper.

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4 Comments

Filed under Random Things of Randomness

4 responses to “The Hidden Myth behind “The Phantom of the Opera”

  1. Hi! I just found your blog, and I realize you post quite a bit about things like Phantom and Les Miz. I write about them daily on my blog as well, so you might want to check that out!

    Anyway, this is a nice link between Greek mythology and Phantom. Yeah, we usually only see the Beauty and the Beast link.

  2. Sarah G.

    Hi!! I am reseaching Phantom of the Opera and its connection to mythology and I find this very helpful so thank you!!!
    Are there any other myths that you can think of that connect to PotO??

    • I’m glad you found it so helpful, Sarah! Apart from the obvious Beauty and the Beast parallels, I’ve also heard of similarities to the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades (Hades, Lord of the Underworld, falls in love with Persephone, daughter of the goddess Demeter, and kidnaps her in order to make her his wife) as well as the myth of Psyche and Cupid (Psyche disobeys the order never to look upon her husband’s face; Christine disobeys Erik’s order never to remove his mask). I’ve also seen Christine loosely connected to Pandora (a woman’s curiosity bringing about a great disaster).

      If you get a chance, you should read the edition of PotO that has Max Byrd’s introduction. He talks about some of the mythological elements that are present in the story, including references to Psyche and Persephone.

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