Socialist Worker

The Half-God of Rainfall is inspired by mythology—but it reflects a sexist reality

by Camilla James
Issue No. 2649

The Half-God of Rainfall is a contemporary tale of violence, trauma and taking back power.

Poet Inua Ellams combines Greek and West African Yoruba mythology to create a world where gods watch mortals play basketball. The text defies genre—part Homeric-style epic, part revenge tragedy—and is a disorienting and unsettling read.

The story follows Modupe, a mortal, and her son Demi, a half Nigerian mortal, half Olympian child. From the outset, Modupe’s existence is one of vulnerability and objectification.

As a child and a young woman, male Gods leer at her with “prying eyes” and a “naked hunger”. She is dehumanised and left “death like” by Zeus when he violently rapes her and causes her to become pregnant.

Modupe’s mother is tormented by the abuse she has experienced at the hands of men. In a desperate attempt to protect her daughter, Modupe’s mother sacrifices her life to the River Goddess Osùn.

Splitting her womb with a knife, she bleeds onto her daughter’s chest. There is nothing subtle about this symbolism of a mother destroying her reproductive organs and bleeding out on her daughter.

Her sacrifice is nonetheless in vain. Even in a story about gods, where inconceivable battles take place across galaxies, women are not safe from the violence of men.

Demi’s death triggers an outpouring of rage, not just from Modupe, but all the goddesses who have been abused by Zeus. They find solidarity in their suffering and give Modupe their powers to destroy Zeus and all that he represents.

The Half-God of Rainfall is inspired by mythology but reflects a reality where gendered violence is the norm. But it doesn’t dwell on women as victims—instead showing the strength of unity, where women fight back against their oppressors and win.


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Reviews
Tue 9 Apr 2019, 13:54 BST
Issue No. 2649
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