34. "Xena," season five:
Babies and Lyres


"Animal Attraction" continues the "female sickness" theme from the satyr play of the fourth season's shamanism-arc, "In Sickness and in Hell." As we established, the "female sickness" in question was shamanic in nature: the shaman becomes androgynous in order to combine the powers of male and female. Here, it's expressed by the co-ed baths, where everyone momentarily transcends gender. The cinema connection is likely the co-ed bath moment in "Three Swordsmen," and star Brigitte Lin wears a black fur coat similar to Xena's in this episode. The co-ed spa also dates back to the first season of "Hercules," when Oi-Lan joined Hercules in the water: 'Don't be embarrassed. People bathe together all the time where I'm from." This connection makes sense: Oi-Lan is the Asian equivalent of Xena, and Xena herself is the Western equivalent of Brigitte Lin. But the co-ed spa's connotations of "female sickness" is the springboard for another form of "female sickness:" morning sickness. Xena finds out she's pregnant, and since she hasn't been with a man recently, it seems to be immaculate conception. This surely is the highest expression of the power of "female sickness," i.e. androgeny, and it's a sign of Xena's growing spiritual powers.

"Them Bones, Them Bones" begins with a bout of morning sickness, and returns to the Northern Amazons using a number of religious concepts from Siberian culture, such as the rites involving skulls, and the World Tree where baby's souls come from. Interestingly, the Siberian myth of the Tree makes no mention of the dove, as Yakut tells it: this may be a poetic flourish, or it may be a biblical reference: Jonah's name means "dove," and Xena's baby plays the role of Jonah here, stuck in the belly of the monster, Alti. But the relevance of such a rite to Xena is its Greek nature: the skull recalls Orpheus, and the use of amber probably comes from Graves "The Greek Myths," in the chapter concerning Odysseus's wanderings. In chapter 170, note 4, Graves comments on the event in "The Odyssey" that directly follows the Cyclops episode, in which Odysseus and his crew enter a narrow valley in which three scouts are sent in to explore, where they encounter the Laestrygonians, a cannibal race. If this sounds a bit like the plot for sixth season's "The Abyss," hold that thought! We'll come back to that. More to the point, for now, is Graves' commentary on this scene: "The Laestrygonians ("of a very harsh race") were perhaps Norwegian fiord-dwellers of whose barbarous behaviour the amber merchants were warned on their visits to Bornholm and the Southern Baltic Coast." The northern location of this tribe, combined with amber, in connection with Odysseus's wanderings (one of the templates of Xena's story), pulls Xena's story back to the Northern Amazons again. The use of the skeleton sequence from "Jason and the Argonauts" connects the Jason story (just like "Ulysses" used the Orpheus scenes from both the Jason and Odysseus stories).

As I've mentioned earlier in this essay, the Odysseus story that begins with the Cyclops is an important center in Xena's story, and we'll get another buried clue in an earlier draft of the script: the cave of the mystic Chi'ah is called the Scherian Caverns. There's no mention of them in the dialogue, not even in the draft's dialogue, so like the Rhodope reference in "Destiny," this may be an internal reference--though, according to Whoosh, it was also referred to in the press release. There's no doubt that this refers to Scherie, in the Nausicaa chapter of "The Odyssey." As we saw in "Ulysses," Princess Nausicaa's island was home to the Phaeacians, also know as Scherie. It was the last place Odysseus visited before returning home. Even in Siberia, we are not far from the Cyclops! The reference to Scherie, like the use of the skeletons, is probably a sign of Rob Tapert's involvement. RJ Stewart worked on the original script, with Steve Sears taking over, then his replacements, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman adapting the final draft. Since Sears has said he tends to use "Xenatized" versions of non-Greek names, it's unlikely he would borrow so directly from the myths to name the caverns; it's also unlikely he came up with the character for Chi'ah, since he did not remember the backstory he developed for her, when I asked him about it, though he remembered the other character he created, Amarice, in this very same episode. Since artists tend to remember their own creations best from a collaborative process, and since Chi'ah's name doesn't seem "Xenatized," I assume she was created by RJ, and probably at the suggestion of Mr. Tapert.



Moon and her owl-like mentor in "Bride With the White Hair 2," (left); Amarice and the owl-like Amazon Mystic, Chi'ah, in "Them Bones, Them Bones" (right).


We can find her inspiration in "The Bride With White Hair II," just as we could find one of the sources for Otere there: the relationship of the old woman with Moon could not be replicated with Otere, since she was not in this episode, so Amarice takes her place: she's confronted by Chi'ah, in a scene that was not part of the earlier drafts, for not being a real Amazon. Like Moon, she will eventually die a heroic death, later this season in "Lifeblood."

"Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire" is the second episode to be taken directly from Sophocles' "The Trackers;" unlike "The Xena Scrolls, though, it uses both Tony Harrison's modern translation, and the original story of the satyrs pursuing Hermes, inventor of the lyre, and the reaction of the satyrs to hearing music for the first time--Tony Harrison's translation also mentions their fatal lyre competition with Apollo: it's not nice to beat the god of music at his own game! This episode also follows the satyr play for the "water arc" of season two, "A Comedy of Eros." Draco, the formidable warlord of the series premiere, "Sins of the Past," had been transformed into a lovesick follower of Gabrielle, and the spell is still in effect. When he finds a golden lyre in the ruins, Xena intervenes with her whip--invoking Brigitte Lin from "The Bride With White Hair"--to avoid a fight between the warriors and the Amazons, declaring a contest for its possession. Draco is now a full-fledged member of the satyr pattern: like Ares, he's ostensibly a powerful figure, but is a comical slave to, not love, but desire, as is their model, Silenus. He and his men are in opposition to the Amazons, and such a conflict on this show puts him in the Centaur category, which we know from Graves is just another variation of the satyr. He dreams of life with Gabrielle out in the woodland setting of the satyr, and lounging in the spa, like we saw in "Animal Attraction:" this recalls not only the sisterhood of Spamona, but its androgynous quality. Joxer's androgynous brother Jace appears, and his final line in the episode, during the closing song, is "No two ways about it!" Of course, we can guess the winner of the singing contest for the lyre: Orphic Xena! Her final song, with everyone joining in, is from the 60's classic by the Young Rascals. It's about freedom, and what better choice could Orpheus make than to turn it into a tribute to Dionysus, his bacchae, old Teiresias and the mountain of the maenads in its final stanza as the show ends:

"Oh, what a feelin's just come over me
Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see
Everybody's dancin', come on, let's go see
Peace in the valley, now they wanna be free!"




Previous/Next

The Types and Patterns of All Things Xena  > Free To Be Euripides: Chapter Index

Back to Home menu