We’ve all seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid, in which Ariel’s father is Triton, King of the Sea and Ruler of Atlantica. However, there is much more to this character than just a Disney film!
Triton has featured in everything from the Wonder Woman comic to children’s TV show SpongeBob SquarePants (yes, really!) but he started out his career as mythological messenger of the sea in much more style, as a Greek God no less…
Triton is often wrongly labelled as the God of the Sea but that title actually belonged to his father Poseidon, a powerful deity in Greek mythology. Triton’s mother was Amphitrite, a goddess who apparently gave birth to dolphins and seals, and Triton of course. Although to be fair, he wasn’t all that weird amongst his brothers and sisters, what with having a fish tail and all.
Mr Triton himself was a messenger for his father and lived with both parents in a golden palace at the bottom of the sea. Imagine that, being a God and still living with your parents. Buzzkill. Still, if it’s a palace made of gold I probably wouldn’t want to move out either…
There’s a famous saying that goes, ‘like father, like son’ and so it seems is true in this case, as Triton followed in Daddy’s footsteps and carried a trident everywhere he went. That’s kind of like a giant fork, except it’s not used for eating, just for looking all cool and powerful. It also has the added benefit of letting the holder breathe underwater, which kind of explains why both father and son kept a tight hold of their tridents in their under-water home.
However, Triton had one thing his father didn’t which was a pretty cool conch shell. This wasn’t like some bullshit Lord of The Flies conch shell, this was the real deal. When it was blown like a trumpet it could make the sea’s waves stir up and come crashing down on enemies or alternatively calm them so that the good guys could sail past unharmed. It pretty much meant that Triton could control the sea and is what made him a complete badass essentially.
Dysfunctional Family Life
Triton had lots of children, but most of them were ‘Tritons’ (someone must have spent ages thinking up that super-inventive name) who weren’t really children as such. They were actually a new species of merpeople whose job it was to roam the seas with their own conch shells to do Poseidon’s bidding, presumably when Triton got bored of doing it himself.
His real child though was a daughter called Pallas. He also fostered Zeus’ daughter Athena (the ‘goddess of heroes’), but perhaps he should have thought twice before letting a warrior woman into his family — one day, in a ‘friendly’ battle she accidently killed Pallas and was ‘so grieved’ that she built a statue of her foster sister to try and make up for not having the real one around. I’m sure that was going to work. Or perhaps it was to try and fool Triton into thinking the statue was really Pallas, you know, just hanging around not doing much. Seems like that might have worked too.
Fall of a Star
Triton was obviously heartbroken; we know this because the next time he popped up in the history books it was 1963 where he was given a very minor role in the film Jason And The Argonauts — it appears even being a God doesn’t guarantee you’ll land the lead part anymore!
In fact, in many of Triton’s recent representations he’s been portrayed as a baddie — from comic The New Adventures of Superman to Gameboy game Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Triton showers down a raging flood of waves on his enemies, most likely out of sheer frustration that he’s gone from messenger of the sea to taking bit-parts in B-list books and movie productions.
I wonder what’s next, a guest appearance on Master Chef to show us all how to cook delicious fried salmon?