Bob Dylan And More Mythology Part I

By Larry Fyffe

Diana (Artemis) is the mythological Goddess of the Moon, and the Hunt; the cypress tree and the deer are sacred to her; she has a gentle side and a dark side – turns a Peeping Tom into a stag, and his own hounds tear him apart. The goddess who carries a bow and quiver of arrows is the offspring of Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) and Leto, a Titan. Diana’s the twin sister of Apollo, the Olympian God of the Sun and Music.

To the modern Romantic poets, she represents independence and freedom imagined to exist in the countryside as contrasted to the prison-like life of the city:

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild-deer, following the roe
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go
(Robert Burns: My Heart's In The Highlands)

Singer/songwriter Bob Dylan humorously messes with the ancient mythology:

Well, my heart's in the Highland, gentle and fair
Honeysuckle blooming in the wildwood air
Bluebells blazing where the Aberdeen waters flow
Well, my heart's in the Highland
I'm gonna go there when I feel good enough to go ....
Well, my heart's in the Highland with the horses and hounds
Way up in the border country, far from the the towns
With the twang of the arrow, and a snap of the bow
My heart's in the Highland
Can't see any other way to go
(Bob Dylan: Highland)

In the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, there be Giants as well as Titans and Olympians. Related to the Giants be the invulnerable twin brothers Otus and Ephialtes; in one version thereof, they draw lots to determine which Olympian goddess they’ll chase down. Though the loser is upset, it’s after the virgin Diana they go. She transforms herself into a pretty female deer, and the brothers kill themselves with one another’s spears that they throw at the animal; the milk-white hind jumps quickly out of the way.

The following song has some re-routed roots that nevertheless trail all the way back to the Otus/Ephialtes/Diana mythological tale above:

My pretty baby, she's looking around
She's wearing a multi-thousand dollar gown
Tweedle-Dee is a lowdown, sorry old man
Tweedle -Dum he'll stab you where you stand
"I've had enough of your company"
Said Tweedle Dum to Tweedle Dee
(Bob Dylan: Tweedle Dee Tweedle Dum)

Likewise, the following song lyrics can be interpreted as a further reworking of the same myth; it involves a father and his son instead of twin brothers, and a black nightingale instead of a white deer. The ancient mythologies themselves get all mixed up together over time; for example, Dionysus, God of the Vine, is usually, but not always, considered the son of Zeus, and the mortal princess Semele:

They shaved her head
She was torn between Jupiter and Apollo
A messenger arrived with a black nightingale
I seen her on the stairs, and I couldn't help but follow
Follow her down past the fountain where they lifted her veil
(Bob Dylan: Changing Of The Guards)

The father of the aforementioned twin brothers be the Olympian God of the Sea – Poseidon (Neptune). He’s mentioned in the song lyrics below; Nero’s a Roman emperor:

Praise be to Nero's Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody's shouting, "Which side are you on?"
(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)

Don’t expect Bob Dylan to straighten matters out for you.

What else is on the site?

We have a very lively discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook with over 3400 active members.  (Try imagining a place where it is always safe and warm).  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page of this site.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to all the 598 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.

If you are interested in Dylan’s work from a particular year or era, your best place to start is Bob Dylan year by year.

On the other hand if you would like to write for this website, or indeed have an idea for a series of articles that the regular writers might want to have a go at, please do drop a line with details of your idea, or if you prefer, a whole article to Tony@schools.co.uk

And please do note our friends at  The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, plus links back to our reviews (which we do appreciate).

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3 Responses to Bob Dylan And More Mythology Part I

  1. jastour 2010 says:

    Larry, thank you for your narration about Titans and Olympians in mythology. I didn’t read the story about the twins Otus and Ephialtes and Diana. I just know she is the goddess of hunting. Thank you for choosing these great uploads!

  2. Bob Batten says:

    As a traditional musician, (violin, guitar, mandolin, banjo etc) and someone who catches the magic of a Dylan concert live anytime possible, I’d like more knowledge about how and why he chose specific chord progressions and reworking of lyrics. I love to hear backstories of meetings that led to songs. Thanks mate!-Bob in Sacramento,CA

  3. TonyAttwood says:

    Oh Bob, so would I

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