The Accidental Birth of Demogorgon

C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

“Before leaving Statius I cannot forbear adding a paragraph(which the incurious are invited to skip) on a mere curiosity. In the fourth Book of the Thebaid he alludes to a deity he will not name-‘the sovereign of the threefold world ‘ (516). The same anonymous power is probably meant in Lucan’s Pharsalia (vi, 744) where the witch, conjuring a reluctant ghost back into the corpse, threatens it with Him

quo numquam terra vocato
Non concussa tremit, qui Gorgona cernit apertam.

Lactantius in his commentary on the Thebaid says that Statius ‘ means δημιουργόν, the god whose name it is unlawful to know’. This is plain sailing: the demiurge (workman) being the Creator in the Timaeus. But there are two variants in the manuscripts; one is demogorgona, the other demogorgon. From the latter of these corruptions later ages evolved a completely new deity, Demogorgon, who was to enjoy a distinguished literary career in Boccaccio’ s Genealogy of the Gods, in Spenser, in Milton, and in Shelley. This is perhaps the only time a scribal blunder underwent an apotheosis.”

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