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Are amputees misrepresented in mythology? What about people with dysfunctional body parts, such as paralysed parts or the like?

Much, of the mythology, I have seen, has figures, with some regular body post replaced by something else. But, so as to thus far, I have not seen any mythological figures with missing body parts (other than perhaps cyclopes, but these do not have missing eyes, just a different eye configuration; likewise we have people with multiple arms, but the multiplicity seems to be never zero).

I would like to know about the existence of mythological figures, with (preferably congenital, or otherwise) amputation-like features (e.g. one or more missing legs, hands, arms, fingers, paralyses, likewise or etcetera). Some with missing teeth are common, any ones with missing teeth that can actually produce good sounds and play a good part in the underlying film (perhaps representing something related to liberalism)? I am looking for both bad and good figures, but a bit fed up of the classical good/bad distinction.

As it stands, symbolism in mythology seems to be able to be taken to represent almost anything one wants, but that's a separate story.

Give them some personality, while they exist. Mythology, with the diversity of its contents, creatures, and figures, can sure / should be able to represent everyone.

And (if these examples don't exist, then why is it so)?

I realise this question may have controversies.

Thank you for your references, and sorry for, "jumping the gun".

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    You mean people like one eyed Odin (norse), one armed Tyr (norse), one armed Nuada (celtic), one eyed Hagen (Germany), one armed Huitzilopochtli (aztec), one armed Min (Egypt... OK this one used 'another' arm), Hephaestos (THE crippled God). Truth is... mythes in their vast representation are the world of crippled people! Take a look at modern myths as "True Grit" Rooster Cogburn is a one-eyed guy!! And most superheroes are victim of watnuts gamma radiation, radioactive-spider, mutation, etc. – Gibet Oct 28 '16 at 9:04
  • I could be totally wrong, but was thinking, if someone has problems of their own, they would probably appreciate a superhero figure, to compensate. Einstein said, do not worry about your problems, I can assure you that mine are much greater. The truth is that we all have them. Living in problem-masking hypocrisy or unawareness is probably counterproductive. – Jack Maddington Oct 28 '16 at 12:20
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    @Gibet aside from the commentary in the body of the question, per the actual question in the title, I think your answer (Odin, Hephaestos, etc.) is 100% correct. You should post as an actual answer! – DukeZhou Oct 28 '16 at 17:42
  • @Gibet I'll second DukeZhou's request. The examples you've given is the perfect answer to this question (though I'd say that the "vast representation" [sic] of gods are disabled in some way. Still, the ones you list should be sufficient. – C. M. Weimer Dec 11 '16 at 19:57
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The beloved Immortal Li Tieguai is a prime example. Has a physical disability, but is considered a formidable warrior--there are even martial arts forms said to originate from him which utilize a crutch. Very popular. A defender of the downtrodden.


Hephaestus is another prime example of an exceedingly skilled god with a disability from Western mythology.

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    He said paralysis-like features as well, so the two I posted qualify. – DukeZhou Oct 28 '16 at 23:20
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Well, there's Procrustes, who effectively created amputees by alternately stretching them or cutting off their legs in order to make them a certain size so that they fit exactly the length of his iron bed.

Pelops, a grandson of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, had a special prosthesis – a shoulder made of ivory. Pelops was brought back to life after suffering a gruesome death. (For more information: http://www.healio.com/orthotics-prosthetics/news/print/o-and-p-news/%7B9921898b-179e-4cfc-9d72-513376cbc293%7D/history-proves-that-some-revered-gods-and-goddesses-were-also-amputees)

Paralysis features? Medusa granted paralysis, to her victims, lol. Specifically the titan Atlas, eventually, if you were looking for examples.

I'm sure there are more, but you must understand, this is a very broad question you're asking...

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One lesser known but quite interesting amputation myth is the Old Norse myth of Aurvandill the Bold, as told in Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda:

“Thor […] had waded from the north over Icy Stream and had borne Aurvandill in a basket on his back from the north out of Jötunheim. And […] one of Aurvandill’s toes had stuck out of the basket, and became frozen; wherefore Thor broke it off and cast it up into the heavens, and made thereof the star called Aurvandill’s Toe.” (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurvandil)

The star is also known in Old English as Éarendel (mentioned in Cynewulfs poem Crist I, which inspired Tolkien to write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), and probably also in Gothic as Auzandil (as mentioned in the Gotica Bononiensia, if P. A. Kerkhof’s reading is correct). Both names are probable cognates of the Old Norse Aurvandill, but in these two cases only the star is mentioned without referring to the amputation story.

A similar amputation story does exist though, but without referring to a star, as told about Thorstein in the Þorsteins þáttr bæjarmagns. In this story, it is Thorstein himself (a hero with close similarities to the god Thor in other myths) who crosses an ice cold river and has to cut off his own frost-bitten toe afterwards.

In Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, Horwendillus (the father of the Danish prince Amlethus — in post-Shakespearean times better known as Hamlet), isn’t an amputee himself. However, during a fight on an island he cuts of the foot of his enemy, the Norse king Collerus.

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There are actually a lot of amputees in mythology. Aztec trickster god Tezcatlipoca has one foot, as does his Mayan counterpart Hurakan. There is a whole chapter about one-footed and other “crippled” sages in the Daoist sacred text the Zhuangzi. There are two one handed deities I can think of offhand (no pun intended!), Nuada of the Silver Hand (his prosthetic) of the Celts, and Tyr of the Norse.

In European alchemical imagery, the god Saturn is depicted with a peg-leg (Saturn often has a disfigured leg in various world mythologies, perhaps to explain why the planet appears to move so slowly in the sky). There are the Sciapods (aka Monopods), in European lore - a race of humanoids with one leg with a very large foot which they often use as umbrellas while lying on their backs (possibly related to psychedelic mushrooms).

The Amazon warriors are said to amputate one breast so as to better wield a bow (which makes no sense, but that’s the lore). These are the main ones, there are a bunch more (notably, from what I’ve discovered, in Meso-America, Ireland, India, and China), some pretty obscure. I’m an above knee amputee and mythology buff, this is an area I’ve actually done a fair amount of research into.

There is a book by scholar Carlo Ginzburg, Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath, that has a fantastic chapter on amputees in mythology.

Oh, and don’t forget The Fisher King (aka Grail King) of Arthurian lore, who has a wound in his thigh that won’t heal. There’s a leg-amputee link in some versions.

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  • Oh, and don’t forget The Fisher King (aka Grail King) of Arthurian lore, who has a wound in his thigh that won’t heal. There’s a leg-amputee link in some versions. – Greg Carden Jun 24 at 19:54
  • Hello and welcome to Mythology and Folklore! Very clear written and interesting answer, I hope to see more of your contributions here! I added your comment to your answer and spaced the text a little bit to improve readability. comments can be subject to removal and this way its in the answer itself. – Tom Sol Jun 25 at 18:43

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