Whoosh! Issue 52 - January 2001


By Nusi P. Dekker
Content copyright ©2001 held by author
Whoosh! edition copyright ©2001 held by Whoosh!
6296 words


Who is Xena's Father? A Controversy Revisited


I knew I should have had the missus sign that pre-nup!

Atrius? Ares? Xena's dad or not? All these questions and more started in TIES THAT BIND.

[01] Back in the early days of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS (XWP), when the problems of the show were so easily solved by defeating the local warlord or dealing with the giant in the next valley, the particulars of Xena's pedigree was not given a second thought. Then with the airing of the episode TIES THAT BIND (20/120), a seed of speculation was planted in viewer's minds. What if Ares really was Xena's father? It could explain her super-human abilities, her peer-like relationships with the gods, and her constant struggle between good and evil. A number of WHOOSH papers were written on the subject, culminating after the airing of THE FURIES (47/301). [Note 01]

[02] Since that time, the character of Ares became, well, more odious as the third season wore on. He was instrumental in the creation of The Rift between Xena and Gabrielle, and was directly responsible for Gabrielle sacrificing herself to save Xena. Many fans wanted to forget about Ares or the possibility that he was Xena's father.

[03] Xena was portrayed during the fifth season as being incredibly self-centered, arrogant, disdainful of her still-loyal friend Gabrielle, and turning her back to working for the greater good. It is no wonder that long-time fans started wondering if the Ares genes had started kicking in. It was no secret that Xena was starting to resemble Ares in the magnitude of her killing quotient. Then ETERNAL BONDS (103/513) aired, blowing apart that notion like a bomb, leaving confusion and controversy in its wake. The Powers That Be (TPTB) created this controversy. Will they ever let us in on the secret of who really is Xena's father? Or will they keep going with the currently written Xena and Ares, so alike that it is as if they were really meant to be partners in love as well as in war?

Evidence Favoring Xena's Divine Ancestry

Xena as Hero

[04] It is the established canon of XWP that Xena was initially defined as a Hero, as emphasized in the opening credits preceding each episode. Aside from Hercules, a demigod as well as a hero [Note 02], the Greeks considered their overwhelmingly male heroes to be the progeny of various Olympian gods. Perseus was the son of Zeus, Theseus and Bellorophon were sons of Poseidon, and the great warrior Meleager was said to be a son of Ares because of his superior combat skills. Even the blond and blue-eyed Alexander the Great, who bore no resemblance to his swarthy father Philip, was purported to be a son of Zeus. So, if XWP were to remain faithful to established Greek myth and legend, Xena's status as a Hero would without a doubt consign her to be the child of a god.

Xena's Demigod-Like Powers

[05] One of the features of XWP is the premise that Xena possesses super abilities that are constantly tested but never surpassed by various similarly talented mortals. The ability to catch an arrow in flight before it hits its target has been demonstrated by other "ordinary" humans (for example, Draco, in SINS OF THE PAST (01/101); Najara, in CRUSADER (76/408); and even Gabrielle, who caught an arrow on her staff in DEATH MASK (23/123)). However, Xena can catch two arrows at once (as demonstrated in CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), THE EXECUTION (41/217), and MOTHERHOOD (112/522)), can catch an arrow with her teeth (THE EXECUTION), and has demonstrated the ability to throw said arrows back at her opponent with enough force to kill (as she did to Artemis in MOTHERHOOD; however, that particular skill may have been given to her by Eli's god).

[06] Xena's super gravity-defying leaps (the more notable ones being: her swing-armed jump from the middle of a water-filled moat to the roof of a castle several stories high in THE DEBT I (52/306); the infamous bounce off a tree branch to a ship hundreds of yards out to sea in LOST MARINER (45/221); and the casual backwards somersault to a second-floor balcony from across an entire town square in DEVI (82/414)) have also been matched, albeit to a lesser extent, by Callisto's backward somersault onto the back of her horse in RETURN OF CALLISTO (29/205), Cyane's Amazon tree-top running in ADVENTURES IN THE SIN TRADE II (70/402), Najara's somersault into the fray in CRUSADER, and finally Gabrielle's amazing pole-vault through a high window (the sill being at least 12 feet up) and ensuing flight through the air to land in a lake a good 100 feet away in GABRIELLE'S HOPE (51/305).

[07] Other mortals in the Xenaverse have demonstrated powers considered to be super-human or god-like, such as Lao Ma, with her ability to levitate herself and others as well as possessing psychokinetic powers (which break vases and throw Xena against the wall), in THE DEBT II (53/307). These powers seemed to elude Xena except at strategic times, once when she destroyed Ming Tien's castle at the climax of THE DEBT, and once again in BACK IN THE BOTTLE (57/507), where she not only was able to channel Lao Ma's powers to create a protective force field around herself, but was able to slaughter 100,000 soldiers, horses, and anything else bearing the brand of the Green Dragon, using only the power of her mind. Lao Ma never abused her power, and fortunately, Xena lost hers after the mass stoning. Could a god or super-being have sired mortals like Lao Ma? Anything is possible. However, the ambiguous paternity of these other mortals were never the subject of an episode as was Xena's, in THE FURIES.

[08] Xena's mother, Cyrene, had always been depicted as an average peasant woman, short of stature, and with minimal defensive skills. Cyrene's husband, identified as Atrius in the episode TIES THAT BIND (20/120), was depicted in XWP canon as having been a mercenary soldier or perhaps even minor warlord who was gone from home most of the time waging war in the name of Ares. [Note 03] Xena's only memories of him were that he used to lift her up on his horse with him when she was very small, and that he abruptly left the family when Xena was still quite young. [Note 04] Cyrene later recounted that she killed her husband to prevent him from sacrificing the little girl Xena to Ares. [Note 05] The other children of Atrius and Cyrene, Toris [Note 06] and Lyceus, [Note 07] were competent with swords but certainly did not come close to Xena's warrior capabilities and demigod-like powers.

Xena's Special Weapon

Special 'Hit Your Friend Upside the Head' Edition

Xena's old-style chakram, before the new and improved model.

[09] All of the gods and demigods had a special weapon that was unique to them and was a source of power for them. Zeus had his thunderbolts, Poseidon had his trident, Artemis had arrows, Hephaestus had an axe, and Athena and Ares carried special swords. Even Hercules, besides his super-strength, used a club. For Xena, it is her super chakram.

[10] The origin of the chakram was revealed in the appropriately named fifth-season episode, CHAKRAM (92/502). Evidently, Ares stole the original chakram, then called the Chakram of Darkness, from a neighboring war god, Kal, and bestowed the gift unto Xena sometime after the death of Borias, perhaps at the time of the alleged Battle of Corinth. Details of this event have not yet been revealed to the viewer [Note 08], but speculation is based on its absence at the beginning of the Battle of Corinth [Note 09] and its presence and use in the HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS (HTLJ) episode WARRIOR PRINCESS (H09/109), which aired before the series XWP was even in existence. In the alternate universe HTLJ episode ARMAGEDDON NOW (H72-73/214-215), Xena the Conqueror was using the chakram at the time Callisto's village was destroyed by her army. It would seem as though Ares waited until a specific time in Xena's life when she had reached the maturity to handle the weapon correctly to give her the chakram, albeit anonymously, since there is no indication that he revealed his corporeal self to her at that time. [Note 10]

[11] In CHAKRAM, Xena obtained a new and improved version, a combination of the Chakram of Darkness, and the "Chakram of Light". While the old chakram served Xena well, it could also be controlled by others, and was twice used against Xena by her enemies. First, when thrown by Alti in BETWEEN THE LINES (83/415), the chakram cut her throat. Second, when thrown by Callisto in IDES OF MARCH (89/421), the chakram severed her spine, breaking the hard metal chakram in two. The new version seems to have an almost sentient ability to avoid injuring Xena's daughter Eve, even when thrown straight at her head, as Xena did in the desert scene in MOTHERHOOD. The chakram inexplicably split in two, inches from Eve's head, then each half circled around her head in an arc, deflected two incoming spears aimed at her head from the opposite direction, then reattached into one piece on the other side. When Eve is aware of the chakram coming at her, she catches it, or is able to use her inherited lightening reflexes to otherwise deflect it.

[12] Likewise, the chakram also evidently cannot hurt Xena herself (although in the sixth-season episode THE RING (120/608), an amnesiac and ring-cursed Xena, forgetting what the chakram is, cuts her hand with it). It is as if the chakram is specifically programmed to protect Xena and her immediate family, while anyone else, including Gabrielle (as seen in MOTHERHOOD, where Xena throws the chakram at Gabrielle's head and in contrast to the Eve chakram experience, it hits dead on), is fair game. This protection was amply demonstrated in MOTHERHOOD and was later extended to Ares, especially in the final act of the sixth season premiere COMING HOME (113/601). Why only Ares and not Gabrielle, unless it is because, like Eve, Ares is a direct blood relation to Xena?

Contenders for the Father Role: Zeus, Hades, or Ares?


[13] Zeus, the head of the Olympic pantheon, had a reputation for having sexual liaisons with many mortal women. He had the power to morph himself into the shape of any human or animal that he desired. In addition to being the father of Ares, Hephaestus, Hermes, Dionysis (Bacchus), Athena and twins Apollo and Artemis, Zeus is also purported to be the father of several well-known heroes and demigods, including Hercules and Perseus. Myth also states that Helen of Troy was a daughter of Zeus (but not her fraternal twin sister Clytemnestra) because a mere mortal man could not have sired her incredible beauty. However, if Xena were the daughter of Zeus, then Hercules and Ares would be her brothers. Since the Hercules/Ares sibling relationship is established canon on HTLJ, then Xena's sexual relationships with both men would have been, without a doubt, too incestuous.


[14] When looking at seasons 1-4 of XWP, the idea of Hades being Xena's father does not seem too far-fetched, especially in light of the excellent article by Margaret Matthews which appeared in the September 1998 issue of WHOOSH. Xena and Hades certainly had a "family-esque" relationship in that Hades always treated Xena with the utmost respect. He listened to her and treated her as he would a little brother or sister. Hades sought Xena's help in saving his sister, Celeste, in DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109). Xena returned the favor later by retrieving his stolen helmet of invisibility, in MORTAL BELOVED (16/116). Hades is also the brother of Zeus, meaning that he is the uncle of Ares and Hercules. Xena would be a cousin of Hercules and Ares, far enough apart in the gene pool to not be a cause for concern.

[15] However, several things go against the idea of Hades being Xena's father. One is that according to myth and the canon of HTLJ, Hades had a sexual relationship with only one woman, and that was Persephone, daughter of Demeter. [Note 11] There is no evidence at all that Hades could morph into the shapes of mortal men or that he had any desire to sleep with their wives. Furthermore, Hades had no children, with gods or otherwise. In the fifth season, a different actor played Hades and any kind of family feeling that had been established between Xena and Hades in the previous seasons had completely disappeared. Xena was looked upon as a stranger who was working for a foreign god and threatening his life. Also, following the new characterizations of the fifth season, Xena had lost all of the affection she had for Hades in those previous seasons. In the end, without displaying any recognition of their past relationship, she burned him to death.


What now, caped crusader?

Ares had different fashion style in early episodes like TIES THAT BIND.

[16] Ares, of course, was the most obvious choice until his sudden character change in mid-fifth season. Before the fifth season, based on clues that were present in the episodes TIES THAT BIND (20/120), THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210), and especially THE FURIES (47/301), which will be described below, the idea of Ares being Xena's father would have been easy to promote. Additionally, quotes taken from interviews in the Official Xena Warrior Princess magazine lend credence to this theory. K. Stoddard Hayes, in Issue #11 (pg. 28) observes that "Xena is the only mortal who can sense the presence of Ares when he is not visible." Logic would dictate that this is possible only because Xena is related to Ares in some way, and their shared genetic material allows Xena to have this special sense regarding only Ares, and no other gods.

[17] Another revealing quote is by Kevin Smith, also in Issue #11 (pg. 24): "The weirdest thing about this is that when Xena comes back into the world after coming to [from her 25-year hibernation in LIVIA (110/520)], she discovers that Ares is having a thing with her daughter. And I suddenly thought, 'Oh my God, that's three generations of the Xena family!'" This can only mean that Smith himself believes that Ares did at one time have a sexual relationship with Cyrene, albeit probably a one-nighter, while disguised as Cyrene's husband Atrius.

Ares as Father (seasons 1-4)

—Ares' Introduction in THE RECKONING (06/106)

[18] Ares revealed himself to Xena for the first time while Xena was in chains, blamed for murders that he had committed. This is from the transcript (from WHOOSH):

Ares: You're probably wondering who I am.

Xena: No, I know who you are — Ares, god of war.

Ares: Very good. I should have known you'd figure it out. Who else could outfight your sword? Behold — your former mentor, and still greatest fan — at your service.

Xena: I used to wonder what you look like.

[19] Since Ares takes full credit here for mentoring Xena and receives a subtle form of acknowledgement from her, the question is why would she have listened to and followed the teachings of an unseen entity, which brings up a strange deja vu of the fifth season? How could such a strong independent personality such as Xena respond so easily to Ares' manipulations unless she was descended from him, when she obviously had no such respect for any other man, much less a higher authority?

[20] What follows in the episode is a scene of seduction. Ares in a fantasy world of his creation tries to ply Xena with all of the riches, decadence, and power that she once had a taste of as a warlord, while the corporeal Xena is in the midst of being tortured. The scene is sexual in essence, as Ares tries to seduce Xena back to the world of absolute power over others, and return as his follower. But nothing sexual actually occurs, as Xena soundly rejects his proposals by outsmarting him at his own game. Before this, the only other person known to be able to outsmart Ares was his brother Hercules, which only reinforces the notion of Ares and Xena sharing a "family" bond.

—Playing Daddy in TIES THAT BIND (20/120)

[21] In this episode, Ares proved that he had the same morphing abilities of Zeus by disguising himself as Xena's long-lost father, Atrius. His disguise worked so well that he spent almost no effort convincing the normally wary Xena with his deception. He played off Xena's vague childhood memories and apparent desire for a father figure. He almost succeeded in his ulterior motive, which was to turn her back into the evil warlord she once was. When Xena finally realized that her beloved father was in fact Ares in disguise, this exchange transpired (from the WHOOSH transcription):

Xena: Give up on me, Ares. I'm never coming back.

Ares: I know what's in your heart. That's why I play the part of Atrius so well.

Xena: You're not my father.

Ares: What is a father, Xena: a man who guides you, who teaches you to live your life? I did it all for you and I'll never let you go.

[22] Xena's denial of her parentage was delivered with an edge of defiance, as if deep down, she wondered if Ares could be her real father after all. The episode ended on an ambiguous tone with Xena proclaiming to Gabrielle that it did not matter what family one was born into, what really mattered was the new family that you built to make your life more fulfilling. This conversation proved to be a successful distraction away from the Ares-as-father concept for the moment.

—Shared DNA in THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210)?

[23] THE XENA SCROLLS, a 1940's era tale which depicted a possible timeline for the descendants of Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer, takes place at the site of Ares' "tomb", the premise being that a direct descendant of Xena is the only one who can free Ares from his imprisonment. Clues supporting the idea of shared DNA between Xena and Ares are revealed in some of the dialog (from the WHOOSH transcript):

Janice (after first entering Ares' "tomb"): Legend has it — Xena and Ares were bonded by some deep bond.

[24] Later, as the re-animated Ares tries his persuasive skills on "Xena" to get her to help him escape to the outside world:

Ares: Ah — heir apparent. It's time, Melinda. Release me — and I will regain all my powers — my godhood! Ares: Oh — I'm in your blood. You know you can't fight me.

[25] This could be interpreted as Xena sharing certain traits with Ares, because they share DNA. There is no other explanation as to why only Xena, of all the mortals in the world, would have the ability to restore Ares' full powers. There was a slight sexual suggestion between Ares and Xena, as Ares again tried to sweet-talk Xena into compliance of his wishes, which was to be free to create more mayhem in the outside world. But that was squashed as Xena trapped him yet again.

—Convincing THE FURIES (47/301)

Whoa!  These blow-up dolls get more lifelike every year!

Posers aplenty in THE FURIES.

[26] This major episode explored the possibility of Ares as Xena's father. Even maddened as she was, Xena was able to gather a significant amount of circumstantial evidence to prove to the Furies that she was indeed a daughter of Ares. Key exchanges in the episode that led to Xena's exoneration are as follows (from the WHOOSH transcript):

Gabrielle: The legends say that — Ares takes the form of his warriors — and he visits their wives while they're away at battle.

Cyrene: The night Xena was conceived, my husband came home unexpectedly from war.

[27] Earlier:

Xena: Tell me mother. When you and Daddy were rolling around like a pair of crazed weasels, was it good?

Cyrene: Your father was away at war. Suddenly, one night, he was there with me. And yes, it was good!

[28] Ares did not deny that he slept with Cyrene in any part of the dialog. Cyrene would have no knowledge if it was Atrius (which is an assumption in itself since Cyrene never mentioned the name of her husband in this episode) or Ares in disguise, her only memory being that it was unexpected and unusually good sex that night, which it must have been, if she could still remember an event that occurred some 20-odd years ago. Finally, Xena challenged Ares to a fight that ended in a draw, proving to the Furies the validity of Xena's claim. After all, besides the other gods, the only other individual who could fight Ares to a draw was Hercules.

Ares sputtered out a weak defense to the Furies: You're not buying any of this. I am not the father.

[29] Why could he not say, I am not Xena's father, and leave no doubt in anyone's minds? Perhaps by saying not the father, he essentially did not have to lie to the Furies. They took that denial at face value. Ares did not dispute the decision of the Furies, and certainly did not seem at all displeased that he lost his case.

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