The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: April 25th, 2000

Helios, Elios, Eriosu, and Greek Pronunciation

By: Ian Andreas Miller

The spelling of the name of the young man who visits Chibiusa in the Sailor Moon SuperS season of the anime and the Dream section of the manga has been debated for quite some time now. The Japanese Katakana spells this character's name as "eriosu" and many people write the name as "Elios." Other people write the name as "Helios." Many people insist that the former spelling is correct because Takeuchi, the creator of the Sailor Moon, spells it that way. I intend to explain which spelling would be the most acceptable in English.

First of all, it shouldn't be forgotten that many of the characters' names from the Sailor Moon series are Greek in origin. Sailor Mnemosyne and Sailor Lethe both have Greek words in their names, and the very name Elysium also comes from Greek. It's interesting to note that Takeuchi writes the name Mnemosyne as "munemoshune" in Japanese instead of "nimoshini." This word in Greek means "memory" and in mythological terms, it also refers to the goddess named Mnemosyne. She also writes the name Lethe as "rete" instead of "reshi." This word in Greek means "oblivion" and in mythological terms, it also refers to the river Lethe in Hades' realm. The name Elysium is written as "eryushion" in Japanese instead of "erishiumu." The Japanese spelling "eryushion" is an approximation of the Greek name "Elu'sion." The reason for these seemingly unusual spellings is that Takeuchi is trying to approximate the original Greek pronunciations of these words. The Greeks don't pronounce these words the same way English-speaking people do.

In Greek, the word for sun is "e'lios." This is also the spelling of the name for the deity of the sun, Helios. There is no letter in the Greek alphabet that is the same as the English letter "H." Somewhere in the history of the English language, somebody wrote the name "E'lios" with the letters "Helios." In one system of transcribing Greek words into Latin letters, when the acute accent is written above the vowel, the Latin letter "H" is often written before the vowel. This acute accent represents a high or rising pitch and doesn't necessarily change the pronunciation of the letter it's associated with. That system isn't universally employed and an example of it not being used is in the case of the name of the Greek god of war, Ares. His name is spelled as "Ares" in Latin letters and not "Hares" even though the "a" in the name is associated with the acute accent. The "e" in the word "e'lios" is still pronounced as an "e," but with a slightly different pitch. Takeuchi, when she writes the name of her character, is going by the pronunciation of the original Greek word "e'lios." Though the Japanese and the original Greek say "Elios," and that's technically correct, the most acceptable way to write the name in English is "Helios." No book about Greek mythology written in the English language would write the name of the sun god "Helios" as "Elios."

For those who are interested in the pronunciation of the ancient Greek language, I recommend this site:

Comments on this article can be sent to: Ian Andreas Miller.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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