The Fate of the Sun in From Hell

From Hell by Alan Moore (writer) and Eddie Campbell (artist) is a graphic novel account of the Jack the Ripper murders based upon extensive research along with fictionalized elements such as the identity of Jack of the Ripper.

While William Gull, royal physician and freemason who is depicted as the murderer, shows carriage driver, John Netley, London’s landmarks to expose their mystical significance, Gull notes, “…when this world and its sisters shall at last be swallowed by a Father Sun grown red and bloated as a leech” (Moore, 4, 25).

When Gull places the murder of the women in terms of a necessity to maintain a world system of patriarchal order, the murders take on a sacrificial, divine power. This scene in From Hell is taking place in 1888. Would they have known about red giants at this time? With the wealth of information available, you’d think it’d be easy to find the history of red giants, but there’s surprisingly little. We know a lot about what red giants are and current research being done on them, but not the history of the term “red giant.” David Fabricius discovered the first variable star in 1596, which we understand to be the first documentation of a red giant. However, I do not think the term “red giant” existed in the sixteenth century.

The Hertzsprung Russell diagram was created around 1910 to classify stars according to magnitude, luminosity, and temperature. I believe the terms for classifying stars as dwarfs and giants came about around the same time as the HR diagram. Even though the term “red giant” did not exist in 1888, the concept may have. As Gull was a doctor, an educated man, it is plausible that he would have had access to scientific information.

I bring in this science history to show, even if Gull did not know about red giants, that Moore placing this connection displays the danger in people, like Gull, attaching facts about nature to the ideologies they create. That the sun will become a red giant is used by Gull as a natural justification for the patriarchal system he wants to maintain. The sisters would be Mercury and Venus, which are closest to the sun, and so would be enveloped by the sun’s expansion first. Venus is also known as Earth’s twin, because it is similar in size and distance from the sun. In Roman mythology, Venus is the goddess of love. The physical destruction of Venus by the sun symbolizes men’s destruction of women. Gull compares the red giant sun to a leech and I thought it was interesting he made this comparison through blood. It seems like the sun is sucking the life force out of the planets in order to grow larger. This comparison can also symbolize the blood of the women Gull murders and so Gull grows in power, and insanity, as he metaphorically feeds off the blood of these women.

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