In Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, when Door and Richard first meet Islington (p. 199):

"This wine," said Islington, "is the last bottle of its kind. I was given a dozen bottles by one of your ancestors."

It handed the glass to Door, and began to pour another

Shortly, we learn it is wine from the age of Atlantis. It's simple enough a phrase that I assumed it was the general form of "ancestors" as in, your people.

Except Richard is the one to defeat the Beast of London within the labyrinth. In classic mythology, Theseus was fathered by Poseidon or Aegeus. Plato included Atlantis under Poseidon's domain. Are these clues connected, and does it mean Richard is descended from Theseus?

I want to add that Richard defeating the Beast was all the more extraordinary given that Hunter was primed as the ultimate warrior (p. 227):

I fought in the sewers beneath New York with the great blind white alligator-king. He was thirty feet long, fat from sewage and fierce in battle.

I fought the bear that stalked the city beneath Berlin. He had killed a thousand men..., but he fell to me.

There was a black tiger in the undercity of Calcutta. A man-eater, brilliant and bitter, the size of a small elephant... I took him with my bare hands.

Challenges that parallel the hero Theseus who defeats Periphetes, Sinis, Phaea, Sciron, Cercyon, and Procrustes during his journey to Athens.

  • 1
    I assumed Islington was referring to Door's ancestors
    – fez
    May 6 at 10:42
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    @fez - I assumed that Islington (a non-human) just means 'by a human from a long time ago'
    – Valorum
    May 6 at 12:02
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    Unlikely on both Door and Richard ancestor's account. For Islington, who is an ancient angel and pretty much a sexless being, every human is ancestor to another one. This is like a huge and ancient tree telling to a dog "I got this from one of your wolf ancestors a thousand years ago". I am pretty certain it took a long time for Islington to even notice the difference between individual humans in the first place, like a human would between individual ants.
    – jo1storm
    May 6 at 15:01
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    If Theseus has descendants down to the time of Neerwhere there are likely to be many millions of them, perhaps billions, and certainly a significant percentage of the total human population. If Richard is more or less a member of hte same race as Theseus would have been that would make his descent from Theseus more probable. Though considering the vast number of descendants Theseus would have, being one of them would not be particularly significant. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… May 6 at 18:24

1 Answer 1


I'm reasonably sure that Islington has no idea how Door or Richard would be related to the ancients of Atlantis and is referring to their common ancestors (e.g. some humans that it once met a long time ago) as having given it the bottles, rather than a specific named ancestor of theirs.

This is much the same way that an American might point at someone English and tell them that how marvellous it is that their ancestor built Stonehenge, despite not having the faintest clue if they're related to a hengebuilder or not. It's simply the balance of probability that there's a shared ancestor somewhere in the family tree.

That all being said, Door is descended from basically royalty. If anyone was to have had a dozen bottles of ancient plonk lying around to hand off to an angel as a bribe several hundred years ago, it would be one of her ancestors.

In short, we just don't know.

  • 1
    It really helps to hear the objective view from others, and what makes sense. Sometimes I see something and can't sleep.
    – 杜興怡
    May 7 at 6:45

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