Gomphocarpus physocarpus is a species of “Milkweed”, also known as the Swan plant. In the movie Alien: Covenant, David places it on Elizabeth Shaw’s grave as an offering. Further analysis of this scene has revealed some interesting facts that may hold symbolic meaning and shows us what became of her.
The “Swan” plant serves as a symbol of David’s deceit. In an earlier version of Paradise Lost Prologue, David feigns remorse and successfully deceives Elizabeth by appealing to her forgiving nature and seducing her. Upon reaching Planet 4 David snaps her neck, and once dead, he uses her body to perfect his creation.
Part of this symbolic representation is depicted in one of the many drawings of Shaw, a particular piece by Michelangelo titled Leda and the Swan shares aesthetic similarities to David’s illustration.
In Greek Mythology, Zeus had raped both Nemesis and Leda, although it is unclear who bore his children.
Some say that Zeus once fell in love with Nemesis, and pursued her over the earth and through the sea. Though she constantly changed her shape, he violated her at last by adopting the form of the swan, and from that egg she laid came Helen, the cause of the Trojan War.
-Robert Graves, The Greek Myths
According to later Greek mythology, Leda laid 2 eggs one set produced Helen and Polydeuces (children of Zeus), and the other Castor and Clytemnestra(children of her husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta).
In the movie, we are presented with two sets of David’s children, Ledward’s Backburster, Hallet’s Mouthburster and Oram’s Chestburster and Lope’s Chestburster.
The alien also successfully boards the ship in Lope, using him like a Trojan horse.
In other versions of the Greek myth, Helen is a daughter of the goddess Nemesis, she is the personified disaster that awaits those suffering from the pride of Hubris, which is a strong theme throughout the Alien movies, but especially in the prequels.
The egg-shaped pods of the lantern hold many seeds, relevance lies in its method of reproduction, some variations of the genus require the pollen of other plants to reproduce. In the movie Prometheus, we find out from Shaw that she couldn’t have children. It took David’s intervention to make fertility possible, the result of lovemaking with Charlie Holloway who was infected with the Plagiarus praeportens, also known as the Chemical A0-3959X.91 – 15. Resulted in a Xenomorphic entity, the Trilobite. In Alien: Covenant David uses Shaw’s eggs to create the Xenomorph.
The relative of the Green Lantern is the Red Lantern, in Japanese culture this pod is used during the Obon Festival. Obon is a shortened form of Ullambana, Sanskrit for “hanging upside down,” implying great suffering. Offering the lantern is believed to help ferry the soul to the spirit world.
The Isle of the Dead
The garden David created for Elizabeth takes the form of Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead version 3, this piece has been reproduced many times, even once by the great H.R.Giger himself. Although recreated, in the movie, it is missing one vital part of the painting, Charon the ferryman who ushers the souls of the dead to the spirit world. Therefore, this display of David’s holds symbolic meaning in its absence.
Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901) produced several different versions of the painting. All versions depict an oarsman and a standing white-clad figure in a small boat crossing an expanse of dark water towards a rocky island. In the boat is an object usually taken to be a coffin. The white-clad figure is often taken to be Charon the ferryman of Hades, and the water believed to the Acheron.
LV-426 is the moon the Nostromo lands on in Alien. It was later renamed to Acheron in the year 2157 when the colony of Hadley’s Hope is established. Shaw’s suffering is also represented here, for its also known as the River of Pain.
*See Efilism in Alien for the relevance of suffering.
This plant also secretes a milk-like sap containing cardiac glycosides. It is poisonous to cattle and humans, and when ingested in small amounts may cause vomiting. But when ingested in large amounts can cause death.
Could this be the method David used to kill her?
The Green Lantern is also food to the caterpillars of monarch butterflies, they lay their eggs on the plant and remain unharmed by the poisonous sap. Once the caterpillar chrysalises and turns into a butterfly, the poison remains in their system, serving as a defence mechanism. The Plagiarus praepotens also known as the black liquid is deposited by Manumala noxhydria also known as the Facehugger, uses the human body as a source of nutrition/food as it eats itself out of the host.
Some other genera of Lantern are used in medicine as sedatives, Facehuggers have similar properties when attaching to the host, sedating them but keeping them alive.
The symbol of rebirth shown by the butterfly has been mentioned in Alien: Resurrection by Dr Gediman. The Newborn he described as a beautiful butterfly, emerging from the cloned Queen Xenomorph’s womb. The word Monarch is also another word for Queen.
*special thanks to Fassymioamor for providing the picture of Shaw’s grave, you can follow their blog on Tumblr for great Alien: Covenant gifs.