A large number of the culture of people and the land prospered and gone around the world left only a handful of stories in abundance. Every region has its fairy tale- tragic or fortunate. Whether they are Romeo and Juliet of Verona, Italy, or Salim- Anarkali of India, dire love tales are always more than just life- narration. Whereas the Greeks are the greatest source of such stories to date! The epic tales of heroism, captivating myths of creation, ballads of life and death, and folklore of comedy and reverse are profoundly present in the legacy of the Greeks.
The world drenches upon the tragic love stories, while the one those are complete doesn’t find much fame outside the texts. One such story is of Psyche and Eros- a Greek tale that unlike the rest holds a happy ending. In the tale of Psyche and Eros, we can see the perseverance of a man possessed with love and the efforts of a woman to overcome anything for her lover. It’s a story of beauty, prophecy, tragedy, hardships and obviously love.
Psyche and Eros
Once upon a time, there was a mortal king who had three beautiful daughters. Out of all his daughters, the youngest bore the beauty of that of a Goddess. Her name was Psyche, and she was so beautiful that men from far off would come to witness her beauty. Her beauty was so captivating that people started praising her instead of Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual love and beauty. Her temples were abandoned and people flock around Psyche, made her statues, and worshipped her. All such honor was given to a mere mortal.
This made Aphrodite jealous of Psyche and she asked her son Eros, the God of love to teach Psyche a lesson. She asked him to make Psyche ‘fall in love with the vilest and the most despicable creature that has ever walked on Earth’. Eros agreed to his mother’s request and set out to the mortal world. On the other hand, Psyche’s beauty made her extremely unapproachable. Though men enjoy seeing her beauty, they would go away and marry other girls. No one dared to ask Psyche for marriage. Her sisters who were less beautiful than her were happily married and had a family. Psyche was unhappy, thus her father went to Oracle of Delphi to ask Apollo for his advice. Apollo prophesized a terrible prophecy, he decreed that Psyche dressed in black should be brought to the top of a mountain cliff, where she would marry a terrible winged monster serpent.
Her whole family was devastated upon hearing prophesy, but as it was God’s wish and so they couldn’t ignore it as well. Thus, they dressed Psyche in black as per the custom and left her alone on the mountain top. Psyche was frightened and scared, she was crying in fear all alone. While she was shaking in fear, a slight breeze reached her. It was the fresh wind of Zephyr, the mildest of the winds. The wind was so comfortable that she forgot all her pain and went to sleep. When she woke up she found herself in front of a magnificent castle. It took her above the clouds and placed her in front of a huge Palace. A voice whispered from behind in her ears “your home, go inside”. Psyche without fear walked inside and saw beautiful sculptures, servants, and lots of food. She ate and took a bath; again a voice whispered “your husband awaits you in the room”. When Psyche entered the room, there was no one except just a voice. But soon she felt something touching her. She instantly recognized her husband, but unlike her imagination, this touch was soft and not from a hideous serpent. However, Psyche without any question served her husband. He would always return at night yet Psyche never saw him in person. It was his only wish to never be curious to know how he looks, to which Psyche agreed.
The Curse of Curiosity and Betrayal
But life in the palace was not much good, though she had servants all were invisible just like her husband and thus she felt lonely. Once she asked her husband to invite her sisters for a get-together, to which he agreed but warned her “do not let them influence you. If they do, you will destroy our relationship and suffer a lot”. The next day her sisters arrived; they were bewildered looking at such a splendid life of Psyche. Already jealous of her incredible beauty, the two became even more envious of Psyche. Before leaving they planned to sow the seed of doubt inside Psyche’s mind. They told her that her husband must be hideous just like prophesy that is why he never allows her to look at his face- “Oh, poor Psyche, how can you sleep with such a horrible creature?”
From that day onwards, Psyche couldn’t think of anything else other than her sister’s words. The curse of curiosity consumed her and one night she waited for her husband to fall asleep. When he was asleep, she lit a candle and walked near her husband. In the light, she saw a beautiful man lying next to her instead of an ugly monster. Psyche was confused but also happy on seeing such a handsome man be her husband that in a panic she dropped a drop of candle wax on her husband’s face. He woke up in pain and was shattered by Psyche’s betrayal. He said that love can only happen on trust and if she didn’t trust him there was no love. Hence, he flew away leaving Psyche behind.
At that moment Psyche realized that her husband was indeed the God of love –Eros. It happened so, that when Psyche was tied on the mountain top, Eros went there to shoot her with the ‘arrow of love’ making her fall in love with the winged serpent as per his mother’s command. But witnessing Psyche’s beauty, Eros instantly fell in love with her and decided to marry her for himself. Thus, all this time her husband wasn’t a monster but Eros himself.
Psyche And The Three Dangerous Tasks
Psyche ran after her husband but couldn’t catch him in the dark. But Psyche’s regretful action led her on her tough quest to gaining his husband’s love back. Unaware of her jealousy, Psyche went to Aphrodite and asked for her help to reconcile with Eros. Aphrodite still jealous, gave Psyche three unachievable tasks to complete if she wants to reconcile with Eros. Psyche had no choice but to agree. The first task was to separate dune of different small seeds of wheat, poppies, and millets into individual dunes. This task should be completed by the next day. Psyche couldn’t do it overnight but determined by motivation she hurriedly started separating the seeds. Seeing poor Psyche, a small group of ants decided to help her and by the night the task was completed.
Aphrodite was, of course, not happy thus gave her another dangerous task of filling a bottle from dangerous flowing River Estige of black water. Psyche went to the cliff but couldn’t come closer to the river due to slippery rocks. Only a winged creature could do such a task and indeed an eagle took pity and decided to help her. He took the bottle from Psyche’s hand and gave it back to her with filled water. Happy on completing the task, she went to Aphrodite who was still angry gave her the final task. She gave a box to Psyche and ordered her to go to the underworld and ask Queen Persephone to drain a drop of her beauty into it. This task for a mere mortal was impossible and thus crying Psyche went to the cliff to end her life but at that moment a voice whispered into her ear and told her the direction to Queen Persephone. The voice told her how to evade Charon and Cerberus and enter the realm of the dead. She followed his advice and finally came to the chamber of Persephone. The queen happily gave Psyche for what she came and Psyche went back to Aphrodite. During her journey to the palace, Psyche became curious and wondered to keep some for her. When she opened the box, instead of what she imagined was a deadly slumber. She immediately fell to the ground in deep sleep.
Eros, witnessing all of this overcame his anger and quickly went to rescue Psyche. He asked Zeus to help him aid his beloved wife. Zeus too was impressed by Psyche’s determination and love for Eros and so he gave Psyche the drink ambrosia that would make her immortal. Aphrodite on the other hand was satisfied that as Psyche would now live in Olympus and humans would once again start worshiping her. Psyche and Eros were finally together and once again started living as a family and had a lovely daughter Voluptas, who became the goddess of Pleasure.
The story of Psyche and Eros reminds us how love requires trust and hardships to consummate to its fullest. The tale was later adapted by several poets, artists, and writers. This unusual story in Greek Mythology with a happy ending became the epitome for young lovers and motivation for centuries-old classic love tales.