I was reading the story of Cupid and Psyche yesterday for a project that I was working on. Cupid (or Eros) is the son of Venus (Aphrodite). Psyche is the beautiful child born to mortals and so mesmerises the world with her beauty that men forget to pray to Mighty Aphrodite. Venus is naturally enraged and sends her son Cupid to aim his arrow on Psyche so that she falls in love with the ugliest, vilest man on earth. Cupid, being a naughty little chap, just falls in love with Psyche himself. Several mishaps later, the two are separated. Psyche turns to a jealous Venus for help. Venus engineers impossible tests for Psyche to carry out in order to win back Cupid. Finally Cupid, sick of his mother’s tests, appeals to Apollo, his dad, to intervene on Psyche’s behalf. Apollo gives Psyche the gift of immortality and makes her a goddess. Now Venus, ever the conniver, favors Cupid’s love for Psyche, now that she’s become a god, and can no longer distract men from worshipping Venus.
Among the tests Psyche has to do: separating a bag of mixed seeds into individual piles overnight; shearing golden wool from vicious sheep, go to the underworld and bring back some of Persephone’s beauty in a box. I think the tests were utterly worthless, and proved Psyche’s tenacity more than anything else.
But what do you think would’ve happened if Psyche had decided the tests were not worth it? That Cupid and his stupid mom didn’t deserve her love? Would this story not have got written?
I think it would still have been written, a completely different version, maybe. With a different, maybe more bitter and brittle Psyche. The power of good literature is to draw us in. A true hero or heroine convinces us why her version of the story is believable. We would have still loved a broken Psyche because she would’ve given us a front seat into her particular anguish. we would’ve empathized with her on her refusal to be demeaned by the gods.
Instead we have the Greek and Roman myths we have now. And a different, tenacious heroine, very believable and very relatable.
Image: From Wikimedia← Back