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Myths and Legends - Apuleius

Tale of Cupid and Psyche

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Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Amor (Love). Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) Marble, 1793.

Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Amor (Love). Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) Marble, 1793.

Marie-Lan Nguyen Wikipedia Commons.

Our final example is more akin to what we might think of as a fairy tale. It is the story of Cupid and Psyche, found in the novel, 'Metamorphoses' (a.k.a. 'The Golden Ass') written by the 2nd century AD novelist and rhetorician, Apuleius (Cupid and Psyche).

Once upon a time there was a king with three daughters. They were all beautiful, but by far the most beautiful was the youngest, Psyche. She was so beautiful that people began to neglect the worship of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus was very jealous, and asked her son Cupid (the boy with the arrows) to make Psyche fall in love with a horrible monster. When he saw how beautiful she was, Cupid dropped the arrow meant for her and pricked himself, and fell in love with her.

Despite her great beauty no-one wanted to marry Psyche. Her parents consulted an oracle, and were told that she was destined to marry a monster, and they were to take her to the top of a mountain and leave her there. The west wind took her and wafted her away to a palace, where she was waited on by invisible servants. When night came her new husband visited her, and told her that he would always visit her by night and she must never try to see him.

Although her invisible husband was kind and gentle with her, and the invisible servants attended to her every desire, Psyche grew homesick. She persuaded her husband to allow her sisters to visit her. When they saw how she lived they became very jealous and talked Psyche into peeking at her husband, saying that he was a monster who was fattening her up to be eaten and that her only chance of safety was to kill him. Psyche took a lamp and a knife, but when she saw her beautiful husband, Cupid, she was so surprised she dripped some hot wax onto his shoulder, waking him. He took in the situation at a glance and immediately left Psyche and the magnificent palace she had been living in disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Psyche roamed about looking for her husband, and eventually in desperation approached his mother, Venus. Still angry, the goddess set various tasks for Psyche, all of which she passed, with a bit of help from ants and river gods. At last Cupid found out what was going on, and he persuaded Jupiter to order Venus to stop her persecution of Psyche. Then they were married and lived happily ever after - and it really was ever after since Psyche was made a goddess.

The similarity to modern day fairy stories such as Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella is obvious.

Introduction to Myth

  1. Who's Who In Greek Legend

    What Is Myth? | Myths vs. Legends | Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs Biblos | Creation Stories | Olympian Gods | Olympian Goddesses | Five Ages of Man | Philemon and Baucis | Prometheus | Trojan War | Myths & Religion |

    Collected Myths Retold

    Bulfinch - Retold Tales From Mythology | Kingsley - Retold Tales From Mythology | Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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