"Which story do you find most intriguing in Greek Mythology?"My answer is entirely subjective and may not even qualify since we hear the story first in the Latin Metamorphoses (or Golden Ass) of Apuleius.
Most tales from mythology involve manly heroes, but this tale involves a more feminine development. Her motives are understandable, she gets what she deserves, but then gets a chance to atone, Jungians have analyzed it in ways I find intriguing, and the story has a "they lived happily ever after" ending.
The story has parallels in the world's folklore, including the familiar western story of "Beauty and the Beast" and a tale from the Arabian Nights where the heroine has brothers instead of sisters. Most of the other versions involve magic rather than gods.
Psyche is a beautiful princess whose adoring public is beginning to worship her, in preference to the jealous love goddess Aphrodite/Venus (traces of the tale of Snow White). A pestilence falls on the land that will only lift if Psyche is left abandoned on a hill top. She agrees to be the sacrificial victim, but Eros/Amor/Cupid, son of Aphrodite/Venus, sees and rescues her, taking her to his palace. There Psyche can have pretty much whatever she wants, except visible, living companions.
Psyche's "husband", Eros/Amor/Cupid, (in an hieros gamos 'holy/sacred marriage') comes to her each night. They talk, but she can't see him.
In time, Psyche asks to see her family to assure them she is alive. (Remember: Psyche was abandoned on a hill.) Reluctantly Eros/Amor/Cupid agrees. Psyche sees her sisters, who are envious and persuade her that the only reason her husband won't let her see him is that he is a hideous monster or snake. They scare her into lighting a candle by which to see him. As she looks on her absolutely gorgeous husband, she drops some of the wax. Eros/Amor/Cupid awakens and disappears, imprisoned by his disapproving mother. In order to get Eros/Amor/Cupid back, Psyche has to accomplish 4 impossible tasks her mother-in-law sets for her.
Psyche accomplishes 3 of the tasks without too much problem because she gets the help she deserves from creatures of nature. Jungian Marie-Louise von Franz interprets the seeds Psyche must sort as aspects of the collective unconscious and the helper as being a kind of faith or loyalty (pistis). But the 4th labor is to bring a beauty ointment from the Underworld to Aphrodite/Venus. While going to the Underworld is possible for the truly heroic, and Psyche appears to count among their number, resisting the urge to become as beautiful as the goddess of beauty is a temptation Psyche cannot resist. When she opens the box, she falls into a deep sleep. The other gods intervene, Psyche is awakened and resurrected as a goddess properly married to Eros/Amor/Cupid.
C.S. Lewis retold this story, in Till We Have Faces, from the perspective of the sisters who is dutiful rather than evil.
The story of Cupid and Psyche is intriguing in that it can be re-told in so many different ways. It has four trials, instead of the probably masculine trinity, and Psyche accomplishes her goals without killing anything. It is a story of personal development, but best of all, I enjoy its fairy-tale ending. Eros/Amor/Cupid and Psyche become the divine parents of Voluptas, Delight.
Greek Mythology FAQ Index
- How many trips did Hercules (Heracles) make to the Underworld?
- Which is the most intriguing story in Greek mythology?
- Which god or goddess do you find most important in our everyday life?
- What is myth?
- What's the name of a monster who is half man and half beast?
- What are the names for the four winds (gods)?
- What are Psyche's 4 tasks?