Things I'm discovering about Greek Myths. It's not a good thing to be overly curious. Almost always looking in boxes will end up nipping you in the posterior, so try and avoid doing so at all cost. Women often get the short end of the stick (I don't believe men are not curious, too). Don't piss off the gods, because they will make you pay, and pay in some wretched way. And if you ever need to get past Cerberus (the three headed dog guarding the gates of the underworld), bring him a cake. He's a pushover for cake and will let you pass.
All kidding aside, I liked the myth of Cupid and Psyche and must read the version by Apuleius, which is what Edith Hamilton bases her retelling on. Hamilton says "it is a prettily told tale, after the manner of Ovid. The writer is entertained by what he writes; he believes none of it." Obviously it still makes for an entertaining story, and one that ultimately has a happy ending.
Psyche is the youngest daughter of a king and also the most beautiful of the three. As a matter of fact her beauty rivals that of Venus, which of course annoys Venus. Not only is everyone paying attention to Psyche but they're wasting their time on someone who will eventually die, unlike the gods who live forever. She decides to take matters in hand and tells her son, Cupid (also known as Love), to make her fall in love with the vilest creature he can find. What a vengeful goddess. You know what's going to happen, though, right? Cupid becomes enamored by Psyche himself.
However, instead of anyone falling for Psyche, let alone a detestable creature, no one did at all. She looked on as her sisters were married, and her father the king started to get worried. So he went to Apollo to ask his advice, which was to send Psyche off to the top of a mountain where she would be claimed by a husband. This wasn't the good news it sounded like, as she was destined to attract "a fearful winged serpent stronger than the gods themselves". The wind carries her off and she finds herself in front of a beautiful house in a peaceful meadow and it is all meant for her. At night she's visited at night by the husband and lover she dreamed of.
She's forbidden to look upon her husband, so she doesn't know who he is or what he looks for, but he warns her that trouble is coming her way in the form of her two (now very jealous) sisters. Upset with Psyche because she wasn't forthcoming about her husband they tell her that there's a reason she can't see him--he is the serpent she was warned about. Once again curiosity gets the better of poor Psyche. When her husband is sleeping that night she takes a lamp and gazes upon him and discovers he is just as handsome as she had hoped. But she tips the candle accidentally and hot oil burns him. He knows she didn't trust him and flees.
In order to win him back she braves going to Venus and begging her to reunite them. Venus scorns Psyche but agrees to help her if she can complete a series of impossible tasks, like sorting the tiniest of tiny grains in a night, and fetching wool from a group of irascible sheep who won't let anyone near them. Somehow (thanks to the pity of the tiny creatures of the field who lend her a hand) she completes the tasks. Eventually immortality is granted to Psyche, which makes everyone happy, since then Venus can welcome her into the family and there won't be any question of Cupid marrying a lesser being. Besides Psyche will be in heaven and out of Venus's hair, and then she can have the undivided attention of the rest of the men on earth once again.
So this is the watered down version of the myth. It has inspired many an artist in their creations, and I am sure literature must be littered with retellings of the story as well. Thanks to Stefanie for pointing out Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.
Next week more tales of lovers.