Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Reclamation of Valentine's Day: Part 5

Don't you love fairy tales?
There's something about opening a book that's filled with mystery, and trials, and the promise of a happy ending that invigorates me. I've slowly amassed a collection of favorite books - illustrated by Gennady Spirin or K. Y. Craft or the inimitable Trina Schart Hyman. These tales radiate with lovely characters and lovely storylines and leave daydreams in your heart.

Like the story of Cupid and Psyche, particularly applicable on a weekend like this.
It's all about how love changes us, and our love changes others, but also about how love conquers all.
If you want the poetic version, go grab Charlotte Craft's rendition (as illustrated by KY Craft). But here's a synopsis of the love of Love:

There once was a king with three beautiful daughters, but the youngest was the fairest, (as is to be expected in stories like these). This youngest and fairest was named Psyche, and she was so lovely that the people of the kingdom began to neglect their worship of Aphrodite.
Now everyone knows that Aphrodite, for all her beauty, is a jealous goddess. And so she sends her mischievous son, Cupid, to prick the delicate princess with his wicked little arrow, and make her fall in love with a hideous monster. But when Cupid arrives to complete his task, he is surprised by the beauty of the maid, and in his surprise, he pricks himself with his own arrow and falls in love.
At the behest of the oracles, Psyche is left on a mountaintop, from whence she is spirited away to a magnificent palace in the skies. There, her every need is met, her every wish granted, except that she is forbidden to see the man who comes to her every night (for he is no mere man, he is a god, and the god of Love, at that). And though she thinks she loves this man, her heart grows troubled. Now, when she pleads to have her sisters come visit, she gets just what she asked for. But upon discovering the lavish life of Psyche, these sisters (as sisters are apt to do in stories like these) are consumed by, well, cupidity. They incite concern in Psyche's mind. They tell her that her lover is no doubt a monster, which is why he hides his face.

That evening, the foolish girl takes a candle to bed and lights it to see the face of her benevolent captor. And he is beautiful. And she loves him.
But the wax falls from the candle and burns his skin. The god awakes, and vanishes into the air.
Distraught, Psyche seeks out Aphrodite, goddess of Love, mother of her lover, and asks her for her help in regaining Cupid's love. Aphrodite, never one to pity, sets forth impossible tasks for Psyche to complete, which she manages, because the very forces of nature, the ants, the river, the winds, decide to help her (as often happens in stories like these.)
Psyche's final task is to venture to the underworld and bring back a coffer of Beauty from Persephone. (Obviously, it's wintertime). After helpful advice on the safest way to cross Styx without dying, Psyche obtains the coffer.
And here is where she shows weakness. Whether it be greed, or doubt, or discontent, she decides to take just a little bit of Beauty for herself, that she may please her lover. But when she opens the coffer, she's overcome with an unwakeable Sleep (as sometimes heightens the suspense in stories like these.)

Serendipitously, Cupid comes upon the sleeping Psyche, and his tears prove to his mother that he loves her.
Psyche is saved, and in her union with Cupid, is granted demi-god status, that they may, indeed, live happily ever after (as always happens in stories like these.)
So, you see, we must not question love. And when we do, we must work to regain it. And when all hope is lost, love will come through. And it will change us, if only so that it will never leave us.

Photos: untitled by Lauren Withrow from flicker, AmorVincitOmnia illuminated, witch from Snow White by Trina Schart Hyman, Cupid from Cupid and Psyche by KY Craft, East of the Sun West of the Moon illustration by PJ Lynch, KY Craft image from Cupid and Psyche, girl running from, Psyche returns from the Underworld, Psyche Revived by Love's Kiss photographed by Siggito 2005, Cupid and Psyche by Francois Pascal Simon Gerard

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is quite possibly my new favourite thing on the internet... I adore the mix of pictures and words, it's just perfect!! I love it all, from the name to the header!! :) WIll definitely be looking back, thanks for the Valentine's thoughtfulness!! xx