Friday, August 12, 2011

Ancient World (Greek Myths): Cupid & Psyche (by M. Charlotte Craft)

Summary of Cupid and Psyche
Many refer to the ancient Greek myth "Cupid and Psyche" as the original “Beauty and the Beast.”  It shares some qualities of the early versions of the fairy tale.   Psyche, the youngest of three sisters, is so stunningly beautiful that men travel from afar to offer her gifts and prayers.   Venus (Aphrodite) feels her own splendor is being challenged though Psyche in no way invites the tributes of her many admirers.  As a result, the Goddess of Beauty and Love send her son, Cupid (Eros), to punish Psyche.  While on that mission, he accidently nicks himself on his own arrow and falls instantly in love with Psyche!   The next day Psyche journeys to Delphi to ask the oracle of Apollo her fate.   She is told to journey to the top of the nearest mountain where she will marry “a creature feared by the gods themselves.”   Psyche obeys the oracle's instructions and climbs the mountain.   Swept away by a gentle Zephyrus, she is taken to a castle of “every imaginable luxury.”   As night descends, the torches sputter out and plunge the room into darkness.   Paralyzed by fear, the young beauty awaits her fate.  To her surprise, she is greeted by a kind voice and a loving embrace.   So begins her life of endless nights with her unseen husband and days of pampering in her exquisite home.   Though Psyche begs to see her true love, he tells her, “I would rather that you love me for what I am, not for what I appear to be.”   She promises not tell her family about him and to accept his wish.  When her sisters come for a visit, they goad her into revealing her life with her husband and convince her to sneak a peak of him since he must be a beast.   Giving into the pressure, Psyche waits until he is asleep and lights a lamp in their chamber.  She is astonished to not see a hideous beast, but instead, the magnificent god of love—Cupid.  He wakes up and flees because of her lack of faith in him and their love.   Psyche goes on a quest to regain Cupid’s love which she eventually succeeds in.

I love Greek myths and history. The story of Cupid and Psyche is no exception. Author M. Charlotte Craft retells the story with much grandeur and eloquence. The illustrations by K.Y. Craft are stunning oil over watercolor paintings with brilliant detail and expressive emotion.   This book is a must experience!

Teaching Opportunities:
·         Comparative Literature:  Compare this story with early “Beauty and the Beast” tales.  How are they similar?  Different?  Are there any similarities to “Cinderella”?
·         History:  Use this story in a unit study of ancient Greek history.
·         Epic Trials:  Discuss why she had to go through the various trials.  What did each one teach or prove?  What are some other stories with similar trials? 
·         Mythology:  Compare the experience in Hades to other descriptions of the Underworld.  Connect it to other stories where a hero or lover had to journey there:  Odysseus, Hercules, Perseus, as well as Orpheus and Eurydice.
·         Poetry:  Compare a famous love poem to this story (such as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43).  How do these characters illustrate or not illustrate the love described in the poem? 
·         Writing:  Compose a love poem inspired by Cupid and Psyche's story.
·         Love:  Study other narratives about love in Greek mythology.  How do the ancient Greeks appear to define love?

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