The story of Persephone

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Persephone. She was very beautiful, with hair the color of golden wheat, and trim ankles (yes, that’s actually in the ancient literature). Persephone spent her days playing with her friends, the nymphs. One day, they were walking when they came across a field of flowers. The flowers were so beautiful that they decided to make garlands out of them. While they were picking the flowers, Persephone had wandered away from the nymphs, and soon they were out of sight.

Suddenly, the ground began to rumble, and Hades, the lord of the underworld, burst out of the top of Mount Enna in a chariot drawn by four black horses.

Aphrodite, the goddess of love, happened to see Hades, and felt a surge of anger. She had held power over all of the gods and goddesses at one time or another, all except for Hades. She didn’t see why he should be able to evade love, so Aphrodite sent her son, Eros, to shoot him with an arrow and cause him to fall in love. Eros went according to his mother’s wishes, and shot Hades just as he was passing Persephone.

As soon as Hades saw Persephone, he instantly became enamored of her. He decided that he wanted to have Persephone as his bride, so he pulled her into his chariot and started to drive away, ignoring her cries and screams. A water nymph who was inhabiting a nearby pond heard Persephone’s cries, and tried to reason with Hades not to take the girl against her will. She tried to convince Hades to woo her, and make her want to be his bride, but Hades would not listen to her. He pulled out his staff and struck the surface of the pond, causing it to crack open, revealing a path to the underworld. Hades pulled Persephone down with him into the abyss. The water nymph was so upset about Persephone’s fate that she literally dissolved into tears.

Persephone’s mother was Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, and it soon came to her attention that Persephone was missing. She spoke to Persephone’s friends, the nymphs, to see if they knew where she had gone, but no one had seen which way she went or what had befallen her. The nymphs were distraught that something had happened to Persephone while she had been with them, and they begged Demeter to let them help her search for her daughter. Demeter turned them all into harpies, creatures that were half woman and half bird, so that they could fly around in search of the missing girl.

Demeter searched the world for her daughter, all in vain. While she searched, she neglected her duties, and all of the plants began to wither and die without her care. This worried Zeus, because he could not get Demeter to take care of the earth, so he began to look for Persephone as well.

Zeus discovered that Hades had taken Persephone into the underworld, so he sent his messenger, Hermes, to summon Hades and tell Hades to return the girl to her mother. Hades appeared before Zeus, but told him that he could not return Persephone, because she had eaten the food in the underworld, and anyone who eats the food in the underworld is not allowed to leave. Persephone had only eaten six pomegranate seeds, so Zeus declared that she must be returned to her mother for half of the year, and that she must spend six month of the year in the Underworld, one month for each seed that she had eaten.

Every year, when Persephone returns to her husband in the underworld, her mother mourns the loss of her daughter. During this time, no plants grow, and this is why we have winter.

Published in: on September 6, 2010 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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