Cupid and Psyche

Cupid and Psyche (also Amor or Eros and Psyche) is old Greek myth, first written by Apuleius in second century, although the story is probably much older (at least sculptures are). I find this myth interesting because we can recognize patterns of at least two popular fairy tales in it.

Let’s look at the summary of Cupid and Psyche!

We have to start with Aphrodite (in Roman mythology Venus). She was the most beautiful goddess, so we should not be surprised to find out she is the goddess of beauty, pleasure, sexuality, fertility and so on.

the birth of venus painting

The Birth of Venus (Aphrodite) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The problems started when Psyche, a princess but mere mortal became so beautiful people started worship her as Aphrodite. Well, Aphrodite (Venus) became jealous and sent her son Eros (Cupid) to shoot her with his magic arrow so she would fall in love with the most ugly man. We can note Aphrodite herself was married with the most ugly god (Hephaistus)…

Things further complicated when Cupid saw Psyche asleep. He hesitated, she woke up and he incidentally scratches himself, so he is the one who felt in love – with Psyche of course.

cupid and psyche

Cupid and Psyche by Francois-Edouard Picot

Nothing happened then, but not much later Psyche’s parents started worrying why nobody proposed their beautiful daughter. They went to oracle and they were told Psyche should be taken on a cliff.

They do that and Psyche is carried through the air to mysterious castle where invisible helpers made everything to make her happy.

So far we can recognize elements of Snow White (jealous mother can’t stand somebody else is more beautiful than her, she sends somebody who actually doesn’t do the job to punish her competition, young girl has to leave her home and is exposed to great danger) but also Sleeping Beauty (sleep is very important in this myth, we”l find it again and there are also invisible servants like in older versions of Sleeping Beauty, where the prince visited the girl and took advantage of her condition, what finally leads to confrontation with his jealous mother).

O.K., let’s get back to Psyche in magic castle. She enjoys the situation, especially thanks to mysterious lover who visits her only by night. She never sees him. In her sleep she makes a contact with her sisters who are jealous (surprise, surprise – don’t forget Greece is home of drama) and talk her to look at her husband when he is asleep.

psyche looking at cupid

Psyche looking at Cupid, tapestry by Charles Vignes

Psyche discovers she is sleeping with a god but hurts him with hot oil from the lamp. He goes away and she has to return home. But Psyche is a fighter, so she starts searching for her lover and after many dangers finds him and at the end she becomes a goddess too, so happily ever after really means what it says.

As we can notice this second part with castle, mysterious servants and especially lover who should not be looked at, is very similar to Beauty and the Beast where we can find jealous sisters with wicked intentions too.

I hope my ‘Cupid and Psyche’ summary (we can find many versions on the Web) is presented well enough and you could also see the patterns of several popular fairy tales in the story about Cupid and Psyche.

eros and psyche by roeber

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