Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Orpheus and Eurydice

When we were little, my mother had a set of 4 tapes, on which classic Greek myths were recorded. My brother and I used to listen to those for hours on end. Everytime we got in the car, the tape of Greek myths was played. It was a ritual. As a result of that, I have the Greek gods, demi-gods and some very lucky (or unlucky mortals) ingrained upon my memory.

One of my most memorable stories was the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.

(or-fi-us and yoo-RID-i-see)

Orpheus was the son of Calliope (the muse of epic poetry) and a mortal king. It was said that the music he played on his lyre, along with the songs he sang could make a rock weep with the beauty of it, and everywhere he went creatures would come to hear him play. The most famous of his exploits began on his wedding day.

He was married to Eurydice, the love of his life. He couldn't be happier, and neither could she. On that fateful day, they went to a meadow, where he sat and played his music, watching his lovely wife traipse around, dancing and laughing. In her joy, she never saw the snake that reached up and sank its poisonous jaws into her ankle. She died there, and Orpheus was alone and heartbroken.

Never again did a cheerful song soar forth from his lyre. A happy lyric never again left his lips. He mourned through his music, and the world mourned with him. So sad were he songs that all around him the nymphs and gods wept. When they could no longer stand the grief, they told him to go to the Underworld and beg Hades, lord of the dead and his Queen Persephone to allow Eurydice to come back.

Following their guidance, Orpheus traveled to the Underworld and by his music persuaded Hades to release Eurydice. Hades only had one condition: You may not look upon your wife until you have reached the land of the living, or else she stays forever. Orpheus agreed, and set off up the long dark passage, playing his music softly all the way. He could see the light from the outside world, and could feel a gentle puff of warm air, when he thought he heard somebody stumble. But when he turned to look, the only thing he saw was Eurydice, now slowly retreating back into the darkness, now forever lost to him.

According to some accounts, Orpheus later was ripped to pieces by followers of Dionysus (god of wine) when he scorned their rituals. I prefer to think that he wandered the world, forgetting to eat and drink, only playing his melancholy music until he wasted away. Not as dramatic, and perhaps more depressing, but more romantic.

There is also alternate beginnings and facts; Eurydice was fleeing from Aristaeus, and stumbled on a nest of snakes and Orpheus was the son of Apollo (god of music and healing) and Calliope. However, this is the version I have heard since I was 3, and it's my favorite.

Join me tomorrow for a break down of the Olympians!

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Perhaps if they had some fast cars they could have escaped their fates.....