Mythology Monday: The Trials of Psyche Part 1

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Cinderella wept, because she too would have liked to go to the dance with them. She begged her stepmother to allow her to go.

“You, Cinderella?” she said. “You, all covered with dust and dirt, and you want to go to the festival?. You have neither clothes nor shoes, and yet you want to dance!”

However, because Cinderella kept asking, the stepmother finally said, “I have scattered a bowl of lentils into the ashes for you. If you can pick them out again in two hours, then you may go with us.”

The girl went through the back door into the garden, and called out, “You tame pigeons, you turtledoves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to gather:

The good ones go into the pot,
The bad ones go into your crop.”
Two white pigeons came in through the kitchen window, and then the turtledoves, and finally all the birds beneath the sky came whirring and swarming in, and lit around the ashes. The pigeons nodded their heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick. And the others also began to pick, pick, pick, pick. They gathered all the good grains into the bowl. Hardly one hour had passed before they were finished, and they all flew out again.
The girl took the bowl to her stepmother, and was happy, thinking that now she would be allowed to go to the festival with them.

But the stepmother said, “No, Cinderella, you have no clothes, and you don’t know how to dance. Everyone would only laugh at you.”

Cinderella began to cry, and then the stepmother said, “You may go if you are able to pick two bowls of lentils out of the ashes for me in one hour,” thinking to herself, “She will never be able to do that.”

The girl went through the back door into the garden, and called out, “You tame pigeons, you turtledoves, and all you birds beneath the sky, come and help me to gather:

The good ones go into the pot,
The bad ones go into your crop.”
Two white pigeons came in through the kitchen window, and then the turtledoves, and finally all the birds beneath the sky came whirring and swarming in, and lit around the ashes. The pigeons nodded their heads and began to pick, pick, pick, pick. And the others also began to pick, pick, pick, pick. They gathered all the good grains into the bowls. Before a half hour had passed they were finished, and they all flew out again.
The girl took the bowls to her stepmother, and was happy, thinking that now she would be allowed to go to the festival with them.

*Source: Cinderella by the Brother’s Grimm.*

~@~

Before I begin, I just need to say how much I love this set of myths. Psyche gets trials that are every bit as difficult as the heroes who have come before her. She faces challenges on par with Hercules, Jason, Perseus and Odysseus. She gets helped by gods, but so did all the other heroes. Cupid and Psyche have inspired almost as many retellings as Persephone. Since her myth is so involved, I’m breaking her trials up into three blogs and doing one Monday, Wednesday, and Friday instead of my usual Mythology Monday, Way back Wednesday (I’ll be posting book covers with retellings for each blog instead) and For Real Friday. I couldn’t resist a For Real Friday last week, but I think I can manage this week.

Without further ado…

Psyche begged Venus for help to find her husband, but Venus (I’m going with Roman names this round) was not all that kind to Psyche. Venus put Psyche through a series of trials to prove her worth. The trials kicked off with a gang initiation style beating at the hands of Venus’ gal pals, Worry and Sadness. When the beating was done, Venus mocked the pregnant, injured woman by calling her marriage a sham. Venus would have probably stuck around to insult Psyche some more, but she was running late for a party/wedding feast, so in true Evil Step Mother fashion, Venus threw down a bunch of seeds (specifically mixed wheat, barley, poppyseed, chickpeas, lentils, and beans) and demanded that Psyche sort them into separate heaps by dawn, when she expects to return.

Cinderella Psyche felt depressed by the  impossible task, but set to work diligently. In another disney princess moment, an ant took pity on Giselle Psyche and assembled an army of insects to sort the different seeds. When Venus came back from the party and saw the task was accomplished, she threw Psyche a crust of bread and took a well earned nap.

What? Partying is hard.

Refreshed from her nap, Venus told Psyche to cross a river a gather golden wool from a pack of angry sheep on the opposite bank. These sheep of course belonged to Helios, who isn’t too keen on sharing. I don’t blame him. The sheer (haha) number of myths that involved sheering his sheep is kind of ridiculous. Exhausted by the constant flow of heroes trying to snatch his wool, he set them up with a defense system. When I said angry sheep, I didn’t just mean they bleeted angrily and rammed the heroes with their fluffy sheep heads. No, these were like, man eating, super powered, angry sheep.

Psyche was so daunted by the murderous sheep that she was seriously considering drowning herself to get out of the task until she saw a bunch of briars near the sheep and got an idea. Instead of taking the wool off the violent sheep, she gathered the wool from the prickly bushes.

Unimpressed by Psyche’s ingenuity (possibly because Psyche got the idea from a talking reed but that really depends on the myth) Venus gave Psyche a crystal vase (or jar depending on the myth) for her next task. Collect the black water that spewed from the place the Styx and the Cocytus merge. But more about that Wednesday.

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One thought on “Mythology Monday: The Trials of Psyche Part 1

  1. Pingback: Psyche Master Post | Kaitlin Bevis

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