After several years, the queen bore her second daughter, and she was named Amara. The king and queen said, "She shall be eternally beautiful for all her days, and time will not mar the grace of her body or her countenance." And as she grew it was determined to be true: with each year of her life she grew more beautiful still.
Finally, the third princess was born, and she was named Psyche. The king and queen said, "She shall be the true form of Beauty, as a cooling breath of air upon the mind and soul." And as she grew it was determined to be true: her beauty far outshone that of her sisters, and she was looked upon as Beauty incarnate, daring even to be compared to Venus herself.
Now it came to pass that the three sisters grew older and came of marrying age. The lovely Antheia was given to a lord who was as wealthy in years as in gold, and the gray of his hair withered his wife. Like a flower, her beauty faded quickly and left her, but she was happy in her foreign home with her old but doting husband and her shining castle.
Amara, too, was given into a royal marriage by her parents, but her husband - a king, no less! - cared only for her outward beauty, and married her because he knew she would be beautiful forever, and she became like a decorative doll upon her queenly throne. Her face showed nary a mark of the passage of time, but her heart grew sad and weary.
At last, Psyche was given up into marriage - but rather than a marriage, it was a funeral. A mysterious prophecy was delivered on a scroll to the king and queen, which decreed that she must be offered up to a marriage that would be her death, or the fate of the world should suffer. So, tearfully, Amara and Antheia clung to her until they were drug from her side atop the mountaintop where the ritual was to take place, and they went down and saw her no more.
Antheia went back, saddened to her loving husband, whose kindness saw her through the darkness of her loss.
But Amara's husband was furious, raging about the way her tears left her eyes puffy and red, and how the wrenching of her face as she cried detracted from beauty. Why else was she here, he wanted to know, if not to content him with the pleasure of enjoying her lovely face? So, he announced, he would spend the evening instead with his mistress, who was far more cheerful and not as given to fits of unseemly emotion. And so Amara stole away in the night to let flow her tears at the site of her sister's sacrifice.
But Psyche had deceived them. She was not dead, but had contrived the prophecy herself to rid herself of the family whose lesser beauty was below her. She had allowed them to grieve her loss, but all the while she had married herself to a god - and Cupid, the god of love himself, no less! - and was living quite happily in a golden castle with invisible servants to tend her every whim. Yet, she lied to her sweet husband, that adorable winged god, and betrayed his trust time and again.
When Amara came to the mountaintop, she was met by Zephyr, Cupids faithful servant who takes the form of the wind. Zephyr explained to her in deep concern the sad state of affairs which his master unknowingly suffered - a shallow but beautiful wife who stirred up trouble between he and his mother and denied his few requests.
Amara was deeply injured, and wept anew, but this time out of rage. So Psyche did live up to her name, after all: she was a cooling breath of air, which put out the loving flames in the hearts of her family and doused the trust in her husband's mind. Furious and heartbroken at her sister's treachery, desperate not to return to the prison of her husband's home, Amara threw herself off the mountaintop, hoping to end her life.
But, gently, Zephyr caught her in his winds and delivered her to the gate of Cupid's palace.
"Do not toss aside your life so easily, beautiful princess. You may yet know happiness," he told her. "Even now, I have sent one of my breezes to tell Juno of your husband's infidelity. As the goddess of marriage, she surely shall not let him see another day. And as of your sister, Psyche, let us together tell Cupid of her deceit, and she shall receive the reward which she deserves."
So Zephyr and Amara flew together to Cupid's palace, and told him of his wife's deceit. Saddened, he told them he would love Psyche no matter her flaws, as she had pricked him in his sleep with his own arrow. Still, he felt gratitude to them for hoping to guard his heart, and so he granted between Zephyr and Amara a deep love.
And so Amara and Zephyr were married, and he carries her eternal beauty across the skies in his strong winds, and at last they both knew happiness.
This story is a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche. I have changed much of the original, in which Psyche is the heroine and Cupid the hero. In the original version, Venus is jealous of Psyche's beauty and tells Cupid to make a terrible man fall in love with her so she will be miserable. Psyche is sacrificed, as in this, but at the decree of an oracle. Rather than dying, however, Cupid whisks her away and makes her his wife, but she is not allowed to see his face or know his identity. Against his urging, she reveals herself as alive to her two sisters, but they are treacherous and convince her to betray Cupid's trust in her. When all is revealed, Venus puts Psyche through a series of tests, and she is eventually made into a deity. Psyche also tricks the two elder sisters into killing themselves. So, as you can see, this story is much different. I thought it would be interesting to see it through the eyes of one of the sisters, who are (in the original) both married to very old, rich men and are very unhappy, and who are made to believe their sister is dead for a time. I got the ideas for/the meanings of the names of the three sisters here and here.
Bibliography. "Cupid and Psyche" from Apuleius's The Golden Ass, translated by Tony Kline. Web Source.
|"Psyche Showing her Sisters her Gifts from Cupid" by Jean Honore Fragonard|