In Search of Cupid and Psyche: Myth and Legend in Children's Literature


CUPID AND PSYCHE < --------> MYTHIC ELEMENTS


CHARACTERS

SUPERNATURAL HELPERS

PLACES

OBJECTS

PLOTS, SUBPLOTS




These mythic elements--characters, supernatural helpers, settings, objects, plots--find their way into fairytale, folktale and fiction, traversing a broad range of cultural and historical settings.

Characters

Three daughters/sisters:

Characteristics:

Two disingenuous, "evil-minded," "hateful vampires," p. 111; duplicitous, envious, usually confederated against the third.

 

Youngest Daughter:

Characteristics:

Stainless daughter of matchless beauty (sacrifice of, loving, questing) (described in C&P as "innocent" p. 110; "servile", p. 116; simple-minded, p. 129); tends to be wandering or abducted heroine; may include Pandora episode frequently associated with pregnancy.

 

Invisible Husband/Monster husband/Questionable Husband:

Characteristics:

"Beast", p. 131; "snake", p. 131; "eat you alive", p. 131; "fiendish reptile," p. 115; "poisonous snake," p. 115.

This is a husband of contradictory elements: see the ambiguous oracle, the sisters’ descriptions, Venus’s tirade, discussions of the goddesses; However, in Psyche’s nocturnal pleasures and in her stolen perceptions, different aspects emerge. Perhaps Cupid is a coincidentia oppositorum symbol: a symbol of the paradoxical union of contradictory characteristics. To be seen in folktale in simplified forms (e.g. Beast and Bluebeard)

 

Terrible Mother:

Characteristics:

 Vengeful, irrational, jealous, implacable, whether as mother, step-mother, queen, witch, goddess). Mozart’s Queen of the Night is such a figure lifted directly from German folklore.

 

Invisible/Kindly/Supernatural Helpers:

Characteristics:

In traditional literature, whether mythic or romantic, these tend to manifest supernatural or otherworldly traits; while they sometimes seem to personify the natural world, perhaps they imply the sweetness or benevolence of earthly life; sometimes they suggest transcendental or atemporal realities, perhaps invoking the ideal world, or perhaps the illusoriness of worldly suffering. 

In realistic or naturalistic fiction (mimetic literature), invisible/kindly/supernatural helpers tend to be merely quaint, folksy, menial, very old, foreign, even handicapped; they seem to be emphatically non-modern, anti-historical, vehicles of traditional wisdom. Like their counterparts in myth and romance, they also seem to imply either the sweetness of earthly life or the proximity of the timeless.

Jungian mythological critics (see E. Neumann) tend to interpret both types of Mysterious helper as representations of psychological elements involved in the process of individuation or maturation, both on conscious and unconscious levels.

    1. Friendly West wind (p. 102); Zephyrus in fanciful figuration; a natural element of transition to a better place.
    2. Pan. (p. 119)
    3. Various invisible others: these include "invisible hands" (p. 103); "invisible choir" (p. 103); "invisible servants" (p. 104); "invisible slaves" (p. 108); "invisible attendants" (p. 109); "Providence" (p. 135)
    4. Natural Helpers:
      1. Kindly river (p. 119)
      2. Ants (p. 133)
      3. ‘kindly’ reed (p. 134)
      4. Eagle (p. 136)
      5. Tower (p. 137)

 

Mysterious, Menacing or Neutral Supernatural Beings

Characteristics:

 

Opposite of the above: natural, supernatural elements that cannot be implored to help, will not render assistance, may be dangerous, deadly, fatal.

Three unhelpful goddesses: Ceres (p. 127), Juno (p. 128), Venus, Old Habit (p. 131), Anxiety and Grief (p.132), Golden sheep (p. 134), "Illusions"—Three weaving women (p. 138), Lame man with lame ass (p. 139), Putrid corpse (p. 138-139), Charon (p. 140), Cerberus, the three-headed dog (p. 140), Proserpine (p. 139), gossipy sea-gull (p. 123), Mercury (p. 130-131), Jupiter (p. 141)

 

Mythic Places

Characteristics:

Places distinguished by the presence of a god, goddess or supernatural entity.

  1. "Royal palace" (p. 102)
  2. "dry [bank] on the flowery turf" (where Psyche meets Pan) (p. 119)
  3. Temple on the Hill (p. 126)
  4. Temple in the Valley (p. 127)
  5. Venus’ household (p. 132--)
  6. Bank of a stream with fruit bushes (p. 134)
  7. Summit of high mountain with water fall (p. 135)
  8. Tower (p. 137)
  9. Lacedaemon (p. 137)
  10. Underworld of Tartarus (p. 137--)
  11. Styx (p. 138)
  12. Shore of Styx (p. 138)
  13. Palace of Pluto (p. 139)
  14. Daylight road upon which Pysche swoons (p. 140)
  15. Celestial Theatre (p. 141)

     

Objects

Characteristics:
Magical, these cause or oppose benevolent ends by means not subject to scientific or logical explanation:
  • Pile of mixed seeds (p. 132)
  • Water jar (p. 135)
  • Irresistible box (p. 137)
  • Two pieces of barley bread (p. 137-138)
  • Two coins (p. 138-139)

 

Plots, Subplots, Events, Motifs

Characteristics:

Draws upon ancient, religious, authorized, sources and tends to be repeated, ritualistically

  • Tale of Questionable Husband/Marriage of Death
  • Tale of Kind and Unkind Sisters
  • Tale of Wandering Hero
  • Harrowing of Underworld (see ground myths)
  • Pandora’s Box Tale (see ground myths - pandora)
  • Tale of Implacable Mother
  • Motif of Sacrifice/Self-Sacrifice
  • Motif of Divine Intervention
  • Motif of Supernatural Helpers
  • Motif of Impossible Tasks
  • Motif of Feast of the Gods
  • Motif of Violated Taboo

 

 

 

 


APULEIUS QUESTIONS 1

APULEIUS QUESTIONS 2

READINGS FOR CHAPTER ONE

READINGS FOR CHAPTER TWO

COURSE OUTLINE

SEMESTER OUTLINE