In Part 1, we learn that men traveled from far and wide to admire the grace and beauty of Psyche, an astonishingly attractive mortal woman. In despair over the fact that his daughter did not fall in love and was not loved by any mortal man, Psyche’s father goes to Apollo’s oracle, who predicts that Psyche will marry a fearful winged serpent. At the close of Part 1, we find Psyche living with her immortal husband in a place of abundance and beauty. Her husband’s sole request is that Psyche not gaze upon him when he lies beside her each night.
A Tearful Homecoming
When Psyche saw her two sisters, with tears of grief in their eyes, standing at the summit where she had been carried away by the wind, she went to them with joy in her heart. To comfort their sorrow and uncertainty, she described her beautiful home and told them of her marriage. Yet, feelings of anxiety and mistrust arose within her as she heard her sisters tell of how the oracle described her husband as a winged serpent whose appearance was appalling to the human eye. Doubts began to overshadow her husband’s declarations of love as her sisters questioned why she had never seen her husband and asked why she had only been with him in darkness. Eventually, terror filled her heart with the belief that she was to be devoured by her husband in the dark of night. Psyche’s sisters persuaded her to see her husband for the monster they thought him to be and to kill him so that she might live.
Betrayal, Regret, and Recompense
Soon afterward, within the darkness of her home, Psyche stood beside her sleeping husband with a lighted candle in one hand and a knife in another. As she held the candle high above him, rapture filled her heart as she saw that her husband was not a hideous serpent, but rather the strikingly beautiful god of love, Cupid. As she bent to be closer to her husband, a drop of hot wax fell upon Cupid’s shoulder and wakened him. When he saw his wife standing above him, his belief that she had been unfaithful caused him to flee their home, crying, “Love cannot live where there is no trust.”
Psyche, torn by her failure to trust the god of love, set out alone on a journey to find him. She was determined to make herself so lovely that he would fall in love with her once more. After a long, futile search, she reasoned that Cupid had gone to his mother’s home and so too did she to meet with Venus, the goddess of love. She stood before the goddess and pleaded with her to help her reunite with her husband. To demonstrate her worthiness to reunite with Cupid, an immortal being, the scheming Venus set out four tasks for Psyche to accomplish, tasks so challenging that no mortal could accomplish them alone.
Psyche, with the assistance of ants, a reed, and an eagle, completed three of the four tasks: sorting out a huge pile of seeds, filling a flask from the river Styx, and retrieving the Golden Fleece. The final task, returning from the Land of the Dead with a box containing some of Proserpine’s beauty, was accomplished with the help of Cupid himself after he left his mother’s home. And thus, this love story ends with Cupid and Psyche being officially married and living happily ever after among the gods and goddesses of Olympus.