The Story of Eurydice
It is with the greatest agony I write to you of this week’s loss, for this is a tale of heartbreak and of lovers separated by the deepest divide: death.
In life, Eurydice, a glorious nymph, was truly something to behold. As much as Ixion’s foul life was defined by his lust, Eurydice’s life was defined by love. Love, specifically, for her husband Orpheus, a son of Apollo.
The two were ever so happy together — he wooed her continually with his beautiful song on the lyre and his stirring poetry.
But alas, a joy cut short, dear reader!
For Orpheus was not the only one captivated by Eurydice’s beauty. One day, as she sunned herself in a quiet field, that foolish shepherd Aristaeus came upon her. She jumped up from fright and ran from him in fear, but he ran to follow her, awed by her radiance. As she ran, a patterned viper leapt from the browning grass and struck her heel.
In that moment, all that youth and beauty was cut short, and death came for Eurydice.
I must warn you here — Eurydice’s death is not the most tragic part of her tale. It would be far less tragic if there were not this brief glimmer of hope that I must offer you.
For after I escorted Eurydice to Hades, after she took her place in those glimmering fields, Orpheus came for her. Orpheus, the son of the sun god, had the favor of the heavens behind him, and he entered the realm below with a single purpose.
All the citizens of the underworld, from Cerberus to Hades himself, heard Orpheus’ plea from his lyre for the life of his love, and were deeply moved — I shed a tear from the entrance of the underworld, silently wishing the best for the husband who was left behind.
Cold and hardened Hades, in fact, was so deeply moved by Orpheus’ pleas that he granted him his wish for his wife, with one condition: while Orpheus escorted Eurydice back to the land of the living, he could not look back at her. If he did, she would be lost to him until the fateful day when I accompany him back to the land of the dead.
If you believe you can see where this story ends, you would be right, reader.
Orpheus, a fool in love, turned to see his bride in the light of the living just a moment too soon. Eurydice slipped back beneath the surface as his eyes met hers, and each was lost in a moment of terrible agony.
Their story is bittersweet, for Orpheus and Eurydice will know one another again one day soon when Orpheus enters the Elysian Fields. Till then, Eurydice will await him in that sweet place, and Orpheus will mourn on earth alone, awaiting the embrace of death.
Eurydice was lost to death, but Orpheus may be lost to a broken heart, and I am stuck somewhere between, waiting to reunite these lovers one day.
Till next week,
God of herds, travelers and hospitality, roads and trade, thievery, cunning, diplomacy, language and writing
Inventor of the lyre
Special Messenger to Zeus
Author's note: This story, like Ixion's, is told in most of its full, original detail. In the original, Eurydice and Orpheus are married, but an oracle foretells that their time together will be short. Indeed, they are not together for long before Eurydice is bitten by a snake as the lustful shepherd Aristaeus chased her through a field, and she quickly succumbed to her injuries. Orpheus was so heartbroken that, on the advice of his father Apollo, he followed his wife down to the underworld and begged Hades for her life back. He agreed, but on the condition that Orpheus did not look back as he led his wife out of the underworld. Orpheus, of course, turned back, and his wife was lost to him. There are varying perspectives on the two's fates from this point on, but I chose to have Hermes believe that the two will be reunited when Orpheus dies one day. I also had Hermes add some emotion and interpretation to some of the characters' feelings (and express his own heartfelt emotions, since this story affects him directly), and appeal directly to the audience on several occasions. This story does show the joys of the Elysian Fields, but also conveys the terrible sadness of the separation that death brings.