Mol (mollyringle) wrote,

Did Persephone love Hades?

It's release day for Persephone's Orchard--hurray! Pick up your copy soon. The ebook will be $0.99, but only for the first two weeks. See: Kobo, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble for a few e-options. I like IndieBound for paperback so you can have it ordered through a local bookstore.

As for the story, I wrote it because, long ago, I had the same question a lot of people have: Did Persephone love Hades?

Several enquiring minds want to know, to judge from the first suggestion on Google's autofill. They've also asked it on Yahoo Answers and Wiki Answers and other forums. I've pondered it ever since reading about Hades' abduction of Persephone in my copy of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths as a kid.

After all, it isn't your usual kidnapping. Ancient accounts of mythology vary on the details of pretty much everything, but they seem to agree, more or less, that Hades sees Persephone, falls in insta-love with her (an arrow from Eros might have something to do with it), lures her in with some pretty flowers, and pulls her down screaming into the Underworld.

But once he has her there, he doesn't act like your ordinary kidnapper and lock her in a closet and abuse her--at least, not as far as we're told. Rather, he marries her, at least in a common law way. He sets her up as his queen, very nearly his equal in power. When Persephone's whereabouts are discovered, and Hermes comes to bring her back above ground, Hades tells her: "Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore."

Not what your typical kidnapper says, right? That's from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, which at roughly the 7th century BC is one of the earliest sources we have. Clearly Hades' insta-love hasn't diminished during the months he's kept her there--and it would seem he remains much more faithful to her throughout history than nearly any other god does for his wife (yeah, I'm looking at you, Zeus). But whether Persephone has begun to feel any Stockholm Syndrome at that early stage, we can't be sure.

We do know that before she leaves, Hades sneakily feeds her a few pomegranate seeds, knowing the food of the Underworld will oblige her to return there. (Again, that's how the Homeric Hymn has it. Other sources say she eats the fruit of her own accord, though perhaps absentmindedly.)

Though Persephone returns gladly to her mother Demeter, she does honor her pomegranate pact and return every year to her husband Hades. That's when Demeter lets the Earth go cold and barren: it explains winter, see? Neat. But the seasonal issue, though rather major in the whole myth, is a sidenote to our love question.

It's clear from other myths that by the time Orpheus, Theseus, Herakles (Hercules), and other heroes brave their adventurous descents (while still alive) to the Underworld, Persephone is the realm's powerful queen, able to bestow or deny momentous supernatural favors. She gained serious authority through that kidnapping, and at the very least she learned to accept and use her new role. She gained worshippers, too: Persephone's descent to the Underworld and acquisition of afterlife-related knowledge is a central part of the Eleusinian Mysteries, an actual religious cult that practiced in Greece for centuries.

So couldn't she have learned to love her husband, too?

Plenty of us have thought it possible, and even likely. This list of books about Hades and Persephone shows how the question has fascinated several of us enough to write whole novels about it. Some go as dark and disturbing as you might expect, exploring all those Stockholm-Syndrome possibilities. Others, like mine, rewrite the relationship to eliminate most of the non-consensual portions but still retain the obstacles of dating or marrying a man whose job requires him to live in the Underworld.

For, if you look at it through the lens of modern book genres, the love story of Persephone and Hades is one of the first paranormal romances of Western civilization. The immortal who owns the Underworld and can show you around it anytime: now there's a figure who's dark and intriguing, and, yes, romantic. At least, I'm strange enough to think so. And so, perhaps, do all those other people asking Google the same question.
Tags: books, love, mythology, persephone's orchard, writing

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