Art by StarTwo
One of the most wonderful things about folktales is how at times they become fragments of universal tales and mythology from places far from its origins, preserving old wisdom and wonder where science and logic can’t reach.
Today’s tale bares similarities in its themes with Lucius Apuleius’ Metamorphoses in which is included a story regarding the overcoming of obstacles between Psyche and Eros and their union at last in sacred marriage.
So here begins…
Story from Below the Ground
There was a farmer with three daughters and on his way to water a field, he would always hear a voice that said this to him:
“Bring me your daughter!”
The man would return home feeling very sad. His daughters asked what was ailing him and so he told them. The oldest offered herself to go, and that she did, but the voice said she wasn’t the one. The middle one went after and the voice said the same. At last, the youngest of the daughters went herself and immediately a trapdoor appeared on the ground, from which she descended and arrived to a room where she stayed by herself, attended by a servant.
One day, the servant found her very sad and asked what was wrong. She replied that her heart was sensing her mother’s death.
The servant informed his master, and he sent her keys to his treasure so she could get as much money as she liked and go home. He also requested his white horse to be prepared and instructed her to mount it as soon as it gave three knocks with its hoof, otherwise, it wouldn’t wait for her.
The girl went, and her mother had indeed died.
The horse gave one knock, and the girl gave out a big sigh. Then the horse gave two knocks, and she sighed again. Her sisters asked her what was wrong, and she told them. When the third knock was heard, she got on the horse and left.
Sometime after, she was extremely sad again and the servant asked what was wrong. And she replied that her heart was sensing her father’s death.
Just like the first time, she went home, her father was dead, and her sisters asked if she was alright. She said yes, only during the night she would suffer a dreadful nightmare. The sisters told her to place a lit candle inside a pan and cover it with a lid and when she had had the nightmare, she should uncover the pan and look inside.
She did so and glimpsed a man, who told her this:
“Kindness, you had none for you nor for me, my enchantment would end today, and now you have doubled it.”
He dressed her as a boy and said:
“You will go serve the King. Have this ring. When you find yourself in peril, remember the one who bestowed it to you.”
The girl went to the palace to serve, and the Queen was quite pleased with the “lad” because he was beautiful. To cause temptation, she would have him bring water and flowers so he would come inside her chamber, but he would leave everything by the door.
One day, the queen accused him to the King, declaring that the “lad” had tempted her. The King ordered him to be hanged.
The girl had never thought about the ring again, but when the executioner was about to place the noose on her neck, she remembered and right there and then a man dressed in white appeared and asked the King why was the boy going to be hanged.
The King explained. The man, turning to the girl, requested her to come down and enrobed her entirely and said that, as she was a woman, certainly couldn’t tempt another.
The King ordered the Queen to be put to death and wanted to marry the girl, but the bewitched man said no. She had cost him a hefty price, and she was his to marry.
And they did.
And now for an abridged telling of Psyche and Eros tale: By the statement of an Oracle, Psyche, the youngest of three sisters, is taken to a magnificent palace where every night she feels the presence of a mysterious being.
When she begins feeling homesick, she asks her host permission to visit and her sisters advise her to use a Lucerne (an ancient Roman oil lamp) to find out who was spending the nights with her. Unintentionally, this makes Psyche burn Eros who was her mysterious lover who in turn as punishment abandons her. And so, the young lovers suffer until they are finally reunited.
Amazing how a tale written in the 2nd century AD from an Algerian writer, made its way to Portugal and other countries folklore!
Have a wonderful weekend everyone and as always,