124. Orpheus and Eurydice

Once upon a time, Orpheus, son of King Oeagrus of Thrace and the Muse Calliope, married the nymph Eurydice. Hymen attended the wedding but gave no good omens and swiftly left. The foreboding signs were less terrible than the event, which took place after the wedding. The happy bride Eurydice, along with joyful Naiads, was wandering on the grass, when a slithering serpent pierced her delicate ankle with its poisonous fang. Eurydice died.

Orpheus mourned and he decided to implore Pluto, the ruler of the dark underworld, to allow his dear Eurydice to come back to the upper world. Hence, he passed through the Taenarian gate, crossed the murky River Styx, wandered amidst glimmering phantoms, until he found Pluto seated on his throne along with Persephone.

Striking his sweet lyre, Orpheus mournfully sang his sorrowful song, which touched all present including Pluto and Persephone. They allowed Eurydice to ascend with Orpheus, but on one condition that while going up, if Orpheus ever turned his eyes to look at Eurydice, then Eurydice would again fall back to Hades.

Silently, Orpheus ascended a steep and dark path, trusting that his beloved Eurydice was behind him. After a long arduous climb, when he was just about to reach the surface of the earth, he became fearful of losing her and anxious for a glance, he turned his eyes to look at Eurydice, who instantly slipped away. The despairing Orpheus extended his arms to rescue her, but the falling Eurydice uttered, “Farewell” and died a second time.

By this double death of his beloved wife, Orpheus became senseless. Then he again descended and begged the ferryman, to help him cross the Styx, but he was refused. For seven days, in utter grief, Orpheus remained nourished only by his sorrowful tears, until at last, he wandered back to Thrace. Several women loved Orpheus but he shunned them all, as he still loved only Eurydice.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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