Study Guide

Cephalus and Procris Summary

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How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

  • Cephalus, the hunter, and Procris, the, um, hottie, have an awesome marriage until Eos, the lusty goddess of dawn, swoops down and takes Cephalus to her bed. But things don't go quite as the goddess planned.
  • Eos gets totally sick of Cephalus talking about Procris all the time, so the goddess takes the hunter back to his wife, and starts on plan B: she plants doubts in his mind about his wife's fidelity.
  • Cephalus tests his wife's faithfulness by trying to seduce her while disguised as someone else.
  • After a lot of cajoling and a ton of gifts, Procris kind of sort of almost gives in.
  • It's enough to make Cephalus totally flip out, and Procris runs away to hang out with Artemis for a while in the woods.
  • Eventually, Procris returns to make up with her husband, bringing a couple gifts along with her: a dog that always catches its prey and a spear that never misses.
  • Cephalus takes his wife back, but things go south really fast when a gossip tells Procris that Cephalus is cheating on her. (Ah, how the tables have turned.)
  • She hides in a bush to spy on him when he's hunting, and when Cephalus hears rustling, he hurls the non-missing spear, accidentally killing his wife in the process.
  • Oops.

The Less Short Story

  • Cephalus is an awesome hunter who's married to a pretty lady named Procris.
  • These two are super in love and everything is great, until… yeah, there's always an "until," isn't there?
  • Eos, the lusty the goddess of dawn, spots Cephalus out on the hunt. She just can't keep her rosy fingers off the tasty mortal, so she swoops down on her golden wings to make him hers.
  • Cephalus pleads with her: "Please, no! I love my wife!"
  • Eos couldn't care less about what he says, though, and flies him away to the Gates of Dawn.
  • Some versions will tell you that Cephalus stays totally true to Procris the whole time he's imprisoned by Eos. Others, not so much. In the not-staying-true versions, Cephalus eventually gives in to the goddess's intoxicating charms, and the two even have some kids together.
  • Even in the versions where Cephalus has sex with Eos, though, he never stops talking about how his true love is his wife, Procris.
  • We wonder if Procris would be comforted by that fact. We're guessing no.
  • In every version, Eos eventually gets sick of Cephalus talking about his wife all the time.
  • The dawn goddess snaps: "Fine, go back to her, but she's been cheating on you this whole time anyway."
  • "No way!" says Cephalus.
  • "Yes way," Eos replies. "And I'll prove it to you."
  • So Eos gives Cephalus a disguise and tells him to go try to seduce his unsuspecting wife, dressed as another dude.
  • Procris at first totally resists the strange man who shows up at her house, trying to get frisky.
  • Eventually, though, the "stranger" starts heaping tons of amazing presents on her, and she has a moment of hesitation where she seems to almost consider giving him what he wants.
  • That's enough for Procris, who rips off his disguise and says, "Aha! I caught you!" Or something like that.
  • Procris is super ashamed and runs off into the woods, where she joins up with Artemis's pack of wild nymphs for a while.
  • After she's had enough of the woodland life, Procris comes back to Cephalus to try to get back together.
  • To charm her hunter husband, Procris brings two sweet gifts given to her by Artemis:
  • Gift #1: Laelaps, a hunting dog who always catches his prey.
  • Gift #2: a spear, or javelin, that always hits its target.
  • Cephalus thinks these gifts are awesome, and he takes his wife back.
  • That was easy.
  • Things go along pretty well for the reunited couple for a while.
  • Things don't go so well for Laelaps the dog, though. It's cool being a dog who always catches his prey, yes, but not when a fox comes around who is destined to never be caught.
  • Cephalus sics Laelaps on the fox, but Zeus looks down and decides he doesn't want to watch the two creatures chase each other forever.
  • So… he turns them into stone. Zeus: problem-solver extraordinaire.
  • Eventually, Cephalus and Procris's marriage gets rocky again when some gossip tells Procris that Cephalus is cheating on her.
  • Ovid will tell you that the busybody hears Cephalus, who's hot from hunting, singing for an "aura," or breeze, to come and cool him off.
  • The gossip thinks that Cephalus is calling for Aurora (Eos), though, and tells Procris that Cephalus has rekindled his old flame.
  • Procris decides to go and spy on her husband while he's hunting.
  • Cephalus hears something rustling in a bush and hurls his super-accurate spear. It's really too bad that the spear never misses since, in this case, it's Procris hiding in the bushes.
  • As his wife lies dying from the spear wound, the two figure out the whole miscommunication.
  • And, well... they're both really sad.
  • In some versions, Cephalus is eventually so overwhelmed with sadness that he throws himself off a cliff into the sea. (We bet you saw that one coming—sounds like every other tragedy ever.)

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