Study Guide

Cupid and Psyche The Hero's Journey

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The Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey is a framework that scholar Joseph Campbell came up with that many myths and stories follow. Many storytellers and story-readers find it a useful way to look at tales. (That's actually putting it lightly. Some people are straight-up obsessed.) Chris Vogler adapted Campbell's 17 stages of a hero's journey, which many screenwriters use while making movies. Vogler condensed Campbell's 17 stages down to 12, which is what we're using. To read a general explanation of the 12 stages, click here.

Psyche's story doesn't fit perfectly into the Hero's Journey structure, but we're giving it a shot. As the gross old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. Here's how we've diced up the story:

Stage 1: The Ordinary World

Psyche's living her life in the normal world when Venus up and gets jealous of the mortal girl's beauty. Venus ensures that no mortal man wants to marry Psyche.

Stage 2: The Call to Adventure

Psyche's call to adventure happens when her family learns the prophecy that she will marry a monster. They place her on the mountaintop to wait for the monster, and her adventures begin. Zephyr, the west wind, sweeps Psyche off to Cupid's mansion to be his wife. Psyche doesn't know the identity of her husband, simply that she cannot ever look at him by light.

Stage 3: Refusal of the Call

Though it might seem like Psyche is living the good life in the lap of luxury, she's lonely. She's beginning to have doubts about her husband, and she isn't entirely happy.

Stage 4: Meeting with the Mentor

Psyche has two mentors, but they're bad ones. Her sisters advise Psyche to spy on her husband by lamplight to find out if he's some awful monster.

Stage 5: Crossing of the Threshold

Psyche decides to take her sisters' advice and takes a peek at her husband while he's sleeping. This is the point of no return for our heroine. It turns out her hubby is the gorgeous god Cupid, not a monster at all. Score! Problem is, he wakes up and catches Psyche red-handed. He's furious at her betrayal and abandons her.

Stage 6: Tests, Allies, Enemies

Psyche wants Cupid back bad. She goes to the jealous Venus, who forces Psyche to perform all kinds of seemingly impossible tests in order to prove herself worthy of Cupid.

Stage 7: Approach to the Inmost Cave

The last and most dangerous test Psyche must undergo is to visit Proserpine in the underworld, get a box full of some of Proserpine's beauty, and deliver it to Venus back in the world of the living. Psyche is sure this is the end of the line. She's preparing to kill herself in order to go to the underworld. Thankfully, she hears a voice that tells her how to get to the underworld – alive. As it turns out, the entrance is through a cave, which is rather convenient, considering the name of this stage.

Stage 8: Ordeal

Psyche's ordeal is traveling to the underworld, past Charon the ferryman and Cerberus the watchdog. Finally, she meets Proserpine and makes her request.

Stage 9: Reward

Psyche succeeds in getting a box of Proserpine's beauty. Phew. Now she can return to Venus, give her the box, and get Cupid back. Mission accomplished, right? Not quite …

Stage 10: The Road Back

On the way back to the world of the living, Psyche can't resist opening the box to get a little beauty for herself. The temptation is just too strong. When she opens the box, though, she passes out as if dead.

Stage 11: Resurrection

Thankfully, Cupid comes to the rescue, revives his wife, and promises to make everything right.

Stage 12: Return with the Elixir

In this stage, Psyche doesn't really "return" anywhere – she goes somewhere new: Mt. Olympus. In the land of the gods, Psyche earns the ultimate reward: she's made a goddess and allowed to live happily ever after with Cupid. They even have a daughter, who becomes the goddess of pleasure. Doesn't get much better than that.

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