Study Guide

Cupid and Psyche Psyche

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The fantastically beautiful Psyche is the Greco-Roman goddess of the soul. She is often shown as having butterfly wings, which makes a lot of sense, since her name not only means "soul" in Greek, but also "butterfly." We're guessing her butterfly wings were probably totally necessary to keep up with her famous winged husband, Cupid (a.k.a. Eros), god of love and desire. Together, this high-flying couple were said to have parented a daughter named Voluptas (Hedone), the goddess of pleasure.

Too pretty for Venus

It's a bit of a Cinderella story.  According to story of "Cupid and Psyche," our girl didn't start out with butterfly wings, and she didn't start out as a goddess. Psyche was born a lowly mortal. Well, she wasn't that lowly – she was a princess and a ridiculously attractive one to boot. Psyche was so beautiful, in fact, that she made Venus (a.k.a. Aphrodite), the goddess of love and beauty, horribly jealous.

Psyche's overwhelming beauty ends up being both a curse and a blessing. Because of it, jealous Venus puts Psyche through all kinds of turmoil. However, without her smokin' good looks, Psyche would never have ended up marrying Venus's son, Cupid, and Psyche never would have become a goddess. (Get the full story in our "Summary.")

Curiosity killed the cat

If we were to make a Psyche cookie recipe, it would be something like this:

2 cups of Flour
1 stick of Butter
¼ cup of Beauty
¼ cup of Determination
2 tablespoons of Devotion
½ cup of Sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla
2 Eggs
5 cups of Curiosity

Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but let's face it: Psyche has an extra helping of curiosity. She's like Alice in Wonderland on steroids. And her curiosity leads to big problems.

The first trouble that arises in Psyche's life is totally out of her control: she can't help how pretty she is, or that Venus is insecure and jealous. Psyche's second problem, though, is within her control. She allows her curiosity to get the best of her and looks at her husband by lamplight, even though she's promised not to. She knows she shouldn't do it, but she does it anyway.

If at first you don't succeed … try, try, and try again

Don't get us wrong – there's a lot more to Psyche than her good looks and triple helping of curiosity. She is a seriously brave and determined young lady. Psyche messes up, but she does her best to regain Cupid's love and trust. Venus gives her daughter-in-law some pretty tough tasks to complete in order to win back Cupid, but Psyche never chickens out. Even when she's ordered to go to the world of the dead, Psyche bravely goes forward.

Many see Psyche's struggles to win back Cupid as an allegory representing the struggle and heartache that the human soul must go through in order to reach true bliss. But you can read more about that in "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory."

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