Study Guide

Hero and Leander Summary

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How It (Supposedly) Went Down

The Short Story

  • Hero and Leander are crazy in love. Every night, Hero fires up a light in her tower so Leander can see the way and swim to her across the Hellespont.
  • But one night, a storm blows in and the currents of the narrow strait get all kinds of crazy. To make matters worse, the wind blows out Hero's light, and Leander gets totally turned around in the dark and stormy waters.
  • When Hero finds Leander's dead body on the beach the next morning, she just can't take it. Overcome with grief, she throws herself from the top of her tower to be with her lover in death.

The Less Short Story

  • A hunky dude named Leander lives in a city called Abydus.
  • Leander's hometown is situated on the Hellespont, a narrow strait that links the Mediterranean Sea with the Black Sea. (Psst, the Hellespont, a.k.a. the Dardanelles, is still around.)
  • On the other side of the Hellespont is another city called Sestus.
  • One day, there's a big festival in Sestus, celebrating Aphrodite and Adonis, and Leander decides to check it out.
  • While he's there, he spots Hero, a smokin' hot priestess of Aphrodite.
  • Though she's a priestess of the goddess of love, Hero is a virgin and lives alone in a tower by the Hellespont, with only an old nurse to hang out with.
  • This solitary lifestyle is all the idea of Hero's overprotective parents.
  • Leander shimmies over to Hero, and it's love at first sight.
  • The hunky young man tells Hero that it doesn't make any sense that she's still a virgin, since she's a priestess of Aphrodite. Surely the goddess of love wouldn't approve.
  • "Wow, I never thought of that," says Hero, and—just like that—the two become lovers.
  • Leander wants to marry Hero, but she tells him that her parents would never let her marry a guy from a foreign city.
  • "Fine," says Leander. "I'm going to come back to be with you every night. Just leave a light burning in the top of your tower, and I'll swim across the Hellespont." Yeah, there wasn't a ferry.
  • For a while, Hero and Leander are in total bliss.
  • Leander is an awesome swimmer, and as long as Hero leaves the light burning, he has no problem paddling across the strait at night.
  • Eventually, though, the season changes and things get stormy.
  • One night, a bunch of winds are blowing every which way, and the currents in the Hellespont are totally out of control.
  • Leander can't stand the idea of not seeing Hero, though, so he dives in any way.
  • Unfortunately, the winds also manage to blow out Hero's light.
  • Uh oh.
  • Leander gets totally turned around in the dark, and the waves swallow him.
  • In the morning, Hero finds his body washed up on the rock shore.
  • The girl is so upset that she throws herself from the top of the tower into the Hellespont.
  • And in the end, the lovers can only be together in death.

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