Flicking through some photos on my camera, I came across a picture of one of the only pieces of art I actually like in the Louvre, the sculpture of Cupid and Psyche. They look so young, pure and in love, that the tenderness is apparent even through the cold, hard marble.
I decided research their story, and was interested to find they are recognised as the original fairy tale – and they date back to the 2nd century. Their story (briefly) goes like this: the youngest daughter, Psyche, of a King and Queen is so beautiful, that the people begin to worship her instead of Venus. Venus is angered, and so uses her son, Cupid for revenge, though Cupid falls in love with the girl, and decides to make her his own. The King receives a prophecy which states his son in law will be a monster, so they perform a ritual which essentially throws Psyche off a cliff. She wakes up in a meadow, and comes across a beautiful home. She enters, and hears a voice talking to her. In the dark, she is visited nightly by a man who makes her his wife. He vanishes before light, and she is forbidden to see him. She enjoys their nights together, and ends up pregnant. Cupid arranges for Psyche’s two sisters to visit, and they are so jealous of her beautiful home and riches, they taunt her by saying that she is sleeping with a monster, which will probably eat her and the child. Shaken, Psyche lights a lamp one evening to look at her husband. He is the most beautiful man she has ever seen and, startle, she pricks herself on one of Cupid’s arrows, spills oil from her lamp and wakes Cupid. He flees, and she begins her mission to search for him. Through several interactions with Gods and Goddesses, Psyche ends up serving Venus herself. She is tortured and given a series of tasks, which culminate in a trip to the underworld. Throughout this time Cupid is recovering, and in Venus’ home. When he finally makes a full recovery, he escapes, rescues Psyche and obtains the Gods permission to wed Psyche. She is given ambrosia and thereby immortality, and the love each other eternally. This story inspired ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ a Scandinavian tale, which in turn inspired Madame Le Prince de Beaumont’s ‘La Belle et la Bête’ – otherwise known as Beauty and the Beast.
Has a love of the unknown, of mystery and danger, always been an attraction for women, and the novels we read to indulge our fantasies?
As a child, my favourite Disney Prince was Beast, and I hated that he became human in the end. From the outpouring of love for ‘Team Jacob’ – I believe he was the Twilight werewolf, and the general smokin’ hotness of True Blood’s Alcide – do women fancy a bit of a dirty dog from time to time?
Or, can we forget the claws and fangs and fur and make something much more basic – danger. We like a guy we can’t control, who can’t be tamed, and is more than a little wild and mysterious. The excitement of night time visits by a mysterious husband, the taming of the beast and loving a wolf all point to romances that thrive on passion and unpredictability – which is probably what really attracts us to the creatures is stories.