• Study Guide

Part Two, Chapters I–II

Summary Part Two, Chapters I–II
  • Orpheus and Eurydice

  • The next tale introduces Orpheus, the son of one of the Muses and the greatest mortal musician. Orpheus’s music moves any human, god, animal, or object that hears it. His wife Eurydice is killed by a snake, and his music enables him to safely make the perilous journey to the underworld and convince Pluto (Hades) to let Eurydice return to the world of the living. The one catch to Eurydice’s return is that she must walk behind Orpheus on the way back to earth; if he turns to look at her, she must return to Hades forever. Overcome with desire and doubt, Orpheus turns around too soon. Having lost Eurydice, he wanders aimlessly and gets ripped to shreds by Maenads.

  • Ceyx and Alcyone

  • Ceyx is a king of Thessaly, and Alcyone is his loving wife. He sets out on a long journey, and his wife prays to the gods, particularly Juno, to protect him. Ceyx’s ship unfortunately has already been wrecked in a storm, but Juno, pitying Alcyone, sends her a dream in which Ceyx tells what befell him. Alcyone wakes and rushes to the seashore, finding his body borne in on the tide. The gods transform her into a bird and also resurrect Ceyx as a bird, out of respect for their love. These two fly together eternally, and the phrase “halcyon days” comes from Alcyone, referring to the seven days a year when she calms the seas in order to lay her eggs on its smooth surface.

  • Pygmalion and Galatea

  • Pygmalion, a sculptor, hates women and finds comfort only in his art. One day he makes a statue of a woman so beautiful that he falls in love with it. Intrigued by this new kind of love, Venus rewards him by bringing the statue to life. Pygmalion names her Galatea. Their son, Paphos, lends his name to Venus’s favorite city.