Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1988


In the center of his long narrative, The Metamorphoses, (translated by Robert Graves under the title The Golden Ass) and composing a large part of the story, Apuleius inserts the tale of "Cupid and Psyche." Like most of the tales interwoven into the narrative, it had been popular before his time, and many parallel tales exist in the folklore of widely separated cultures. The most famous modem version is the French tale, "Beauty and the Beast" which inspires popular artists to this day. The myth also underlies the genre of the gothic romance, for example, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Two lines of interpretation are usually adopted for these tales: they explore the relationship between husband and wife, and they explore the relationship between the human and the divine. Mythopoeic writers doubtless wished to make these motifs work together, since husbands are more glorious when they carry that aura of the divine, and the humanity is more inspired when drawn to the divine by erotic desire. However, in the evolution of the tale in Western Culture, it has veered away from the divine and more toward the human, as a study of "Beauty and the Beast" will attest. Portraying gods as dangerous beasts was troublesome for the Christian culture, while a beastly husband was more acceptable. Then, in the fifties, C. S. Lewis re-treated the "Cupid and Psyche" myth itself, adopting Apuleius as his main source (Lewis, Till We Have Faces and rejoining it to human-divine interpretation. Could Lewis, indeed, make a success of this motif, which had embarrassed even the pagan Apuleius?


The version of record is available from Mythlore at Mythlore is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal published by the Mythopoeic Society that focuses on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and the genres of myth and fantasy.

Copyright © 1988 the author. All rights reserved.