Storytime: A Man Named Orpheus

There once was a man named Orpheus… He did not look like this:

Morpheus I

Or this:

Morpheus II

Because, that’s Morpheus… with an M. The guy we’re talking about is Orpheus… with an O.

Anyway, Orpheus was what was known as a minstrel, and he really enjoyed playing on the violin. Of course, that wasn’t enough for some people. Some had to go and make rumors about him being Apollo’s son, teasing poor Orpheus that his Mom went around banging gods. But, regardless, Orpheus was a pretty cheerful guy, like you’d imagine from a guy running around playing the violin all day.

Until his wife was bitten by a snake. Her name was Eurydike. Let’s hope that’s pronounced ‘yoor ee dee kee’ and not ‘you’re a dike’. Exactly what miss Dike was doing playing with snakes, we do not know. But, in the end, it wasn’t one of those harmless water snakes. It was a cobra or some shit. So, she dies. Except, instead of properly dying — fading away into a dark nothingness and never returning for all of time — she goes to the Underworld to, I guess, hang out with Hades and Persephone.

Orpheus, following this tragedy, has no hope left in him. He hangs his head and drags his feet, even his pumpernickel bread has stopped tasting pumpernickely to him — it has downgraded to pumperpenny. And, we really know he was going through heavy grief, because he even stopped playing his violin. This is serious grief we are dealing with here. Which seems like an overreaction when you consider that, in the Ancient Myths, you can literally walk to the Underworld. So, basically, he can just walk a couple blocks and meet up with his old lady, but he’s having a nervous breakdown. Seems ridiculous, right? Except that no mortal had ever walked into the Underworld and taken anyone back to the mortal world. But, Orpheus was dead set that he was going to be the exception.

He arrives at the gate and plays his violin, which somehow appeals to all the deadness down there. All Orpheus has to do is mention the word of love and the Hades/Persephone couple allowed him to pass into their realm. For, even gods and goddesses of the dead know that love is the most powerful force in the universe.

So, Hades tells Orpheus, after Orpheus has met up with his wife and they make out for an uncomfortable amount of time, “You may leave with your wife. But, do not look back until you have entered the mortal world!”

Orpheus agrees to this. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Well, except he then is a total dingus and looks back at his wife before they enter the mortal world. The story really doesn’t explain why he does this. I imagine it’s just one of those reflexive things, like looking up at a clock even when you remember the clock was destroyed in your late night drunken stupor and all that is left is a blank wall. But, it could have been that Hades yelled, “Hey, O!” and Orpheus forgot himself.

Regardless, Ms. Dike ends up back in the Underworld. And now, no matter how much he plays his violin or mentions the word love, he is not allowed into the Underworld. So, Orpheus goes back to being all depressed and starts talking to birds and bugs and trees.

Well, the story says that Orpheus is later murdered by a mob. But, if you were Orpheus and you know the love of your life was only separated from you because she was dead and you weren’t, perhaps you’d organize the mob to hit you outright? Why wait to piss someone off bad enough for them to literally cut you to pieces and send your head swimming down the river? (yes, this detail is actually in the original story — friggn Greeks) So, in the end, Orpheus and Eurydike are reunited in the Underworld where, I assume, they have double dates every Wednesday with Hades and Persephone over a bubbling brew of death. Of course, this all could have been avoided if Eurydike hadn’t been meddling with snakes. Or, at least, meddled with less deadly ones. Maybe if Orpheus had been paying her more attention rather than walking around playing his violin, she wouldn’t have been looking for the attention of snakes at all. Anyway. So ends a story of true love.

This has been Storytime with Cody Storyteller.

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