I’ve been putting together some stories for liberal religious kids, and I’m working on a version of the story of Demeter and Persephone, as told in the Homeric Hymns. I’ve taken the translation by E. G. Evelyn-White (Cambridge: Harvard, and London: William Heinemann, 1914 — now in the public domain), and simplifying it somewhat for upper elementary and middle school kids — but retaining the somewhat archaic flavor of the translation, and retaining some of the Greek epithets (“rich-haired Demeter,” etc.). Here’s the first part of the story:
Rich-haired Demeter, goddess who strikes awe in the hearts of all humankind, the goddess of the wheatfields, goddess of farming and agriculture—Demeter had a daughter named Persephone.
Once upon a time, trim-ankled Persephone was playing with the daughters of Oceanus. They roamed over a soft meadow on the plain of Nysa, gathering flowers: roses, crocuses, beautiful violets, irises and hyacinths, and also the narcissus. Gaia, mother Earth, made the narcissus grow at the will of Zeus, the ruler of all the other gods and goddesses. All-seeing Zeus, the god of loud thunder, had decided that Persephone was old enough to be married. It was his will that the narcissus should grow in the meadow, to attract the attention of Persephone. The narcissus is a marvellous, radiant flower—a thing of awe whether for deathless gods or mortal men to see: from its root grew a hundred blooms and is smelled most sweetly, so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth and the sea’s salt swell laughed for joy.
When Persephone saw the narcissus blooming, she was amazed, and reached out with both hands to take the lovely toy. But to her surprise, the wide-pathed earth yawned open there in the middle of the meadow. Out of the yawning hole rode Hades, Son of Cronos and brother of Zeus, god of the underworld, Host of the Many (he was called “Host of the Many” because he ruled over the underworld, the land of the dead, which meant he was host to all the many people who had died over the centuries).
Hades caught up the reluctant Persephone and carried her away. Continue reading “The story of Demeter and Persephone, part 1”