The tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice

Many of the Greek myths are tragic either in their journey or in their ending - the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is no exception. The tale begs us to ask the questions: what would a man do to save the one he loves, and how strong is your faith?



Orpheus was the son of the Muse Calliope (the patron of epic poetry) and Oeagrus, a king of Thrace (other versions give Apollo). According to some legends, Apollo gave Orpheus his first lyre. Orpheus was gifted with superhuman singing ability - when he sang out, wild beats lay still and rocks would roll to him and lay at his feet. One day, a beautiful maiden named Eurydice caught his eye and he knew then and there she would be his bride.


On their wedding day, all of nature burst in the bloom - it was a truly joyous event. The sun was shinning, the birds were singing and Eurydice was dancing; all was well. Suddenly, Eurydice fell to the ground dead. Orpheus ran to her to find his worst fear realised - his new bride was dead; taken by a snake bite in the tall grass. He put a coin under her tongue as he watched Hermes take her to the underworld.


From that day forward, Orpheus only sang songs of sorrow and woe. When he sang beasts and rocks were driven to tears. His grief was so long and unbearable he had to do something to end the pain. He would win his Eurydice back, even if it cost his life.


Orpheus wandered aimlessly until he finally found an entrance to the underworld. He came before Hades and his queen Persephone asking for an audience. He began to sing for them and the queen of the Underworld was moved to tears. Hades was a cold and pitiless God but couldn't ignore the plight of his queen. She implored Hades to listen to Orpheus' wish to which he did. Orpheus explained the story of that fateful day and only asked for his beloved to be returned to him. Hades agreed and would allow Eurydice to the upper world on 1 condition - she would walk behind Orpheus until they reached the surface. If Orpheus looked behind his shoulder even once, Eurydice would return to the underworld.


Overjoyed, Orpheus ran to the stairs and began to climb with the utmost enthusiasm. After a time, doubt began to crawl into his mind. The footsteps he heard, were they really the footsteps of his beloved Eurydice? What if Hades had tricked him? Doubt clawed at him mercilessly to the point where he could no longer bear it. Just before they reached the surface, Orpheus turned to look behind him - he saw her beautiful face. She smiled at him for the briefest of moments before Hermes appeared at her side and returned her to the underworld. He had just about reached the surface, only to lose the love of his life yet again because of his lack of faith.


Alone at the surface, Orpheus sang out his sorrows for he would never again find joy. One day he was singing yet another song out of grief when a group of banshees came across his path. They were so loud and reckless that they couldn't hear the beautiful yet sorrowful songs of Orpheus. Enraged that he refused to participate in their debauchery, they ripped his body to shreds and threw the pieces into the river.


If anyone passed by that troubled river, they would her the silvery melodic voice of the ghost of Orpheus.



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