Orpheus and Eurydice, one of the most beloved Greek mythological stories, is all about love and passion, as well as about the weaknesses of the human spirit. Orpheus was the son of Apollo, one of the twelve Olympians and the muse Calliope. Apollo gifted him a golden lyre and taught how to play it. Orpheus was a musical talent and he could play the lyre with such perfection that none could resist his music. When he played, the birds would swoop down from the heavens and sit on the branches above his head and the animals would forget their fierceness, gather round him and stood entranced. Even trees and rocks were not exceptions, as they also would be entranced with his music.
One day, while wandering alone with his lyre, Orpheus suddenly met Eurydice, an oak nymph with exotic beauty and they instantly fell in love. Soon they became inseparable and their marriage was settled. It was a magnificent wedding, attended by Hymenaios, the god of marriage.
However, all through the wedding ceremony, the candles and the lamps gave off an oily black smoke, due to which the guests coughed and choked. Even the priests had to wipe tears from their eyes due to extreme irritation. They looked at one another and shook their heads, as they considered it as an ill omen and Hymenaios predicted that their conjugal life would not last long. However, the young lovers were least perturbed and they started to spend their time frolicking through the meadows.
Soon after their marriage, one day while Eurydice was wandering alone in the forest, a shepherd named Aristaeus was attracted by her alluring beauty and made advances to grab her. Desperate to avoid his sexual advances, Eurydice sprinted to escape, but soon she stumbled and stepped on a nest of snakes and a viper sunk its fangs into her ankle. Eurydice died instantly.
After the death of his beloved, Orpheus became upset and lost his interest in life. He started to wander alone aimlessly in the wilderness of nature with his lyre to express his voids in his music, which melted the hearts of all. Apollo could not take it anymore and advised his son to descend to Hades (Pluto), the god of the underworld and pray to hear his plea.
Orpheus had nothing to lose. He picked up his lyre and set off on a great journey, travelled over land and sea until he came to a dark cave. He made his way through the winding tunnel and finally came to the edge of a black oily river, the river of forgetfulness. Suddenly, out of the shadows appeared the great three-headed dog Cerberus, the guard of the riverbank, showing his teeth. However, Orpheus charmed the monster with his music and the monstrous dog stopped in his tracks, wagged his tail and closed his six red eyes. Charon, the ferryman, heard the music Orpheus played for Cerberus. He poled his boat towards the sound, took Orpheus in his boat and when they reached the far side, Orpheus, still playing, jumped from the boat and walked into the shadows.
While proceeding on his way, Orpheus could hear whispering, rustling and shuffling sounds around him. Orpheus knew that, the dead were following him. However, he was not scared and finally presented himself before the throne of Pluto and Proserpine. To the sound of his pensive lyre, he recounted his sad story and begged the life of his ladylove. His appeal melted the heart of the cold-hearted Hades, who permitted Orpheus to take back Eurydice with him to the land of the living, but warned him not look over his shoulder, not to look back, until the light of the sun shines full on his face.
Orpheus bowed and made his way across the shadowy kingdom until he came to the river’s edge. He could hear footsteps, soft footsteps following him. He climbed into the boat of Charon and kept his eyes fixed on the far shore. As he stepped out of the boat, he could feel Eurydice breathing on the back of his neck, yet he did not look back. Finally, he stepped out joyfully into the lighted world, breathing the fresh air of the living world. Unfortunately, in that moment, Eurydice caught her foot on a stone, tripped and fell. Orpheus heard her stumble and naturally turned to catch her in his arms. However, Eurydice was still in the dark cavern and yet to come out to light. Orpheus had only a glimpse of her in the feeble light and stretched out his hand to clasp hers, but within the wink of his eyes, she became a shadow and slipped back helplessly into the yawning abyss of eternal darkness.
Orpheus became scared of losing his beloved and desperately rushed to the edge of the oily river. As he shouted her name, the three-headed dog Cerberus came, growling and snapping at his ankles, while Charon the ferryman cursed him and spat at him. Orpheus realized that, he could not gain access to the land of the dead again, since a living person cannot be allowed to enter the world of the dead for the second time. Orpheus had no other way, but to return to the earth alone in utter desolation. He forsook the company of men and the nymphs. He wandered all alone, through the wildness of Thrace, comfortless except for his lyre. He wandered aimlessly alone along the secluded paths, and the hills and vales resounded with his pathetic melodies.