Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ancient Greek Seed Stories: The Myth of Persephone

Edmund Dulac:  Pluto and Persephone
Perhaps the most renowned ancient Greek seed story is the myth of hapless Persephone, the myth used by the Greeks to explain the seasons, symbolically linking seeds to both life and death.  As we read the myth aloud, the children thought deeply about this connection to nature and the life of the imagination. 

Persephone was the daughter of Zeus, ruler of the gods, and Demeter, goddess of the harvest.  One day, Persephone was picking flowers in a meadow. Pluto (Hades) abducted her and carried her with him to rule together in the underworld. Demeter discovered that her daughter was missing and went searching for her. Not finding her, she grieved and withdrew her blessings from the earth, which caused all plants to wither and die. The peoples of the world starved and called to the gods for help.  Zeus sent Hermes to the underworld to ask for Persephone's release. Hades agreed, it was discovered that Persephone had eaten some seeds from a pomegranate. Having eaten the food of the dead, she must remain in the realm of the dead.  An agreement was then made that Persephone would spend half of the year in the underworld with Hades, and the rest of the year above with her mother Demeter. When Persephone is in the Underworld, Demeter grieves and this we know this as winter.  When she emerges, Demeter expresses her joy at reuniting with her daughter and again the world is in bloom. 
E. remembered the image of Hades's chariot with black horses stealing Persephone away
D's depiction of the underworld, complete with the River Styx and Cerberus, the three-headed dog
N's sad Persephone rules alongside Hades in the larger picture of the underworld below:
The pomegranate tree entices Persephone to the right of Hades
L's Persephone and Hades rule over his unique version of the underworld (below):
They are on one side of the Styx, across from the pomegranate tree
I's Persephone is radiant even underground
Many tunnels lead the the underworld, but here even flowers can bloom

Above, K. used storyboarding to retell this myth.  In the first panel, she shows the clear connection between mother Demeter and her daughter Persephone. They are like mirror images of each other.  For her, the central theme of the story was loss, and she captures the deep emotion in Demeter's tears. 

In the next set of panels, she shows the sorrowful Persephone making her fateful decision, as well as the mournful Demeter above ground, turned old and withered in her absence.  Thankfully, they are joyfully reunited at the end.  Life on earth will again bloom and flourish, and seeds will sprout, grow, and flower again.

I. decided to turn her version of the myth into her very own illustrated book, 
which she is continuing to work on.

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