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The Kidnapping of Persephone
Persephone stood in her room while her lady’s maids presented her with some dresses. She was expected to attend supper; her mother sent her some gowns to choose from. One of the options was navy with a mature cut that Persephone preferred over the soft, girlish pink robe that she thought made her look young. She stroked the fabric of the navy, and was about to put it on when her mother walked in.
“Persephone! Aren’t you excited?” Demeter said, entering the room and hugging her daughter.
“Oh yes, I sure love dinner with Zeus,” she replied sarcastically, which was undetected by Demeter, “I think I’m going to go with the navy one,” Persephone said, picking up the dress.
“Why not the pink one?” Her mother said, picking it off of the bedspread. Persephone tried not to show her dislike.
“Oh, I think this one will do. It will look lovely on you,” Demeter said, handing the pink dress to one of her lady’s maids. Persephone wasn’t surprised. Her mother wanted to make her look as young and as innocent as possible. Persephone was aware that this was mainly because her mother was unhappy about the long line of suitors that were interested in marrying her. At the same time, Persephone didn’t understand why her mother was so protective. She had even heard that Hades -- King of the Underworld -- had asked for her hand. Not that Persephone would want to marry him, of course. She overheard at dinner one day that he was this solitary, immoral man. Plus, he lived in the underworld. Who would want to live there?
The following morning, Persephone took a walk through her palace’s gardens, which were tended to by her mother. Demeter’s gardens, as anyone would expect, were renowned for their beauty and perfection. The garden covered an area twice the size of the palace, and was navigable by a narrow stone path. Anyone was permitted to walk through the gardens and pick any flowers that they’d like. Persephone liked the idea of having flowers in her room, and started to gather them, putting them in a tall basket as she wandered.
At the edge of the clearing, next to a bubbling stream, there were flowers Persephone had never seen before. They were smaller, with a yellow center and white petals. She picked one for her collection.
Not a moment after she had done it, she felt goosebumps all over her body. She could hear the thundering sound of hoofbeats charging over the grasslands before she could see the source. Paralyzed by an unknown force, she waited for something horrible to happen. Suddenly, someone was moving her. How? She had no idea. She could feel herself being lifted, and then she felt a drop, as if she were falling down a staircase. Wind roared in her ears, and there was a clanging somewhere ahead of her. And then the movement stopped.
She could see now, she realized. Ahead of her were horses; four of them in fact. She was in a chariot. She craned her neck to confirm whose chariot it was. Hades. Her eyes widened, and she tried to struggle out of his grasp, but it was no use.
Eventually, the grasp around her waist lightened up, and she was able to move. Back on the ground, she ran forward a few steps and turned around to look at her captor. She had never met Hades before, but being in his presence was rather like finding a bear in the woods. Hades had long black hair and small, dark eyes. He was tall with wide shoulders clad with silver armor and a long red cape.
“My mother will hear about this,” Persephone said, cringing at how squeaky her voice sounded.
“Like anyone would voluntarily come look in the Underworld,” said Hades nonchalantly, starting to unhitch a horse from the chariot.
“Why are you doing this?” Persephone said, sounding angrier and less meak now.
“I needed a wife. A queen for the underworld.”
“You think I want to be married to you?” She huffed.
“Queen of the Underworld is a more impressive title than Daughter of Demeter.”
Persephone glared at his back. He was not looking at her, “My mother is the goddess of agriculture, that is nothing to scoff at.”
“Your mother was keeping you captive from the outside world, I was doing you a favor!” he turned to look at her. Persephone took a step back.
“By kidnapping me, against my will?”
Hades stopped unhitching the final horse to look back at Persephone. A part of Persephone wanted to scurry back, to retract her previous statement. But she pushed this aside, and gazed back at him, challenging him to deny it.
“I was saving you,” Hades repeated, “I took you from your mother.”
“When did I ask for saving?” Persephone took a step forward.
Persephone was prisoner, and she hated every second of it. The underworld had no patches of sunlight to sit in, or clean streams to swim in, or pretty flowers to pick. There was no one to talk to but Hades, who Persephone avoided. Their relationship was nonexistent.
She refused to speak to him. He refused to look at her. Simple as that.
Hermes visited one day, and informed her that her mother was destroying the world and turning it upside down to look for her. He told her how the crops were failing to grow, and the leaves were falling off the trees. There was mass mortal hysteria, which put Zeus in hysterics. Now Zeus was involved. Persephone had smiled at that. She’d get out of here soon enough.
“Persephone, it is your choice if you want to stay or leave,” Hermes said.
“Why would I ever want to stay here?”
“If you want to marry Hades, perhaps.”
“Hermes, why would I do that?”
“I mean, Hades took you, you might as well marry him,” Hermes shrugged.
“What am I, some cow? The neighbor took it better let them keep it? Have you any sense?” Persephone threw up her hands.
Hermes shrugged again, “Whatever you want to do. I’ll give you some time. In a week you’ll decide.”
Persephone knew the decision would not be hard.
The pomegranate seeds, all six of them, were the biggest mistake of Persephone’s life. She had been trying to coax growth from a cluster of grass when Hades approached her.
“Hello Persephone,” he said warmly, sitting down next to her. Persephone continued with her work.
“I have a gift for you. They’re for traveling to the surface tomorrow, to keep you from getting sick,” he handed her a small leather pouch. Tentatively, she took it from his hand, and spilled its contents into her palms. There were six pomegranate seeds. She ate them one at a time.
“Thank you,” she said once she had finished. Hades chuckled, and she thought nothing of it. It was when Hermes collected her that she realized her mistake.
Eating food in the underworld is like signing a contract. Once you eat something, you were obliged to stay in the underworld.
She panicked, wondering if Zeus could do anything. But, once she was brought to Mount Olympus, she found that that was not the case. Bitterly, she accepted her fate:
To spend six months with her mother as Daughter of Demeter.
And six months with Hades, as Queen of the Underworld.
While she was away, Demeter would try to get Zeus mad enough to get her back. She would rage on the mortal world, causing crops to fail, weather to turn bitter, and leaves to fall of trees. But it was never enough for Zeus to intervene. Plus, once she returned everything would spring to life once more. The cold colorless months when Persephone was in the underworld formed autumn and winter. The warm months where she was on Mt Olympus became spring and summer. Thus, the seasons were born.