Noodlemantras, this is background for a discussion question so please, no talking!...
The Myth of Orpheus
The greatest of all musicians was named Orpheus. He sang a wide variety of songs. Sometimes he sang high-pitched songs about the mystical creation of the universe. Other times he played low notes on his lyre as he sang of the battles of Zeus and the Olympian gods who clashed against the Titans. Orpheus even had songs about people who were changed into flowers or birds.
But whatever he sang, the rich clear words and the silvery notes from his harp were so enchanting that they always had a magical effect on everything around him. His songs could charm even rocks and rivers as well as humans and animals. Once when Orpheus was playing his splendid music in the forest, the oak trees pulled up their roots. They followed him down the mountainside and planted themselves by the seashore where Orpheus ended his song.
When the great adventurer Jason was about to set out on his search for the Golden Fleece, Orpheus was invited to go along. Orpheus proved to be of great help on the long journey. When the tempers of the heroes of the ship flared up, Orpheus would sing a peaceful song and calm those who had been arguing. Sometimes when the rowing was long and tedious, Orpheus would begin to stroke his lyre. Then time would seem to float by and the rowers would not feel tired as they listened to the soft rippling music.
The time came when Jason and the Argonauts had to sail past the dangerous isle of the Sirens. The Sirens were beautiful creatures who were part human, part bird. Their songs were so wonderful that any person who heard them would become enchanted. All the sailors who heard the Sirens' songs would hurl themselves overboard and swim to the island of the Sirens'. Lured by these strange maidens the men would die upon the jagged rocks around the isle. But as the Argonauts came close to the rocky island of the Sirens, Orpheus began a splendid song of his own. Jason and this crew did not listen to the Sirens and were able to sail past the island unharmed.
After the Argonauts returned to Greece, Orpheus fell in love with a beautiful woman names Eurydice. They were married and a great feast was held in their honor. On the day of their wedding, Eurydice strolled through a nearby field and talked joyfully with her friends. But as she walked through the bright green meadow, she stumbled upon a poisonous snake. The huge serpent bit her and she died.
Orpheus was heartbroken over this cruel fate. He had been married and widowed on the same day. After many weeks of mourning, he decided that he would go to Hades, the land of the dead. There he would plead for his wife.
He came to the gates that lead to the underworld, playing on his harp. No living mortals were allowed to cross into the shadowy regions of the underworld. But Orpheus' sweet music moved the ferrier of the dead and he gave Orpheus a ride across the dark murky river Styx. Thus Orpheus entered the purple-darkened realm of the dead. Formless ghosts and spirits gathered around him. But Orpheus was not frightened and continued to play his slow music about his lost wife. The Spirits began to weep and the huge vultures of the underworld listened to his song. The three-headed dog that guarded the Underworld stopped growling and laid down and whimpered at the tune. Orpheus passed by the coal-black stallions that pulled the chariot of Pluto. The horses' ears stood straight up when they heard the enchanting song. Finally the musician came before Pluto, King of the Underworld called Hades. All the jewels and precious metals that lie in the ground rightfully belonged to Pluto's domain. Thus he and his wife, Persephone, sat on the most magnificent thrones imaginable. Beside Pluto lay a magic helmet that would make anyone who wore it invisible. Here, before the King and Queen of Hades, Orpheus sang his sad, sweet song and pleaded to have his bride back. Even the rulers of the underworld were moved by his music. Eurydice was called forth and she came still limping from the wound where the serpent had bitten her. The gods of Hades agreed that Orpheus could have his wife back, but only on the condition that he did not look back until he had reached the land of the living.
Orpheus began walking up the long steep path that led to the sunlit world of men. The winding pathway was gloomy and silent. Behind him in the darkness he could hear the soft pad of Eurydice's bare feet upon the rocky steps. At last Orpheus saw sunlight coming through the opening to the over world. He forgot himself and turned to look at his wife. There stood Eurydice, as lovely as a Spring morning with her dark wavy hair and her snowy cheeks. But as he looked Orpheus saw his lovely wife begin to fade. He desperately tried to embrace her but she only had time to whisper "Farewell" before she vanished.
Orpheus once again tried to cross the River Styx in hopes of regaining his wife. But the ferryman would not listen to Orpheus' enchanting music this time and his soul could not cross the river. He sadly returned to the land of Thrace. On a hill in Thrace, Orpheus remained the rest of his life, singing songs that enchanted the beasts and the trees of the forest.
It is said that when Orpheus finally met his death, the birds wept on the hillside. The trees shed their leaves and the nearby streams were swollen with their own tears. Orpheus' spirit went down to the Underworld and he soon found Eurydice. Although it is a shadowy existence the two walk together for eternity without fear of another separation.
Noodlemantras, this is our last tidbit for On Stranger Tides. Discussion will start tomorrow with the first question! Hope to see you there!
by Tim Powers
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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
Wow! What a ride!
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