Title: Persephone in the Underworld


Citations


Agamben, Giorgio, Monica Ferrando, la D. L. De, and Annie J. Wyman. "The Unspeakable Girl: The Myth and Mystery of Kore." London [etc.: Seagull Books, 2014. Print.



Cartwright, Mark. "Persephone." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 24 Mar 2016. Web. 21 Sep 2020.


Summary


A young girl, Persephone, grows up helping her goddess mother, Demeter, teach mortals how to farm and take care of the land. Persephone regularly goes to a poppy field in her free time to think. One day, as a young adult, she notices a shape moving around in the surrounding forest. It is Hades (they/them), the god/goddess of the Underworld, who has seen Persephone and wanted to meet her. They start to hang out every day together and over time fall in love. Persephone tells her mother about her feelings for Hades, which Demeter does not take well. She makes the fields and trees around shrivel. Persephone meets back with Hades and they go together to the Underworld, taking with her a poppy from the field. Over the next couple of years, she sends letters to her mother including a petal from the flower. The mortals are starting to go hungry since Demeter is no longer helping them with the harvest. Demeter notices this distress and decides to read some of the letters that Hermes, the messenger god, has delivered. She quickly comes to the realization that Persephone is very happy with her life in the Underworld with Hades yet still wants a connection with her mother. Demeter sends Hermes to the Underworld with a letter. They all meet up and Demeter apologizes to both Hades and Persephone for the way she acted. They then decide that Persephone will spend half of the year with her mother helping her with the harvest and the rest of the year in the Underworld with her love, Hades. Hades is now welcome to come up and spend time with Persephone in the open, proud of who they are.


Cultural Origins


The Ancient Greeks utilized the traditional versions of this story to explain the change of seasons (which was mostly Winter and Summer) and the change between life and death. The myth of Persephone also held an important role for certain cults, specifically in Sicily and Southern Italy (Cartwright). It is uncertain what the true origins of the myth are yet these cults did create many of the variations within the story, such as the pomegranate seed that keeps Persephone from leaving the Underworld permanently and the picking of flowers in a field which then translated to tasks fulfilled by cult members who received important knowledge (Agamben). Also, as the Queen of the Underworld, Persephone was seen as a figure that could be "appealed to" from the living on the part of a dead person as she was still human (Cartwright). Some variations of the story use the name Kore instead of Persephone and show her to refuse to speak once tricked to stay in the underworld, thus being dubbed "the unspeakable girl" (Agamben). Many of the traditional versions show Hades taking Persephone away from Demeter against her own will, which was something I wanted to change in my adaptation. It can’t be ignored that one of the main inspirations for my adaptations comes from Anne Carson’s “The Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse”, that is included later on in this future file.


Audience


I can see the main audience being middle schoolers to high schoolers at either a school, public library, or museum as a part of programming around more contemporary adaptations of mythology. If I were to aim this story for a more adult audience, I think going into the process of how Demeter became more accepting would need to be fleshed out. Acceptance narratives are complicated because it has to do with people working on their own prejudices and biases, something that is becoming a more apparent skill to society as a whole. In a museum or school setting I might preface the story with some of the more traditional versions of the story so as to begin a conversation after the presentation about the themes kept and changed in the adaptation.


Adaptation Ideas


I have adapted the story from being one of kidnapping and harassment to one about falling in love and working towards acceptance. Because of this the tone is light for most of the story leading up to Demeter’s reaction. I want to flesh out both the relationship between Hades and Persephone as well as her relationship with her mother. Hades begins as a friend to Persephone when she feels alone and teaches her about their world/life, which can only be appreciated if the story begins a little more slowly than the adaptation I performed in class. This story is meaningful to me because it gives Persephone more agency and power that does not exist in the ancient Greek versions. Her power is apparent in the way that she is the one to make the decision of splitting her time between the living world and the underworld. I’d like to have the prop of a plastic poppy for any performance of the story, solidifying the image of her grabbing the flower before leaving with Hades.