The Origins of Love . . . Cupid and Psyche in the Young Adult Novels of Jendela Tryst

Who said Saturnalia should stop with the New Year? Not Antipodean Odyssey., certainly. We’ll continue sharing our discoveries across the summer. Here’s Lisa Maurice, who is a Senior Lecturer in Classics at Bar Ilan University. She’s the brains behind The Reception of Ancient Greece and Rome in Children’s Literature: Heroes and Eagles (Brill 2016), and as part of the Our Mythical Childhood project is overseeing Our Mythical Education, which will gather classical curriculum and pedagogical material from around the world. The discovery she shares is  The Origins of Love series of teen novels by the American writer Jendela Tryst — Elizabeth Hale

The Origins of Love . . .

I think one of my most interesting finds in the mythological realm is Jendela Tryst’s recent version of Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche, a trilogy of young adult novels entitled The Origins of Love. Great reading for teens who have an interest in mythology, the first volume, Struck: Eros and Psyche – A Myth was published in 2014 and the second, Scorched, in 2015, and the third, Rupture, in January of this year. With each book running to close to 200 pages, this retelling is a thoroughly twenty-first century approach to the story.

Jendela Tryst’s website explains her approach to mythology and her reasons for writing:

Jendela Tryst worries that humanity is in trouble. The world has become too cynical. By marrying ancient traditional tales with modern values, she reminds readers that love is older than ancient scripture, and that true love may even outlast the androids destined to replace us. Within every book, a little bird called Hope sings on.

This combination of myths and contemporary values has led to a refreshing and wholly believable world in which the Greek gods, and the mortals with whom they mix, are fully fleshed characters and wholly believable. The advertising blurb to the first volume of this modern and lovely narration runs:

He thought he knew everything about love, until she made him redefine it.

When Eros, the devil-may-care god of love is pricked by his own arrow, he falls for the most unsuitable of mates, a mortal woman he has been ordered to destroy.

Without knowing Eros’s true identity, spirited, intelligent Psyche shows the god just what it means to be on the receiving end of his arrows, with all its sweet pain and torment, and all its rapture.

The laws forbid their union, and Aphrodite, goddess of beauty and passion, is determined to see Psyche destroyed. Furthermore, the two must deal with their own doubts about themselves and each other which threaten their fragile relationship. Will Eros and Psyche become the canon of all that love has the potential to be, or will they follow a tragic path, with lessons learned too late to save them?

Meanwhile the back cover, which pre-empts the rest of the trilogy, runs:

While Eros battles rebels against the forces of Olympus, strong-willed Psyche must journey through inferno to prove her worth.  Time is running out for two determined lovers whose growing strength challenges the gods. Eros and Psyche’s inspiring devotion arouses unlikely allies, culminating in an alliance that threatens ancient traditions. Can a seemingly impotent god and a young mortal woman surmount immortal deities or will their love be buried in the destructive rubble of fear and ambition?

It is immediately apparent that this is a very different kind of retelling from most of the adaptations of the tale for young readers. The gods themselves are not only anthropomorphized as one would expect, but fascinatingly three dimensional and, while still retaining their otherworldliness and godliness, they are in many ways, “human”. In fact, as in some other recent cinematic portrayals, their lack of humanity is contrasted negatively with that of mortals.

The Enduring story of Cupid and Psyche

This Psyche is also not a princess but a farmer’s daughter. Her beauty is unconventional and the physical descriptions of her that speaks of her skin that is “not quite bronze and not quite gold”, and long hair that is dark brown, with natural red and blond streaks in it, perhaps owe more to Tryst’s Indian heritage than to Hollywood ideals of beauty. Her Psyche is also a thoroughly modern woman, despite living in Bronze Age Greece (the Trojan War is taking place at the time of the events of the story) – she is “strong-willed”, “spirited” and “intelligent”, and this is a match of true love, and of justice and freedom from oppression, as part of a much wider universal story. The book is also far more graphic in its sexuality than most juvenile versions of the story. It is beautifully told, truly a rendering for the twenty-first century, and yet, paradoxically, in some ways it seems very close to the feeling of the original in its sophistication and creation of a fully developed world. — Lisa Maurice

ps, you can find out more about Jendela Tryst and her website at, and the books are available on Amazon as both print and kindle editions.

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