Proclamations and Compromises

Proclamations and Compromises April 6, 2018

Hermes, negotiating the first spring:

Hear ye, hear ye! To the Lord Hades, King of the Underworld, ruler of all the dead, sovereign of darkness, my dear brother. A message from the Lord Zeus, the mighty, the powerful, the wise and the just, the King of the Gods, ruler of skies and of earth… and I can see that this lengthy list of titles is simply infuriating you, so I’ll just skip ahead to the heart of the message shall I?

Mutters under breath

Ah, yes. A message delivered by our most able and brilliant herald, Lord Hermes.

What’s that?

Yes, of course he really said that!

No? Okay. We have sent to you our servant Hermes with the following message. But wasn’t it nicer the way I said it?

Yes, of course the royal we. He is a king, isn’t he? Well, anyway.

Brother, we hear that you have lately taken a wife, one Persephone daughter of Demeter, our sister, the Goddess of agriculture. She’s our daughter, too, of course, but that matters less for this story. In any case, we would normally congratulate you on your choice of bride, our dear brother. But in this case, we find that we must oppose the match. For her mother, Demeter, the goddess of all the earth’s fertility has been overcome with grief. And so she has decreed that the earth will bring forth nothing until Persephone is restored to her. This is the cause of much distress to us. Should all vegetation fail, we will be without the alcohol of which we have grown so fond. Soon all animals shall perish and we shall be without our regular receipt of those burnt offerings which so please us. And should humanity cease to live upon the earth, who shall adore us and worship us and make such lovely gifts for us? Therefore, we do hereby demand that you shall return said Persephone to her mother post haste! So shall it be done!

Oh Lord Zeus, a reply from your dear brother, Hades, King of the Underworld, thus.

My dear brother, King of air, lord of mortals during their too brief lives, from the Lord of the Underworld, King of mortals for the eternity of their deaths, greetings. We are in receipt of your message conveyed by your most able and brilliant herald, Lord Hermes.

What’s that? Yes, of course he really said that! No? Well, really, that’s how I should be referred to, but anyway.

We are in receipt of your message delivered by your herald, Hermes.

Yes, he’s using the royal we, too.

He is a king also.

Seriously, can we just not get bogged down in that? Okay, moving on.

Normally, we should be delighted to indulge this particular whim of my brother, however condescendingly delivered, as the wine and blood which soak into my realm from the offerings of the humans are a great pleasure to me as well. However, we find that these pleasures pale in comparison to the pleasure of our new wife’s company. And so we find that we shall be keeping her here with us. She has eaten of the fruit of the dead, in any case, which per our ancient agreement makes her ours forever.

Oh Lord Hades, a reply from your brother, King of the Gods.

No, really, I must recite it, it’s my job.

Okay, look, this is me now: how about this? Why don’t you offer to return her for half the year? Split the difference? Compromise? Everyone wins!

Yes, deals are my trade in addition to messages. Six months with you, six with her mother.

Yes? Oh, you are too good, my lord.

Oh Lord Zeus, a reply from your brother, King of the Underworld.

No, Persephone is not with me. Seriously, you’re not going to let me tell you what he said?

Okay, look, speaking as myself, how about this? Why don’t you offer to let him keep her for half the year? Split the difference? Compromise? Everyone wins!

Yes, it’s true, I do love a crafty deal. Six months with her mother, six with your brother.

Yes? Oh, you are too good, my lord.

Hear ye! Hear ye! It is proclaimed throughout the heavens and the earth and the underworld that the goddess Persephone shall reign as goddess of spring and flowers on the earth for half of each year, and the other half she shall reign as queen of the underworld beside her husband and king, Lord Hades. So shall it be forevermore.

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  • maggiebea

    I can just see Hermes pulling this off — lovely story!

  • Nancy Vedder-Shults

    Erika — I found this rewrite witty and fun. I’ve told this story as well, but with the emphasis on Demeter as a “feminist goddess” who demonstrates how we as women can protest effectively and get what we want and need in our lives. I also want you to know that I’ve posted my retelling of your story “How Fox Stole the Darkness.” If you’re interested it’s at . Enjoy it.

    Love, light, and healing darkness,
    Nancy Vedder-Shults

    P.S. Will you be at GA? If so, I would love to meet you.

  • Chris Sherman

    This retelling was a lot of fun! Thank you!

    Did you know that in the original tellings Zeus knew exactly where Persephone was, because he arranged her abduction? It was a marriage contract between Zeus and Hades, that reflected and gave a charter for Greek wedding practices of the time, when there was no son in a marriage to keep the family inheritance within the family. A family with only a girl heir was given in marriage to the closest male relative, to secure that the family fortune stayed within the family.

    I don’t agree with the practice, but historically, aside from telling the tale of the seasons, it also tells this bit.

    It, also, shows that Zeus was in a tighter position than it appears on the surface, because, by asking for Hades to return Persephone, he is, effectively, breaking the terms of the contract.