Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Persephone is a Badass Writing Contest (Win $100!)

This contest is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered!

See the winner and honorable mentions here, and check out the latest contest—The Niobe Contest!

The Challenge: Write a 5,000 word or less short story about the myth below.

Deadline: February 29, 2016, by midnight

Entry fee: FREE!

Prize: $100 Visa eCard


The Myth

Pirithous and Theseus were bros. They both decided that they wanted to marry daughters of Zeus, and as there was no dating app for such an enterprise, they decided to help each other abduct their brides.

Pirithous helped Theseus abduct Helen of Sparta, who was 12 at the time (Theseus, you dickhead). Then it was Theseus’s turn to help his friend. Pirithous decided he wanted Persephone.

Theseus didn’t think much of this plan. He brought up the facts that Persephone was:

1) Queen of the Underworld.
2) Married to Hades.
3) Guarded by chthonic monsters, such as Cerberus, the three-headed dog.
4) A highly-revered goddess. Abducting her might, potentially, in some circles, be termed “blasphemous.”

But Pirithous’s mind was made up.

Perhaps he brought up the fact that Hades himself had only obtained his bride by abducting her. Obviously Persephone was one of the easy goddesses. Maybe they would just have to wait till Hades wasn’t looking or something.

So Theseus, whose sense of “bros before ho’s” really was very epic, agreed to venture to the Underworld, from whence no living being ever returned, to abduct the Queen of the Dead and the wife of Hades himself.

I am not sure what plan Pirithous and Theseus had should they be successful. (Would they just lock Persephone up in an attic?)

Anyway, they went to the Underworld (road trip!), made it past Cerberus (wow, that was easy), and entered the court of the Underworld (Gothic wonderland). They were surprised at their success so far. Even more surprising was that Hades and Persephone welcomed the two quite hospitably. They were even allowed to sit on fancy stone thrones. They could not believe their luck! This was going to be a piece of cake!

Or not.

Suddenly, they were bound to their seats with snaking chains—or vines, or in some versions of the myth with actual snakes—so tightly that they couldn’t move. Persephone had known their game all along.

The thrones proved to be Persephone’s Throne of Lethe—the Throne of Forgetfulness, which all the dead sat on before forgetting their lives and becoming mindless, confused, wandering wraiths.

Theseus and Pirithous, though, were not allowed to wander. They were bound so closely to the rocks that their bodies began to graft onto the stone. (That’s so Game of Thrones, I can’t even stand it.)

Years later, Theseus was freed by Hercules (but part of his butt tore off because it was stuck to the rock). Pirithous, however, is probably still there today.

You can read all about this train wreck of an adventure here.  Click on the link and scroll down to the section labeled “Persephone Wrath: Pirithous.”


The Contest

I’d like to know what exactly went on when Theseus and Pirithous were “entertained” in the Underworld. How do the Lord and Lady of the Underworld deal with rapists who think they are so fucking smooth and smart?

I’d especially love to know how Persephone figured out that these two meant to abduct her. Did she get them drunk so they said something stupid? Did her husband Hades figure it out, since he’d once been a kidnapper and rapist himself? Did the crone goddess of the occult, Hecate, warn her? Hecate could pass into and out of the Underworld whenever she liked, and was a great personal friend of Persephone.


The Specifics

Deadline: February 29, 2016, by midnight

Entry fee: FREE!

Prize: $100 Visa eCard


I’ll judge entries based on:

— Word count. Please stick to 5,000 words or less. It can be much less, if you want. (I only have so much time to read entries, and it would be a shame to toss yours out because it’s too long!)

— Writing prowess. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, but just give it your best shot. An understanding of how to structure a story, how to use dialogue, and all that jazz will work in your favor. (Spelling, grammar, and typos count.)

— An understanding of Persephone as a mythological figure. If you make her a man-hating, party-loving, milk-of-lethe chugging sorority feminist, you don’t get the myth. (There are a few tips on the myth below, to give you some inspiration.)

Send your entry to my email: Please paste your entry in the body of your email, since I won’t open attachments. The subject line should be “Persephone is a Badass Contest.” Please write your entry in English. You can email me any questions at the same address. I’ll have a winner by March 10. The winner will be announced in a blog entry, so be sure to subscribe to “Contest Announcements” by clicking SUBSCRIBE at the bottom of this post.

Once you send your story in, I’ll send you a confirmation email so you know I’ve received it.


Mythic Inspiration

Your Underworld doesn’t have to be under the ground, your Persephone doesn’t have to be a goddess, and your Theseus doesn’t have to be a king. You can set your story in modern times or on a starship. Turn it into a Western or a steampunk, or do the Jane Austen version. What if Persephone is a rags-to-riches businesswoman and Theseus and Pirithous are trying to stage a corporate takeover? What if she’s an alien queen, and Theseus and Pirithous are rogue space pirates trying to start a colony on another planet?

You don’t have to tell the whole story. You can focus on the “hospitality” scene, or just write what’s going on in Persephone’s head as she realizes what’s going on. Be creative!

Here are a few details about the myth that you can play with. (Not that you have to, but you never know what’s going to inspire you.) In different versions of the myth, you’ll find the following elements . . .

— Persephone is often shone carrying two flaming torches, which she used to guide people through the Underworld.

— Read more about Persephone in this archetype profile I wrote. And here are some more things I wrote about her as she appears in pop culture.

— Here are some things I did not write about her, and which are incredibly awesome and right on the money: Archetypal Relationships — Persephone and Hades. And Exploring the Archetypes: Persephone. And The Persephone Archetype: A Deeper Look

— Here is a clip from Legend that’s a great depiction of Kora’s transformation into Persephone. And one of Persephone being wooed by Hades. (Legend wasn’t intended to show Persephone and Hades, and it diverts from the myth on some big important points. But these scenes are pretty cool anyway.)

— Hades was also known as The Wealthy One, due to the riches that exist deep within the earth (gems, minerals, seeds that create plants). He was known to be stern, forbidding, and very Alpha Male.

— Homer describes Persephone as the “formidable, venerable, and majestic queen of Shades, who exercises her power, and carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead, along with her husband.”

— Persephone and Hades’s daughters were the Erinyes, or the Furies. They were three Underworld goddesses of vengeance.

— Kora, Persephone, and Hecate may have been aspects of the same goddess—as in “Maiden-Mother-Crone,” and “Kora-Persephone-Hecate.”

Read more about Hecate here.

— In myths and archetypes, the Underworld symbolizes the unconscious mind, and heroes who successfully venture there are either devoured by their own inner monsters, or access their deep inner strength. In this story, Persephone would be one of those successful heroes. Theseus and Pirithous would not, really.

— In another myth, Aphrodite has some tips for approaching Persephone safely. “She will welcome you in genial and kindly fashion, and she will try to induce you to sit on a cushioned seat beside her and enjoy a rich repast. But you must settle on the ground, ask for course bread, and eat it.”

— Many versions of the myth have Hades as the one to find out what Theseus and Pirithous were up to. In these versions, he’s the one who imprisons them, protecting his wife.

— Theseus was the King of Athens, and the legendary slayer of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Crete.

— Read more about Theseus and his many (mis)adventures here.

— Pirithous was a pirate.

— Here is how Theseus and Pirithous met: Theseus heard that pirates were stealing cattle from his coast, and went to stop the pirates. However, when he came face to face with the pirate captain, Pirithous, the two were so impressed with each other that they decided to go get a drink rather than fight. Yes really.

— They may have gone back to Theseus’s place after that drink. Some myths make the two lovers.


Have fun arche-typers, and good luck! Another contest is already in the works for March and April!


© Mythraeum 2016. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact me to request usage.



Ozma says:

I luvv this!!!!

mythraeum says:

Woo hoo! So glad 🙂


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