Friday, November 11th, 2016

The Adonis Contest: Win $300 for your story!

This contest is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! The winner will be posted January 18. Meanwhile, check out the Pandora Contest.


The Contest: Write a story of 5,000 words or less about the myth below.

Deadline: December 31, 2016, by midnight

Entry fee: FREE!

Prize: $300


The Myth

Myrrha was princess of Assyria, daughter of king Theias. I don’t know what was going on with her—some kind of Electra complex—but she fell in love with her father and enlisted her nurse to trick him into sleeping with her. After a few super hot incest sessions (wtf) she became pregnant.

When Theias figured out what was going on, he was pretty upset. He decided to kill his daughter. (The only logical decision right?)

Myrrha ran, and when her father caught up with her, she prayed for help from the gods, who transformed her into a myrrh tree.

Nine months later, the child Adonis was born out of the myrrh tree.

He was a strikingly beautiful baby. So radiant that he attracted the attention of Aphrodite, who loved him right away. She decided to keep him all to herself and hid him in a secret box. However, she was still a little worried that the other goddesses, who were snoops,  might find him and try to take him for themselves, so Aphrodite made herself a plan.

She gave the box to Persephone, queen of the Underworld, who said, “Oh sure, I’ll take care of this for you.” It was a brilliant plan! Nobody would ever look in the Underworld! And even if they did think to look there, even gods couldn’t go to the Underworld (except for a very select few).

But Aphrodite’s plan did not go as planned. Persephone fell in love with the baby Adonis, too. When Aphrodite came to collect him, Persephone refused to give him up. So there ensued a kind of tug of war between the two goddesses over Adonis.

At this point, Adonis was presumably a young man and had grown up in the Underworld, which would have given him a touch of otherworldly beauty.

The goddesses could not come to an agreement, so Zeus intervened (just as he had when Persephone herself had wanted to leave the Underworld to be with her mother, Demeter).

Zeus declared that Adonis should spend one part of the year in the Underworld with Persephone, one part of the year with Aphrodite, and he could do whatever he wanted with the third part of the year.

Adonis always chose to spend his third of the year with Aphrodite.

And then he died, tragically. There are different versions of his death. The one I’ll share here is that he was hunting—and Aphrodite had warned him not to go after anything too dangerous, like bears or boar. Adonis was only supposed to go after things like bunnies and squirrels—nothing that might actually fight back. But Adonis got ambitious, and hunted a boar. Just like Aphrodite warned, the boar proved too much for Adonis. It gored him deeply, and he died in Aphrodite’s arms. His blood poured out of his body, and where it hit the ground, flowers bloomed.

(Some say that Artemis became jealous of his mad hunting skills and caused the boar to gore him. But I don’t know what she’d be jealous of if he was only hunting rabbits and things up to that point.)

You can read more about Adonis’s story here at Maicar.


The Contest

The Contest: Write a story of 5,000 words or less about the myth below.

Deadline: December 31, 2016, by midnight

Entry fee: FREE!

Prize: $300

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 the Adonis myth and the characters involved.

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 “Adonis Contest.” Please write your entry in English and in prose. You can email me any questions at the same address. I’ll have a winner by January 10 2017. Subscribe to Mythraeum to see the winner.

Have questions? See if your answers are in the Writers’ FAQ.


Mythic Inspiration

Adonis seems, at first, like kind of a lame story about a pretty boy that two goddesses fought over. Like, what is all the fuss over him? Why is he still so famous? He doesn’t have any special talents or accomplish any amazing feats. He doesn’t go on legendary quests, found a city, or take any decisive actions that made him stand out in any way. He even dies the first time he tries to hunt a big animal. What gives?

It’s because Adonis was actually an ancient dying-and-rising vegetation god. These gods lived and died in yearly cycles, reflecting the way the plants were born, bore fruit, then died. In many ancient societies that included dying-and-rising vegetation gods, they had yearly rituals where a “king” was chosen to rule alongside the queen/goddess—but only for a year. After he served for a year, he was sacrificed and died.

This kept the land fertile. Really, the king WAS the crops. (Osiris was another dying-and-rising god in this vein. So were Tammuz and Dumuzi.) You can read more about dying-and-rising gods here. 

In the “dying and rising” aspect, Adonis and Persephone were kind of the perfect pair. Persephone was a goddess in this vein herself.

Adonis’s name is related to Adonai, one of the Hebrew terms for “lord.”

In The White Goddess, Robert Graves calls Persephone “the Aphrodite of the Underworld,” pointing out that in some myths (in some traditions) Persephone and Aphrodite were two versions of the same goddess.

You can use some of these ideas in your story, or none of them. Your Adonis can be a god or a farmer or a king or a kid from the ’burbs. Your story doesn’t have to be set in Ancient Greece or Assyria (but it can be). You can set it in modern times or on a spaceship. Turn it into a Western or steampunk, or even do the Jane Austen regency version.

You don’t have to tell the whole story. You can write a quick vignette, or get as sweeping and epic as you can in 5,000 words. You can focus on Adonis, Aphrodite, Persephone, or another character. Be creative!


Mythraeum currently hosts six of these short story contests a year. In 2017, one of the winning contest entries will be chosen for production as a short film.

We’re already finished with our first film, Heat! It’s 15 minutes long and is being shopped around to film festivals (but is not available to view online yet). Read the short story we adapted here.

Have fun arche-typers, and good luck!


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