The Coiled Serpent
Pretending to weep, they went to Psyche. "You poor darling", they sobbed. "We've thought about it very hard, and we've decided we have to tell you. We love you too much to hide the truth from you any longer. Your husband (alas!) is an enormous snake. A very dangerous snake that could crush your poor body or poison you with its venom. Remember the oracle that said you would marry a savage animal! We've talked to the local people - many of them have seen it; they say it's only waiting for you to reach your full size - its favorite diet is plump and juicy pregnant ladies, with the baby fully grown inside them! There's only one thing to do - run away with us while you still can. Now!"

Poor Psyche - so beautiful and (as you'll realise by now) so stupid. She believed every wicked word her sisters told her. She turned white with fear. "It must be true!" she whispered. "That's why he wont let me see him! That's why he only comes when it's dark - and why I'm told I must never try to find out what he looks like! It's because he's an ugly, disgusting ... reptile!"

The sisters saw they were winning. The decided to go all the way with their plan. "We still love you", they lied. "There is a way you can save yourself. Get a knife - make sure it's really sharp. Hide it under your pillow. Get a lamp - make sure it's got plenty of oil, light it, turn the wick right down, and put it behind the curtains - it won't shine through all that heavy brocade. When he's asleep, when the revolting slimy serpent is snoring beside you, fetch the lamp. Take out your knife, and cut off the repulsive monster's vile head. We'll be hiding in the room to help you get away with all his treasure. We'll take you home, and see you married to a nice kind human!"

As soon as they knew Psyche had swallowed the idea, they slipped away, all the way back to their boring husbands - no chance of finding them anywhere around when the disaster struck! It was agony for Psyche. She hated the thought of being married to a snake - but somehow she still loved her husband. Would she be brave enough to carry out the plan? But finally she made up her mind. She hid the knife, and lit the lamp.

Night fell, and in the pitch dark, her husband came to her, as usual. They made love - it was delicious, but she was determined. She took the murderous knife in one hand, and fetched the lamp in the other. She turned up the wick, and moved towards the bed. She saw the most beautiful and gentle creature. She recognised him immediately, from the wings on his back - folded now at rest, with the feathers trembling ever so slightly as he breathed. Cupid himself! The god of Love - and yes, there was his bow, and his quiver full of arrows propped at the end of the bed. She took one out to examine it. Ouch! The point pricked her finger, and she was now hopelessly and blindly in love with Love. She flung herself on his sleeping body, kissing and stroking, dazzled by the perfection of his smooth skin, and delicate limbs.

But somehow she'd been careless when she put down the lamp. She nudged it unawares, and a drop of scalding-hot oil landed on the god's shoulder. At once he was awake, saw Psyche, took in the situation, and took off - without a word. Psyche was still clinging to a his leg as he flew - but he managed to shake her off. She landed on the earth with a bump. He landed beside her, and spoke with a voice full of anger and sadness. "You stupid fool! My mother told me to make you fall in love with a worthless nobody - but I disobeyed, and fell in love with you myself. But now, because you broke our agreement, it's all over. I told you not to listen to those filthy-minded sisters of yours: I'll have my revenge on them. But your punishment is this - you will never see me again." And he soared into the air.

She flung herself into the river that she'd followed all those months ago - to drown herself. But the river god refused to allow her to die, and washed her ashore. She started walking, and by evening found herself in a strange city. It was the one where her eldest sister was queen! Her sister was very surprised to see her, but let her explain what had happened. "I got the lamp, and the knife, just as you said, but it wasn't a snake at all! It was Venus' darling son, Cupid, lying there asleep! I was overcome with emotion, and somehow a drop of oil got spilt on his shoulder. He jumped up, saw the knife, and told me: "Get out of my bed, you bitch! I divorce you! I shall marry your beautiful elder sister instead!"

The sister could hardly wait - spinning her husband some lie, she rushed off back to the rock and leaped off. But the West Wind's orders had been cancelled, and she was smashed to pieces on the rocks. Then Psyche went to the city where her other sister was queen, and told the same story. She,too, rushed off, and - sad to relate - died in agony in exactly the same way.