Persephone grew up on Olympus and her gay laughter rang through the brilliant halls. She was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and her mother loved her so dearly she could not bear to have her out of her sight. When Demeter sat on her golden throne her daughter was always on her lap; when she went down to earth to look after her trees and fields, she took Persephone. Wherever Persephone danced on her light feet, flowers sprang up.
She was so lovely and full of grace that even Hades, who saw so little, noticed and fell in love with her. He wanted her for his queen, but he knew that her mother would never consent to part with her, so he decided t carry her off. One day as Persephone ran about in the meadow gathering flowers, she strayed away from her mother and the attending nymphs. Suddenly, the ground split open and...
...up from the yawning crevice came a dark chariot drawn by black horses. At the reins stood grim Hades. He seized the terrified girl, turned his horses, and plunged back unto the ground. A herd of pigs rooting in the meadow tumbled into the cleft, and Persephone’s cries for help died out as the ground closed again as suddenly as it had opened. Up in the field, a little swineherd stood and wept over the pigs he had lost, while Demeter rushed wildly about in the meadow, looking in vain for her daughter, who had vanished without leaving a trace.
With the frightened girl in his arms, Hades raced his snorting horses down away from the sunlit world. Down and down they sped on the dark path to this dismal underground palace. He led weeping Persephone in, seated her beside him on a throne of black marble, and decked her with gold and precious stones. But the jewels brought her no joy. She wanted no cold stones. She longed for warm sunshine and flowers and her golden- tressed mother. Dead souls crowded out from cracks and crevices to look at their new queen, while ever more souls came across the Styx, and Persephone watched them drink from a spring under dark poplars. It was the spring of Lethe, and those who drank from its waters forgot who they were and what they had done on earth.
Rhadamanthus, a judge of the dead, dealt out punishment to the souls of great sinners. They were sentenced to suffer forever under the whips of the avenging Erinyes. Heroes were led to the Erinyes fields, where they lived happily forever in never-failing light. Around the palace of Hades there was a garden where whispering poplars and weeping willows grew. They had no flowers and bore no fruit and no birds sang in their branches. There was only one tree in the whole realm of Hades that bore fruit. That was a little pomegranate tree. The gardener of the underworld offered the tempting pomegranates to the queen, b Persephone refused to touch the food of the dead. Wordlessly she walked through the garden at silent Hades’ side and slowly her heart turned to ice.
Above, on earth, Demeter ran about searching for her lost daughter, and all nature grieved with her. Flowers wilted, tress lost their leaves, and the fields grew barren and cold. In vain did the plow cut through the icy ground; nothing could sprout, and nothing could grow while the goddess of harvest wept. People and animals starved, and the gods begged Demeter again to bless the earth. But she refused to let anything grow until she had found her daughter. Bent with grief, Demeter turned into a gray old woman. She returned to the meadow where Persephone had vanished and asked the sun if he had seen what had happened, but he said no, dark clouds had hidden his face that day. She wandered around the meadow and after a while she met a youth whose name was Triptolemus. He told her that his brother, a swineherd, had seen his pigs disappear into the ground and had heard the frightened screams of a girl.