The story begins with a king and queen who have three daughters. The youngest daughter, Psyche, is of such exceptional beauty that “the poverty of language is unable to give her due praise.”
People travel to her, proclaiming the girl is the second coming of Aphrodite, and make offerings to her instead of the goddess herself.
Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, becomes jealous.
Venus tells her son Cupid, a young man with golden wings who represents unrestrained passion, to go to Psyche, and make her fall in love with some low, ugly person. Cupid finds the sleeping Psyche and drops bitter water on her to bring her sorrow. He pricks her with a magical arrow, waking her and startling himself.
Cupid accidentally pricks his own leg with the arrow, which unbeknownst to him, will cause the two to fall in love.
Cupid feels badly for bringing the girl sorrow, and unaware that he is already in love with her, drops joyful water on her to bring her happiness.