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Persephone & Demeter: a tale for Mother's Day

  Once when I was a baby, my mother lost me. I had just started crawling and when her back was turned, I went exploring. I found a perfect spot between the couch & wall and slid right in. My mother could hear me, but she couldn’t see me. Although I was completely happy-singng and talking in my baby voice-she was very worried. That’s the way with parents, they will always love you and worry about you. This story is about another girl who got lost. Here name is Persephone.

  Persephone’s mama was Demeter, but you guys probably know her as Mother Nature. She made everything grow- all the flowers and bushes and trees and especially the food. The humans who lived in Greece worshiped the goddess Demeter, hoping she would bless their corn and olives and lettuce and make it grow big and strong. One day while Demeter was working on this, she told Persephone to go outside and pick some flowers.
  “You can pick all the flowers you want, but don’t you go out of this field. I want to still be able to see you.” said Persephone’s mama. [Does that sound familiar?]
 Persephone ran outside. The sun was shining and the flowers were beautiful, just like her mama made them. She played for a while, and gathered up a great bunch of pretty flowers. Then she saw the cave at the bottom of the hill.
  Caves are really cool, full of bats and neat rocks, and there was a boy about her age sitting right inside the entrance, watching her. Persephone forgot what her mama said and headed straight there.
 The boy said his name was Hades and he lived in a house inside the cave. Persephone had never seen anyone like him before- with really pale skin like he didn’t play outside very much. His hair was dark like hers, but his eyes seemed sad and lonely, despite his really nice expensive clothes. Persephone followed Hades into the cave to play.

  Now when Persephone’s mama, Demeter, looked up from her work, she didn’t see her daughter at all. She walked all the way around the yard and still didn’t see her. She began to get scared. She ran over to the house of Persephone’s Uncle Zeus.
  “Zeus, Zeus! I can’t find Persephone. She was just here in the yard, and now I can’t find her anywhere!”
 Zeus gave Demeter a glass of tea and asked her to tell him exactly what had happened that morning. After all, he was the King of all the gods. Surely, they could figure it out together.
 Demeter took a deep breath. “I told her to go outside and play and pick some flowers after breakfast. Then a little while ago, I looked up and she wasn’t anywhere in the yard. I swear I looked everywhere!”
 “Well, that means she’s probably still in the neighborhood somewhere. She’s probably not far. Hermes, come here!” Zeus called over the one god who knew everyone & could run the fastest. [ Hermes is the god of flower deliverymen, people who work at the post office, and the Internet. You’ve probably seen him around, wearing wings on his sandals and some more on his helmet.]
  Zeus told Hermes to run around the neighborhood and ask everyone if they’ve seen Persephone. He took off like a shot.
  Now, Zeus thought Hermes would be right back, but... Demeter ended up having dinner at Zeus’ house, although she didn’t eat very much. And she stayed the night in his guest room, although she didn’t sleep very much.

  Meanwhile, Persephone had made a new best friend. Hades showed Persephone how beautiful things like jewels and minerals came from the rocks of the cave. He had a whole castle built of shiny emeralds and rubies. He even showed her how things like mushrooms could grow in the dark. In fact, he had a whole garden, which was lit by a skylight in the roof, allowing in just enough sunlight to grow a pomegranate tree, Persephone’s favourite fruit.
   It was cold down in the cave, so different than her house, and Hades said it was lonely too. No one ever really came to visit, unless they had to. They were afraid of the cave. Persephone promised she would always come back and they would be friends forever. He gave her presents- a diamond ring and a whole handful of pomegranate seeds.

  Upstairs in Persephone’s neighborhood, Hermes searched and searched for her. But he couldn’t find any clues, until he came to Hecate's house. Hecate was Persephone’s grandmother and could see the whole neighborhood from her front porch, plus she made really good chocolate chip cookies.
 “Hello there, Grandmother.” said Hermes, hoping for a clue, or at least a cookie.
  “Hello there, boy, are you looking for my granddaughter?” asked the old woman, handing him both.
 “Why yes, have you seen Persephone?” asked Hermes.
 “She was playing with that pale child who lives in the cave yesterday. Go into the dark and I bet you’ll find her down there with the bats.”
  Hermes shivered a little bit, because he was afraid. But he did as he was told, eating his cookie quick & running straight for the cave’s opening.
  Slowly, he stepped into the dark. It was hard to see down there, but the path was easy and he didn’t trip at all, except when he almost fell into the creek which flowed in front of Hades’ jeweled house. Once he crossed though, he saw the two friends under the pomegranate tree.
  “Persephone! Your mother is furious and scared and can’t find you anywhere.” Hermes told her.
  Hades looked at Persephone frightened that she would break her promise and leave him. She hugged him and looked at Hermes.
  “But my friend is lonely!” she explained. “I want to stay here. Look he’s even given me a ring & my favourite food.”
   Hermes knew there was nothing he could do but go back to Demeter and tell her what had happened.

  Now, Demeter knew something was wrong as soon as she saw Hermes’ face.
  “Where is she? What’s happened? Is she alright?” she demanded.
  Hermes told her what Persephone had said. Demeter spun on Zeus furious.
  “You will bring my daughter back to me or you will see how mad a Mama can get!” she shouted and then she stomped out the door.
  Suddenly, the beautiful weather changed. Demeter was so worried, that she made summer turn into autumn. Leaves began to fall and the air got chilly. As Zeus and Hermes tried to figure out what to do, fall turned into winter. It was the first time, any of the humans had ever had to wear coats. It was so cold that the plants died and snow fell on the ground and nothing would grow. People started getting hungry, because there wasn’t any food. Demeter, Mother Nature, said she didn’t care. She wanted her daughter back!

  So, Zeus headed for the cave. He carefully stepped into the cool darkness and across the creek to Hades’ palace of jewels. Inside he found Persephone & Hades playing. The boy was laughing and smiling for the first time Zeus had ever seen. Persephone’s company made him so happy. Zeus knew he couldn’t split the two friends up, but the humans on earth needed his help and Demeter was so unhappy without Persephone.
  “Hello, Persephone,” he called. “Hello, Hades.”
 “Oh, Uncle!” she replied and gave him a big hug. Hades held back shyly.
  “Persephone, I’m here, because there’s a problem on earth.”
  He explained how worried her mama was and how the people were starting to get sick, because they were cold and didn’t have anything to eat.
   “I miss her too. But Hades will be sad and lonely, if I go back,” said Persephone.
  They all thought for a moment. then Zeus had an idea.
  “What if you took turns?” suggested Zeus.
  He explained that if Persephone would come back home, her mama would make everything grow again. The humans could learn to save their food for wintertime and make coats during the warm season. Then when Persephone came down to play with Hades and Demeter got upset again, the humans still be okay.
  Persephone thought about this and it seemed fair. She didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. She loved both her mother and her best friend.

   So, that’s why we have both cold and hot seasons. Right now, Persephone lives with her mother, helping her make all the vegetables, fruits, flowers & bushes grow. In the fall, she’ll go below the ground to live with her friend Hades, playing in the dark and eating tasty pomegranate seeds. Her mama get upset and the world will be become cold, but now we humans have to wear coats and can vegetables. And Persephone and the Spring will always come back and her mama won’t worry about her anymore.

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Comment by Christi U. on May 16, 2011 at 9:31am

@Judith: Thank you. It seems to either really engage people who aren't familiar with the story or initially tick off the ones who have heard the Edith Hamilton version over and over. The ones who have heard multiple versions seem to embrace this one as much as all the others. I got many interesting reactions from both children and adults.

   Have you noticed though, after you write a draft of your stories, they begin to morph in the practice and telling? I feel almost bad for posting my drafts here, because after a week or two more practicing them, they end up twisting into their own kind of personalities, sometimes diverging from the tale even more.

Comment by Judith Alexander on May 5, 2011 at 10:28pm
Christi, I love this version of this story. I tried to work up a version to tell two years ago for Mothers' Day and it worked, but it wasn't a real hit,probably because I didn't fall in love with it.
Thanks for this idea, of making the two kids and Demeter so clearly the mother of a young child.
Judith Alexander, Seattle

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