Aspects of the Demeter/Persephone myth in modern fiction

Kay, Janet Catherine Mary (2006-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Ancient Studies)--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


The question that this thesis aims to examine is how the motifs of the myth of Demeter and Persephone have been perpetuated in three modern works of fiction, which are Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce, Chocolat by Joanne Harris and House of Women by Lynn Freed. It is the aim of this work to substantiate that the issues that the ancient myth of Demeter and Persephone highlights, are still of value in this modern world and that the same human issues that women had to come to terms with then, continue to be relevant today. Briefly, the myth of Demeter and Persephone is about Demeter, the Olympian goddess of agricultural fertility, whose daughter Persephone is abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld. The myth tells of Demeter’s grief at the loss of Persephone, and her desperate search for her daughter. Due to her grief, she stops all plants from growing which could be fatal to the mortals, and would have repercussions for the immortals that they serve. Demeter and Persephone are eventually reunited and the earth flourishes with growth once more. However for one-third of the year Persephone must descend to the Underworld to be at the side of Hades, at which time it is winter and plants do not grow. Then for two-thirds of the year she ascends to be with her mother, Demeter, and plants blossom and ripen, and it is the time of spring and summer. The impact of myth is not dead.

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