In Virgil’s Georgics, Eurydice was the wife of Orpheus. One day a Satyr saw her and chased her. She accidentally stepped on a viper and was killed by the venomous bite. Orpheus, who lost the love of his life, played his lyre and sand songs so sad that the gods told him to travel to the Underworld and ask Lord Hades to release her. After singing, Hades and Persephone agreed to let Eurydice return to the land of the living, but only if Orpheus walked in front of her and he did not look back to catch a glimpse of her until they reached the land of the living. Orpheus, of course, began to doubt that Hades would allow her to return to the land of the living and so he turned and looked at her and she vanished back into the Underworld.
Ovid retells the story, in Metamorphoses, in a similar fashion, but blames Eurydice’s death, not on being chased by a Satyr, but by dancing with Naiads on her wedding Day and it was at this time she was bitten by a serpent.
In “The Song Of Orpheus” (Sandman Special # 1), Gaiman sticks primarily to the Virgil version of the story, but incorporates the story of Orpheus into the Sandman mythology.
Orpheus is the son of Morpheus and Calliope and the Endless attend the wedding of Orpheus and Eurydice. On the night of their wedding, Orpheus’ friend Aristaeus, a satyr, becomes drunk and sexually aroused and wants to make love with Eurydice. She spurns his advances and when he starts to become forceful she runs in hopes of escaping him. While running she steps on a snake, which bites her and she dies.
Death, Orpheus’ aunt and a guest of the wedding, takes her.
Orpheus mourns for his wife. He seeks the help of his father and asks to help bring her back. Morpheus tells him that he cannot help. Orpheus then contemplates suicide in hopes of being reunited with his lost love, but his uncle Destruction stops him and tells him to visit Death. Death grants him the ability to not die in order to enter into the Underworld in hopes of retrieving Eurydice.
As in Greek mythology, Orpheus asks Hades and Persephone to release Eurydice. Orpheus sings and the dead, as well as the Furies, cry. Hades grants Orpheus his wish and allows Eurydice to return to the land of the living, but only if he walks in front of her and does not look back see if she is behind him. Once they cross the threshold into the land of the living, only then can Orpheus look upon his wife. Just as Orpheus approaches the gateway and sees daylight be begins to doubt Hades’ promise and thinks that Hades is playing a cruel joke on him. As he gets closer to the doorway he looks back and sees the apparition of Eurydice and she once again returns to the realm of the dead.
Eurydice and the story of Orpheus appear in The Sandman Special # 1.
I asked Joëlle to draw Eurydice because I was hoping that she would capture the absolute beauty of the character and I am very glad she did. Eurydice is gorgeous. Joëlle did an amazing job capturing the beauty of this character and really drawing a perfect representation of the character. It’s absolutely perfect!!!