Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE STORY OF PERSEPHONE
C. S. B. Adapted from the Greek myth.
 THERE was once a wonderful fairy called Ceres, who took
care of all the harvests upon the earth. Not a kernel
of corn nor a grain of wheat could ripen unless she
touched it with her fingers. Not an orchard could
blossom and bear fruit, not a flower could bloom in the
fields, not a single, tiny blade of grass could sprout
until Ceres rode by in her chariot and bade them grow.
She wore a wreath of poppies upon her head, and she
carried a torch in her hand to light the autumn fires;
and, oh, she was very busy from morning till night,
taking care of the crops.
Now Ceres had one little daughter, Persephone. Ceres
was obliged to leave Persephone alone a great deal, and
she always told her that she must not stray far from
home. In those days, when fairies were in the world,
there were also other strange creatures: the dryads who
lived in the oak trees; the naiads who lifted their
dripping bodies from the streams; the fauns with feet
like a goat and little horns upon their heads, who
gamboled about the woods, and the ugly old satyrs with
horses' tails and monkey faces—so it
 was not safe
for a little fairy child to be far from home.
Usually Persephone remembered, but one day she forgot.
She had been sitting for a long time upon the
door-sill, making daisy chains, but she had picked all
the daisies in the garden, and she thought she would
just go a little way outside for more. On and on
through the fields she went, until she saw—gleaming
away off, at the end of a meadow—a great bush quite
covered with bright red flowers.
"I must pick just one!" cried Persephone, running over
to the bush and tugging with all her might at one of
the blossoms. It was very hard to pick it, and, all at
once, as Persephone tugged and pulled, there came a
great crack in the earth at the roots of the strange
bush. Wider and wider it grew, and there came a sound
of horse's hoofs and the rumbling of wheels up through
the ground. Persephone gave one last tug, but, just as
the flower came off in her hand, the hole in the earth
grew larger and deeper and deeper. The sound of the
wheels became louder, and up through the ground came a
team of coal-black horses drawing a chariot of gold.
There was a man in the chariot, wearing rich garments
and a crown of diamonds upon his head. Before
Persephone could run away he had seized her and drawn
her into the chariot, and was driving away with her,
down through the bottomless hole in the earth and away
from the fields and the daylight.
"Mother Ceres! Mother Ceres!" cried Persephone, and
she struggled to pull herself away, but she could not
"Mother Ceres, come!" she called, but Ceres was a long
way off and could not hear her.
 "I am King Pluto," said the man in the chariot.
"The gold, and the silver, and the diamonds, and all
the precious things of the earth are mine. You shall
have them all, Persephone, if you will only live with
me in my palace. I am lonely, and I have wished for a
little girl like you."
But Persephone only cried the louder, as she said:
"Oh, no, no! I want my mother, and the flowers, and
It grew very dark where they rode. They passed a
still, black river, and King Pluto said: "Let us
drink, Persephone. The waters will make you so happy
that you will forget your mother and the flowers." But
Persephone would not drink.
They reached King Pluto's palace, at last, which was
really very beautiful, lighted with diamond lamps, and
having the long halls encrusted with every sort of
precious gem. King Pluto ordered a great feast to be
spread—all sorts of sweets and preserves, and a golden
goblet of the wonderful magic water—but Persephone
would not eat or drink. From morning till night she
wandered about the great palace—a lonely little girl
who wanted her mother.
Now, some way or other, Mother Ceres had imagined that
something was wrong. She hastened to finish her tasks,
and she came home—to find the house empty, and
Persephone gone! No one knew where the child was.
Poor Ceres! She lighted her torch freshly and started
out to look up and down the world for Persephone.
Ceres never stopped to rest. Her garments were wet
with the night dews, and her wreath of poppies withered
and faded. At every cottage she stopped to ask of the
peasants, and at every forest to inquire of the
fairy folk if they had seen Persephone. One had heard
a child crying, another had heard the sound of chariot
wheels, but no one had seen Persephone. On and on
traveled Ceres, and the earth was in a most terrible
way, for she neglected all the crops.
The farmers ploughed and planted, but no grain came up.
The flower beds were empty. The cows and sheep
starved, because there was no grass for them to eat.
And Ceres cried: "There shall nothing grow upon the
earth until my little girl comes home again!"
At last King Pluto heard of the terrible blight upon
the earth. He was not such a wicked old king, after
all, so he called Persephone to him, and he said:
"Should you like to go to your mother, child? You may
go, if you wish, but you must eat with me, first. Here
is a fresh pomegranate. Eat, Persephone!"
Persephone, although she had been with King Pluto for
six long months, had not eaten a mouthful of anything,
but she was so happy at the thought of seeing her
mother that she took the pomegranate from King Pluto
and ate a part of it. Then she rode with King Pluto up
to the earth again and started over the fields to
Ceres. And, as she went, all along the path where she
stepped the brown fields that had seen no verdure for
so many months blossomed into violets, and the waving
grain arose, and the orchards bent low with fruit.
Poor Ceres was sitting on her doorstep holding her
torch when, all at once, it flickered, and then went
"What is this?" she cried. "My torch must not go out
until I find Persephone!"
But just then Persephone ran straight into Mother
 "My child, did you eat with King Pluto?" asked
Ceres, after she had held Persephone close for a long
"Only just six pomegranate seeds, mother," said
"Ah, Persephone," cried Ceres, "then, for each seed,
you must spend one month of every year at King Pluto's
palace, and I may have you only for the other six."
So, half the year, Persephone lived with her mother,
and Ceres drove over the earth and bade the crops grow
and flourish. For the other half, Persephone went to
King Pluto's palace to make him happy; but Ceres
mourned at home for her little girl, and the flowers
died, and the fields lay brown and sere.
And that is how the first winter came upon the earth,
because Persephone went away, and Ceres bade the earth
sleep and mourn. But that is, too, how the first
springtime came—because Persephone came home, and the
violets blossomed wherever she stepped.