In Apuleius’ comedy The Golden Ass or Metamorphoses, written in the second century CE, the love-stricken Pamphile employs magic to transform herself into a bird in order to procure her man.3 The narrator Lucius is fascinated by her art and begs Pamphile’s servant to steal some of her ointment so that he may try the metamorphosis himself. Unfortunately the servant mistakes the jar and Lucius is changed into an ass, giving rise to a series of savagely comic social satires. ‘The Story of Cupid and Psyche’ which The Golden Ass contains reiterates the themes of female desire and bodily representation in forms that have become familiar to us as fairy tales.4 In Apuleius’ version, Psyche is the youngest daughter of a king and queen, whose beauty is so great it arouses the envy of Venus. The goddess accordingly commands her son Cupid to strike Psyche with one of his arrows so that she will instantly fall in love with a ‘degraded’ creature.5 Venus’ plan is foiled by Cupid himself who wounds his own body with the arrow and becomes Psyche’s lover. Ignorant of these divine schemes, Psyche is conducted to a mysterious and beautiful palace where her every need is attended to and where each night Cupid makes love to her.
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