An illustrated series depicting the painfully beautiful story of Orpheus and Eurydice.
The story is visualised through 9 illustrations, the titles of which are inspired from an album called Orphée by the artist, Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018), who was deeply inspired by the Greek Tragedy. The sole inspiration behind these illustrations and the themes have been his music and the emotions they exude when one listens to it.
Below are the explanations for each illustration:
(1/9) The Burning Mountain:
Orpheus, son of Apollo, was known as the best musician ever born. He was gifted his first lyre by his father and later went on an expedition where he saved and healed people by playing his own powerful music. It is said that he played music so beautifully, that animals, trees and mountains moved closer, changing landscapes and creating the Earth as we know it today. During his adventures, he met his one true love, Eurydice. And soon they decided to get married. Some gods, however, were jealous of Eurydice’s beauty and so they did not bless their wedding. Hence, she was bitten and killed by a snake on their wedding day leaving Orpheus alone and in grief.
(2/9) A Song For Europa:
Overcome with grief and pain, Orpheus goes away from all the human settlements and finds solace in spending his time alone in nature. There, he spends his days mourning for his love and sings odes to her. His music is so heavy and filled with such anguish, that all the creatures of the forest and its gods are deeply moved by it and as a token of help, they show him the way to the Underworld, the land of Hades, where souls go after their mortal death.
(3/9) The Radiant City:
Prepared to do whatever it takes, and for the sole purpose of his true love, Orpheus ventured himself to the land of the dead, the Underworld, in an attempt to bring Eurydice back to life. He enters the deep canyons that grow dark and big as he nears the gates of the Underworld. Taking along with him only his lyre, Orpheus walks inside as the only living mortal to ever visit the land of Hades.
(4/9) The Drowned World:
The land of torment, the Underworld is guarded by the three-headed dog, Cerberus and it is almost impossible to go past this humongous creature. But Orpheus, gifted with the power of music, sings and plays his lyre with such passion, that for once, everything in the land of dead stops and all the souls and the guardians of the underworld listen to his music. For the first time, tears of love and respect have been shed in this land and Orpheus is let in by Cerberus and also Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx, who helps him cross the river of souls to reach Hades’ palace.
(5/9) A Deal With Chaos:
Upon arriving at Hades’ palace, he was welcomed with such warmth, that Orpheus could not believe his eyes. Hades was moved by his music so much, he asked Orpheus what was it that he wanted in return for playing such a wonderful song. On learning about Eurydice, Hades agrees to let Orpheus take Eurydice back with him to the land of life and light, but on one condition; That he must not look back at Eurydice while she follows him out of this realm of darkness. He can only ever see her once they’re both out of darkness and in light.
(6/9) A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder:
Happy and filled with hope, Orpheus agrees to Hades’ condition and the couple begin their journey to the land of the living. They climb the long staircase of gloom, slowly towards the opening from where the light seeps in from above. Orpheus climbs with such curiosity and in hopes that he gets to see his true love finally. But he cannot hear her footsteps nor gets any hints that she truly is behind him. With each step further, he loses control and patience but keeps on and makes his way outside when finally…
(7/9) A Pile of Dust
Finally, as he finds himself under the sunlight of the land of the living, Orpheus turns back to share his excitement and delight with Eurydice. But as he looks at her, he sees she’s still under the shade of the darkness, untouched by the sunlight. That very second, he sees her slowly disappear into thin air and her soul dragged back to the Underworld. Losing her for the second time.
(8/9) Goodnight, Day:
Losing Eurydice for the second time, Orpheus has completely sunken into grief. His heart can no longer bear the loss and he cannot even walk back to the underworld, because no mortal can ever visit the land of the dead more than once in their life. Lost of all hope, Orpheus sits by the riverside and sings songs again of love, despair, loss and its tragedies. He expresses life as nothing but a series of unfortunate events. He sings of it with such passion, that once again all of nature weeps with him. The Maenads of the forests, the ladies of absolute lust, divine madness and ecstasy, urge Orpheus to become theirs and seduce him with all their power. But Orpheus’ true love cannot be broken by them as well. Insulted by that, they curse Orpheus and tear him to pieces, throwing his limbs and parts of bodies all across the river.
(9/9) By the Hinds of The Fields:
On being murdered by the Maenads of the forests, Orpheus’s body was spread and floated across the winding rivers of the land. His limbs and his face were found along the shore by the Harpies who saw the sad musician, still under the lonesome spell. On learning that it was Orpheus – Son of Apollo, the Harpies put together his entire body and give him a proper burial.
And finally, Orpheus was reunited with Eurydice in the Underworld and there they lived peacefully and inseparably, by the Elysian Fields, eternally bound in love, undisturbed.