Written by Ryan Foley and illustrated by Sankha Banerjee, Stolen Hearts: The Love of Eros and Psyche is the latest in the Campfire Graphic Novel Mythology Series. The myth is framed as an object lesson on the power of love to overcome all obstacles. Demiarties, a female tutor, tells the story to her teenage charge who is having problems with the family of the young man she is in love with. The young man’s mother feels she is not good enough for him.
“Take two prominent families.” Demiarties tells her. “Have two young members of the families be in love. Add a disapproving mother who wants to keep them apart … that is a tale as old as time itself.” Psyche’s story, she goes on, is a story of “romance, trust, separations, second chances, and a very powerful disapproving mother.”
The story she tells follows the traditions fairly closely. Aphrodite, jealous of Psyche’s beauty, sends her son, Eros to use his arrows to cause her to fall in love with some foul creature. Eros, however, succumbs to her beauty and falls in love with her himself. When Aphrodite refuses to relent in her animosity to Psyche, Eros vows to withhold love of all kinds from the world and eventually Aphrodite is forced to give in.
The story continues with the strange marriage between the lovers, Psyche’s failure to obey the command that she not look at her husband, her various labors to make up for her failure, including her descent into Hades, and of course her final transformation into a goddess. Foley tells the story in a straightforward manner, but never loses its magical quality. The young adult is the audience Campfire generally aims at, and this is just the kind of tale that can capture their target audience’s imagination and encourage further exploration.
Campfire fosters such exploration with the inclusion of a two-page addendum at the book’s conclusion in which several other classic romances are summarized under the title, “Legends of Love.” These include Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Paris and Helen from the Western tradition in literature, as well as Salim and Anarkali and Layla and Majnu from the Eastern. Their stories are presented in short paragraphs with single illustrations of each of the couples. Interspersed on the pages are interesting facts related to the stories. For example, the planet Uranus has one of its 27 moons named Juliet, and Cleopatra supposedly bathed in donkey’s milk. Again these are the kinds of things that may well send the young reader to the internet for more information, maybe even the library.
Banerjee’s illustrations seem smoother and brighter than has been the norm in previous Campfire editions. Even the images of Psyche in Hades are not as dark as they might have been. Representations of the gods and goddesses are imbued with the kind of monumentality you would expect from divine beings. Often panels are laid out so that the figure of the god dominates the page. In general, the illustrations are effectively fine tuned to work closely with the text.
If you are looking for a way to introduce a youngster to the magical world of mythology, this Campfire version of Eros and Psyche is a good place to start. It is a story that has everything: romance, jealousy, adventure, and mystery. It is a story with lessons to learn, morals to be drawn. But most important of all, it is a story told with flair and illustrated with style.