Most people know something of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice: When Eurydice died from a venomous snake bite shortly after their wedding, Orpheus was distraught.
He journeyed to the underworld and begged Hades to return Eurydice to life.
When Orpheus played his lyre, the music was so sweet that for the brief duration of the song the sufferings of all in the underworld were eased. As reward, Hades granted Orpheus’s request.
With one catch (there’s always a catch). Orpheus was forbidden to look at Eurydice until they were both back on the earth’s surface. You can probably guess from the picture what happened.
In The Loves of Leopold Singer, Leopold Singer (singer – get it? get it?) is an Orpheus figure. When Leopold’s wife is traumatized shortly after their marriage, she sinks into a kind of depression. He’d love nothing better than to save her from her pain, but in a twist on the myth, she has to find her own way through the passage of Taenarus to the bright, sunshiny day.
I’ve strewn references to the mythology of Orpheus throughout LOLS. It isn’t at all necessary to know Greek mythology to enjoy the story, but I hope people who do like it will enjoy that aspect of the novel.
Some other tidbits:
The Lost Bee is the name of a London coffee house in LOLS. According to Greek mythology, Aristaeus was the first to domesticate bees. He’s also the villain who chased after Eurydice, driving her into the path of the deadly snake who killed her. Later, when Orpheus was inconsolable having twice lost his love, the nymphs responded to Orpheus’s grief by destroying Aristaeus’s bees.
Orpheus’s power is centered in his music – his voice and his harp. When the Maenads tried to kill him (because he refused to make love with women, among other things), the sticks and stones they threw were enthralled by his music and failed to hit him. This drove the Maenads into a rage. When their loud frenzy drowned out Orpheus’s song, the projectiles hit their mark with deadly force, and the Maenads ripped Orpheus to pieces. In LOLS, after Leopold refuses the advances of a woman not his wife, a storm drowns out his voice to dire effect.