If I had known what was to come of my fate, do you think that I would have done things differently?
Many of you have probably not heard of me. My eternal prison in the sky is not a homage to my beauty, nor is it a testament to the life that I lived. No, it is only a reminder of my greatest mistake, one that the universe will never let me live down.
My name is Cassiopeia. Once, I was a queen. Now, I am a prisoner.
Before my daughter was born, I was the most beautiful woman that walked the Earth. My hair fell down my back, the brunette mane naturally curly, something that other women were always jealous of. My eyes were green, like emeralds. My skin blemish-free and flawless enough to make any goddess envious. It is part of the reason that my husband, Cepheus, the king of Ethiopia, chose me. He showered me in wealth and affection, blessing the two of us with a daughter only a year after our wedding. Even as a baby, Andromeda betoken beauty that was equivalent to my own. She enchanted everyone that she met, much like I did in my youth.
My husband gave me everything; I wanted for nothing. Our marriage was blissful and our kingdom prospered under our rule, all while we watched our beautiful child grow to be a beautiful woman.
One day, however, everything went straight to Hades. I made a mistake.
Sea-nymphs were jealous creatures, especially when it came to their own beauty. No one, particularly humans, could be more beautiful than they were. I made the mistake to say that I myself, and my daughter, were more beautiful than the Nereids – a group of sea nymphs whose father was Nereus, a notorious sea god.
Poseidon - the lord, and therefore the protector and ruler, of all the sea gods and goddesses - got wind of my boasts, and decided that my testament would not do. Gods and goddesses did not allow humans to be more beautiful than themselves, much like the nymphs they ruled over. They despised our human ability to even think that this was possible. In retaliation for my crime, Poseidon decided that sending the sea monster Cetus to destroy my kingdom would be the best punishment.
My husband and I raced to our palace’s sacred temple, consulting the oracle there on what we should do.
“Sacrifice your daughter” was her only advice.
I was adamant that that was not something I was willing to do. My daughter was my everything; she was half of my soul, but Cepheus was king, and his word was final.
“This was your fault,” he said to me, as he chained our daughter – our beautiful daughter – to the cliff at the sea’s edge. We had a vantage point to watch, back in the safety of the castle. This was the first time Cepheus had ever spoken against me, and it was also the first time I had ever felt hopeless.
Since the king had brought me back to the castle, we left my daughter to face Cetus alone. I watched from the balcony with agony as moments passed. Seconds, minutes, hours. It seemed like an eternity passed me by before Cetus rose from the sea, the most grotesque monster that I had ever seen in my life. The creature's mouth was a gaping hole, surrounded by teeth as sharp as any sword, and twice as large as my daughter, quivering below him. The scales that lay along his head, his neck, the rest of his body, glimmered wickedly, winking at me as if to tease. His fins were barbed, wretched appendages, just as terrifying as the rest of him. There was no way my daughter would survive, not alone.
But suddenly, a hero came, and saved my daughter. This, however, is part of her story. I will leave it for her to tell later.
I had never been more relieved in that moment, with my daughter safe and sound. However, gods tend to hold grudges, and they do not like to be bested.
I spent the rest of the day, after Cetus was defeated and Andromeda saved, with my daughter and her savior, my husband and I the happiest we had ever been now that our daughter was safe.
Then, that night, Poseidon took me away.
I cried, and struggled, and screamed as he placed me among the stars, chained in the way that Andromeda had been. My beautiful body contorted with the chains, my spine breaking and molding into a jagged shape, in order to fit the chain that Poseidon forced me to sit in.
No one was ever able to save me. I sit, trapped in the heavens, in agony and desperation. I watched my husband move on, and my daughter live her life without me. I watched as the human race moved on, forgot about me, my beauty, everything about me. I remained trapped in the stars because I loved myself. Because I loved who I was.
The greatest enemy to a woman who loves herself are the people who are jealous that she does.
Author’s Note: So the original tale of Cassiopeia is simple: she is vain, boasts about her beauty, and Poseidon does not like that too much, so he takes his revenge by sending a sea monster to destroy the queen’s kingdom. However, the king and queen decide to sacrifice their daughter to the monster, which backfires when Perseus comes and saves Andromeda inside. Poseidon does not like that either, so he takes Cassiopeia away and decides to seek revenge by placing her in a chair and chaining her in the heavens, deforming her and her beauty forever. I kept most of the story the same, except I made Cassiopeia more of a loving mother. The fact that she tells you the story from her point of view makes the narrator understand that in her mind, Cassiopeia was not vain, but instead sees her adoration for herself as loving oneself (which is perfectly fine, until you decide to compare yourself to others (however, this is Greek mythology, and their culture was extremely agnostic in nature)). The point of the story was to show the readers how other people see you and how you see yourself can hurt you in the long run, as they might not be the same. Cassiopeia is one of my favorite constellations (I even have a tattoo of the star formation on my arm), so this story meant a lot to write. I wrote her story first, because the next is going to be about Andromeda, and I wanted to give you a little insight into her story!
Bibliography: Cassiopeia (Queen of Ethiopia) on Wikipedia.