OLD GREEK FOLK STORIES TOLD ANEW
OLD GREEK FOLK STORIES TOLD ANEW
JOSEPHINE PRESTON PEABODY
Hawthorne in his _Wonder-Book_ and _Tanglewood Tales_ has told in a
manner familiar to multitudes of American children and to many more who
once were children a dozen of the old Greek folk stories. They have
served to render the persons and scenes known as no classical
dictionary would make them known. But Hawthorne chose a few out of the
many myths which are constantly appealing to the reader not only of
ancient but of modern literature. The group contained in the collection
which follows will help to fill out the list; it is designed to serve
as a complement to the _Wonder-Book_ and _Tanglewood Tales_ so that
the references to the stories in those collections are brief and
allusive only. In order to make the entire series more useful the
index added to this number of the _Riverside Literature Series_ is made
to include also the stories contained in the other numbers of the
series which contain Hawthorne's two books. Thus the index serves as a
tolerably full clue to the best-known characters in Greek mythology.
_Once upon a time men made friends with the Earth. They listened to
all that woods and waters might say; their eyes were keen to see
wonders in silent country places and in the living creatures that had
not learned to be afraid. To this wise world outside the people took
their joy and sorrow; and because they loved the Earth she answered
_It was not strange that Pan himself sometimes brought home a
shepherd's stray lamb. It was not strange if one broke the branches of
a tree that some fair life within wept at the hurt. Even now the
Earth is glad with us in springtime and we grieve for her when the
leaves go. But in the old days there was a closer union clearer speech
between men and all other creatures Earth and the stars about her._
_Out of the life that they lived together there have come down to us
these wonderful tales; and whether they be told well or ill they are
too good to be forgotten._
THE JUDGMENT OF MIDAS
ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE
ICARUS AND DAEDALUS
ADMETUS AND THE SHEPHERD
I. DIANA AND ACTAEON
II. DIANA AND ENDYMION
THE CALYDONIAN HUNT
PYRAMUS AND THISBE
PYGMALION AND GALATEA
CUPID AND PSYCHE
THE TRIAL OF PSYCHE
STORIES OP THE TROJAN WAR
I. THE APPLE OF DISCORD
II. THE ROUSING OF THE HEROES
III. THE WOODEN HORSE
THE HOUSE OF AGAMEMNON
THE ADVENTURES OF ODYSSEUS
I. THE CURSE OF POLYPHEMUS
II. THE WANDERING OF ODYSSEUS
III. THE HOME-COMING
Pan led a merrier life than all the other gods together. He was beloved
alike by shepherds and countrymen and by the fauns and satyrs birds
and beasts of his own kingdom. The care of flocks and herds was his
and for home he had all the world of woods and waters; he was lord of
everything out-of-doors! Yet he felt the burden of it no more than he
felt the shadow of a leaf when he danced but spent the days in
laughter and music among his fellows. Like him the fauns and satyrs
had furry pointed ears and little horns that sprouted above their
brows; in fact they were all enough like wild creatures to seem no
strangers to anything untamed. They slept in the sun piped in the
shade and lived on wild grapes and the nuts that every squirrel was
ready to share with them.
The woods were never lonely. A man might wander away into those
solitudes and think himself friendless; but here and there a river
knew and a tree could tell a story of its own. Beautiful creatures
they were that for one reason or another had left off human shape.
Some had been transformed against their will that they might do no
more harm to their fellow-men. Some were changed through the pity of
the gods that they might share the simple life of Pan mindless of
mortal cares glad in rain and sunshine and always close to the heart
of the Earth.
There was Dryope for instance the lotus-tree. Once a careless happy
woman walking among the trees with her sister Iole and her own baby
she had broken a lotus that held a live nymph hidden and blood dripped
from the wounded plant. Too late Dryope saw her heedlessness; and
there her steps had taken root and there she had said good-by to her
child and prayed Iole to bring him sometimes to play beneath her
shadow. Poor mother-tree! Perhaps she took comfort with the birds and
gave a kindly shelter to some nest.
There too was Echo once a wood-nymph who angered the goddess Juno
with her waste of words and was compelled now to wait till others
spoke and then to say nothing but their last word like any
mocking-bird. One day she saw and loved the youth Narcissus who was
searching the woods for his hunting companions. "Come hither!" he
called and Echo cried "Hither!" eager to speak at last. "Here am
I--come!" he repeated looking about for the voice. "I come" said
Echo and she stood before him. But the youth angry at such mimicry
only stared at her and hastened away. From that time she faded to a
voice and to this day she lurks hidden and silent till you call.
But Narcissus himself was destined to fall in love with a shadow. For
leaning over the edge of a brook one day he saw his own beautiful face
looking up at him like a water-nymph. He leaned nearer and the face
rose towards him but when he touched the surface it was gone in a
hundred ripples. Day after day he besought the lovely creature to have
pity and to speak; but it mocked him with his own tears and smiles and
he forgot all else until he changed into a flower that leans over to
see its image in the pool.
There too was the sunflower Clytie once a maiden who thought nothing
so beautiful as the sun-god Phoebus Apollo. All the day long she used
to look after him as he journeyed across the heavens in his golden
chariot until she came to be a fair rooted plant that ever turns its
head to watch the sun.
Many like were there. Daphne the laurel Hyacinthus (once a beautiful
youth slain by mischance) who lives and renews his bloom as a
flower--these and a hundred others. The very weeds were friendly....
But there were wise immortal voices in certain caves and trees. Men
called them Oracles; for here the gods spoke in answer to the prayers
of folk in sorrow or bewilderment. Sometimes they built a temple around
such a befriending voice and kings would journey far to hear it speak.
As for Pan only one grief had he and in the end a glad thing came of
One day when he was loitering in Arcadia he saw the beautiful
wood-nymph Syrinx. She was hastening to join Diana at the chase and
she herself was as swift and lovely as any bright bird that one longs
to capture. So Pan thought and he hurried after to tell her. But
Syrinx turned caught one glimpse of the god's shaggy locks and bright
eyes and the two little horns on his head (he was much like a wild
thing at a look) and she sprang away down the path in terror.
Begging her to listen Pan followed; and Syrinx more and more
frightened by the patter of his hoofs never heeded him but went as
fast as light till she came to the brink of the river. Only then she
paused praying her friends the water-nymphs for some way of escape.
The gentle bewildered creatures looking up through the water could
think of but one device.
Just as the god overtook Syrinx and stretched out his arms to her she
vanished like a mist and he found himself grasping a cluster of tall
reeds. Poor Pan!
The breeze that sighed whenever he did--and oftener--shook the reeds
and made a sweet little sound--a sudden music. Pan heard it half
"Is it your voice Syrinx?" he said. "Shall we sing together?"
He bound a number of the reeds side by side; to this day shepherds
know how. He blew across the hollow pipes and they made music!
THE JUDGMENT OF MIDAS
Pan came at length to be such a wonderful piper with his syrinx (for so
he named his flute) that he challenged Apollo to make better music if
he could. Now the sun-god was also the greatest of divine musicians
and he resolved to punish the vanity of the country-god and so
consented to the test. For judge they chose the mountain Tmolus since
no one is so old and wise as the hills. And since Tmolus could not
leave his home to him went Pan and Apollo each with his followers
oreads and dryads fauns satyrs and centaurs.
Among the worshippers of Pan was a certain Midas who had a strange
story. Once a king of great wealth he had chanced to befriend
Dionysus god of the vine; and when he was asked to choose some good
gift in return he prayed that everything he touched might be turned
into gold. Dionysus smiled a little when he heard this foolish prayer
but he granted it. Within two days King Midas learned the secret of
that smile and begged the god to take away the gift that was a curse.
He had touched everything that belonged to him and little joy did he
have of his possessions! His palace was as yellow a home as a dandelion
to a bee but not half so sweet. Row upon row of stiff golden trees
stood in his garden; they no longer knew a breeze when they heard it.
When he sat down to eat his feast turned to treasure uneatable. He
learned that a king may starve and he came to see that gold cannot
replace the live warm gifts of the Earth. Kindly Dionysus took back
the charm but from that day King Midas so hated gold that he chose to
live far from luxury among the woods and fields. Even here he was not
to go free from misadventure.
Tmolus gave the word and Pan uprose with his syrinx and blew upon the
reeds a melody so wild and yet so coaxing that the squirrels came as
if at a call and the birds hopped down in rows. The trees swayed with
a longing to dance and the fauns looked at one another and laughed for
joy. To their furry little ears it was the sweetest music that could
But Tmolus bowed before Apollo and the sun-god rose with his golden
lyre in his hands. As he moved light shook out of his radiant hair as
raindrops are showered from the leaves. His trailing robes were purple
like the clouds that temper the glory of a sunset so that one may look
upon it. He touched the strings of his lyre and all things were silent
with joy. He made music and the woods dreamed. The fauns and satyrs
were quite still; and the wild creatures crouched blinking under a
charm of light that they could not understand. To hear such a music
cease was like bidding farewell to father and mother.
With one accord they fell at the feet of Apollo and Tmolus proclaimed
the victory his. Only one voice disputed that award.
Midas refused to acknowledge Apollo lord of music--perhaps because the
looks of the god dazzled his eyes unpleasantly and put him in mind of
his foolish wish years before. For him there was no music in a golden
But Apollo would not leave such dull ears unpunished. At a word from
him they grew long pointed furry and able to turn this way and that
(like a poplar leaf)--a plain warning to musicians. Midas had the ears
of an ass for every one to see!
For a long time the poor man hid this oddity with such skill that we
might never have heard of it. But one of his servants learned the
secret and suffered so much from keeping it to himself that he had to
unburden his mind at last. Out into the meadows he went hollowed a
little place in the turf whispered the strange news into it quite
softly and heaped the earth over again. Alas! a bed of reeds sprang up
there before long and whispered in turn to the grass-blades. Year
after year they grew again ever gossipping among themselves; and to
this day with every wind that sets them nodding together they murmur
laughing "_Midas has the ears of an ass: Oh hush hush!_"
In the early days of the universe there was a great struggle for
empire between Zeus and the Titans. The Titans giant powers of heaven
and earth were for seizing whatever they wanted with no more ado than
a whirlwind. Prometheus the wisest of all their race long tried to
persuade them that good counsel would avail more than violence; but
they refused to listen. Then seeing that such rulers would soon turn
heaven and earth into chaos again Prometheus left them to their own
devices and went over to Zeus whom he aided so well that the Titans
were utterly overthrown. Down into Tartarus they went to live among
the hidden fires of the earth; and there they spent a long term of
bondage muttering like storm and shaking the roots of mountains. One
of them was Enceladus who lay bound under Aetna; and one Atlas was
made to stand and bear up the weight of the sky on his giant shoulders.
Zeus was left King of gods and men. Like any young ruler he was eager
to work great changes with his new power. Among other plans he
proposed to destroy the race of men then living and to replace it with
some new order of creatures. Prometheus alone heard this scheme with
indignation. Not only did he plead for the life of man and save it but
ever after he spent his giant efforts to civilize the race and to
endow it with a wit near to that of gods.
In the Golden Age men had lived free of care. They took no heed of
daily wants since Zeus gave them all things needful and the earth
brought forth fruitage and harvest without asking the toil of
husbandmen. If mortals were light of heart however their minds were
empty of great enterprise. They did not know how to build or plant or
weave; their thoughts never flew far and they had no wish to cross the
But Prometheus loved earthly folk and thought that they had been
children long enough. He was a mighty workman with the whole world for
a workshop; and little by little he taught men knowledge that is
wonderful to know so that they grew out of their childhood and began
to take thought for themselves. Some people even say that he knew how
to make men--as we make shapes out of clay--and set their five wits
going. However that may be he was certainly a cunning workman. He
taught men first to build huts out of clay and to thatch roofs with
straw. He showed them how to make bricks and hew marble. He taught them
numbers and letters the signs of the seasons and the coming and going
of the stars. He showed them how to use for their healing the simple
herbs that once had no care save to grow and be fragrant. He taught
them how to till the fields; how to tame the beasts and set them also
to work; how to build ships that ride the water and to put wings upon
them that they may go faster like birds.
With every new gift men desired more and more. They set out to see
unknown lands and their ambitions grew with their knowledge. They were
like a race of poor gods gifted with dreams of great glory and the
power to fashion marvellous things; and though they had no endless
youth to spend the gods were troubled.
Last of all Prometheus went up secretly to heaven after the treasure
of the immortals. He lighted a reed at the flame of the sun and
brought down the holy fire which is dearest to the gods. For with the
aid of fire all things are possible all arts are perfected.
This was his greatest gift to man but it was a theft from the immortal
gods and Zeus would endure no more. He could not take back the secret
of fire; but he had Prometheus chained to a lofty crag in the Caucasus
where every day a vulture came to prey upon his body and at night the
wound would heal so that it was ever to suffer again. It was a bitter
penalty for so noble-hearted a rebel and as time went by and Zeus
remembered his bygone services he would have made peace once more. He
only waited till Prometheus should bow his stubborn spirit but this
the son of Titans would not do. Haughty as rock beneath his daily
torment believing that he suffered for the good of mankind he endured
One secret hardened his spirit. He was sure that the empire of Zeus
must fall some day since he knew of a danger that threatened it. For
there was a certain beautiful sea-nymph Thetis whom Zeus desired for
his wife. (This was before his marriage to Queen Juno.) Prometheus
alone knew that Thetis was destined to have a son who should be far
greater than his father. If she married some mortal then the prophecy
was not so wonderful; but if she were to marry the King of gods and
men and her son should be greater than he there could be no safety
for the kingdom. This knowledge Prometheus kept securely hidden; but he
ever defied Zeus and vexed him with dark sayings about a danger that
threatened his sovereignty. No torment could wring the secret from him.
Year after year lashed by the storms and scorched by the heat of the
sun he hung in chains and the vulture tore his vitals while the young
Oceanides wept at his feet and men sorrowed over the doom of their
At last that earlier enmity between the gods and the Titans came to an
end. The banished rebels were set free from Tartarus and they
themselves came and besought their brother Prometheus to hear the
terms of Zeus. For the King of gods and men had promised to pardon his
enemy if he would only reveal this one troublous secret.
In all heaven and earth there was but one thing that marred the new
harmony--this long struggle between Zeus and Prometheus; and the Titan
relented. He spoke the prophecy warned Zeus not to marry Thetis and
the two were reconciled. The hero Heracles (himself an earthly son of
Zeus) slew the vulture and set Prometheus free.
But it was still needful that a life should be given to expiate that
ancient sin--the theft of fire. It happened that Chiron noblest of
all the Centaurs (who are half horses and half men) was wandering the
world in agony from a wound that he had received by strange mischance.
For at a certain wedding-feast among the Lapithae of Thessaly one of
the turbulent Centaurs had attempted to steal away the bride. A fierce
struggle followed and in the general confusion Chiron blameless as
he was had been wounded by a poisoned arrow. Ever tormented with the
hurt and never to be healed the immortal Centaur longed for death and
begged that he might be accepted as an atonement for Prometheus. The
gods heard his prayer and took away his pain and his immortality. He
died like any wearied man and Zeus set him as a shining archer among
So ended a long feud. From the day of Prometheus men spent their lives
in ceaseless enterprise forced to take heed for food and raiment
since they knew how and to ply their tasks of art and handicraft They
had taken unresting toil upon them but they had a wondrous servant at
their beck and call--the bright-eyed fire that is the treasure of the
Even with the gifts of Prometheus men could not rest content. As years
went by they lost all the innocence of the early world; they grew more
and more covetous and evil-hearted. Not satisfied with the fruits of
the Earth or with the fair work of their own hands they delved in the
ground after gold and jewels; and for the sake of treasure nations made
war upon each other and hate sprang up in households. Murder and theft
broke loose and left nothing sacred.
At last Zeus spoke. Calling the gods together he said: "Ye see what
the Earth has become through the baseness of men. Once they were
deserving of our protection; now they even neglect to ask it. I will
destroy them with my thunderbolts and make a new race."
But the gods withheld him from this impulse. "For" they said "let not
the Earth the mother of all take fire and perish. But seek out some
means to destroy mankind and leave her unhurt."
So Zeus unloosed the waters of the world and there was a great flood.
The streams that had been pent in narrow channels like wild steeds
bound to the ploughshare broke away with exultation; the springs
poured down from the mountains and the air was blind with rain.
Valleys and uplands were covered; strange countries were joined in one
great sea; and where the highest trees had towered only a little
greenery pricked through the water as weeds show in a brook.