Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Fifth Labor of Hercules

Thereupon King Eurystheus sent him upon the fifth labor, which was one little worthy of a hero. It was to clean the stables of Augeas in a single day.

Augeas was king in Elis and had great herds of cattle. These herds were kept, according to the custom, in a great inclosure before the palace. Three thousand cattle were housed there, and as the stables had not been cleaned for many years, so much manure had accumulated that it seemed an insult to ask Hercules to clean them in one day.

When the hero stepped before King Augeas and without telling him anything of the demands of Eurystheus, pledged himself to the task, the latter measured the noble form in the lion-skin and could hardly refrain from laughing when he thought of so worthy a warrior undertaking so menial a work. But he said to himself: "Necessity has driven many a brave man; perhaps this one wishes to enrich himself through me. That will help him little. I can promise him a large reward if he cleans out the stables, for he can in one day clear little enough." Then he spoke confidently:

"Listen, O stranger. If you clean all of my stables in one day, I will give over to you the tenth part of all my possessions in cattle."

Hercules accepted the offer, and the king expected to see him begin to shovel. But Hercules, after he had called the son of Augeas to witness the agreement, tore the foundations away from one side of the stables; directed to it by means of a canal the streams of Alpheus and Peneus that flowed near by; and let the waters carry away the filth through another opening. So he accomplished the menial work without stooping to anything unworthy of an immortal.

When Augeas learned that this work had been done in the service of Eurystheus, he refused the reward and said that he had not promised it; but he declared himself ready to have the question settled in court. When the judges were assembled, Phyleus, commanded by Hercules to appear, testified against his father, and explained how he had agreed to offer Hercules a reward. Augeas did not wait for the decision; he grew angry and commanded his son as well as the stranger to leave his kingdom instantly.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Fourth Labor of Hercules

Then Hercules set out on his fourth undertaking. It consisted in bringing alive to Mycene a boar which, likewise sacred to Diana, was laying waste the country around the mountain of Erymanthus.

On his wanderings in search of this adventure he came to the dwelling of Pholus, the son of Silenus. Like all Centaurs, Pholus was half man and half horse. He received his guest with hospitality and set before him broiled meat, while he himself ate raw. But Hercules, not satisfied with this, wished also to have something good to drink.

"Dear guest," said Pholus, "there is a cask in my cellar; but it belongs to all the Centaurs jointly, and I hesitate to open it because I know how little they welcome guests."

"Open it with good courage," answered Hercules, "I promise to defend you against all displeasure."

As it happened, the cask of wine had been given to the Centaurs by Bacchus, the god of wine, with the command that they should not open it until, after four centuries, Hercules should appear in their midst.

Pholus went to the cellar and opened the wonderful cask. But scarcely had he done so when the Centaurs caught the perfume of the rare old wine, and, armed with stones and pine clubs, surrounded the cave of Pholus. The first who tried to force their way in Hercules drove back with brands he seized from the fire. The rest he pursued with bow and arrow, driving them back to Malea, where lived the good Centaur, Chiron, Hercules' old friend. To him his brother Centaurs had fled for protection.

But Hercules still continued shooting, and sent an arrow through the arm of an old Centaur, which unhappily went quite through and fell on Chiron's knee, piercing the flesh. Then for the first time Hercules recognized his friend of former days, ran to him in great distress, pulled out the arrow, and laid healing ointment on the wound, as the wise Chiron himself had taught him. But the wound, filled with the poison of the hydra, could not be healed; so the centaur was carried into his cave. There he wished to die in the arms of his friend. Vain wish! The poor Centaur had forgotten that he was immortal, and though wounded would not die.

Then Hercules with many tears bade farewell to his old teacher and promised to send to him, no matter at what price, the great deliverer, Death. And we know that he kept his word.

When Hercules from the pursuit of the other Centaurs returned to the dwelling of Pholus he found him also dead. He had drawn the deadly arrow from the lifeless body of one Centaur, and while he was wondering how so small a thing could do such great damage, the poisoned arrow slipped through his fingers and pierced his foot, killing him instantly. Hercules was very sad, and buried his body reverently beneath the mountain, which from that day was called Pholoë.

Then Hercules continued his hunt for the boar, drove him with cries out of the thick of the woods, pursued him into a deep snow field, bound the exhausted animal, and brought him, as he had been commanded, alive to Mycene.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Decision of Libuscha

LibuschaThere dwelt once in the neighborhood of Grünberg Castle in Bohemia two brothers—Staglow and Chrudis, of the distinguished family of Klemowita—and these two had fallen into a fierce dispute over the inheritance of their father's lands. The older son Chrudis thought that he should inherit all of the estate—and that is the custom in some countries, you know—while the younger son, Staglow, declared that the property should be equally divided.

Now it happened that a sister of the princess Libuscha Vyched lived at the court. She entreated the princess to settle the quarrel according to law.

The princess yielded to her wish, and decided that the brothers should either inherit their father's estate jointly or divide it into equal shares.

All the lords of the country assembled to hear the rendering of the decision—brave knights from far and near. Chrudis and Staglow, of course, were present, very curious to hear what their princess would decide. Pungel of Hadio, proclaimed far and wide as the bravest of all the knights of Bohemia, was also among the company.

The princess herself rendered the decision, standing in white robes before her people. The two brothers stood near, and scarcely had the last word been uttered when the knight Chrudis, who, as first-born, claimed the estate for himself, sprang excitedly to his feet, mocking and insulting the princess. "Poor people," he said, addressing the assembly, "I am sorry for you who have to be ruled over by a girl."

A woman dressed in white robes stands, surrounded by other people. Two men stand in front of her. One, his cloak thrown to the ground, gestures at the woman.

Deeply grieved, the maiden-princess Libuscha rose, explaining that she would no longer rule alone. She commanded the people to choose her a husband.

"No matter whom you choose," she declared, "I will abide by your decision."

Thereupon the assembled subjects cried out that they would have Pungel of Hadio as prince; and Libuscha, stepping toward him, extended her hand to him in token of her agreement.

Thus did Pungel become the liege lord of the Bohemian nobles.

No one knows how long ago all this happened, for the manuscript that tells the story was very old when it was discovered in the year 1817. It had lain for many, many years among other old documents in the great chests that lined the walls of the courtroom in the ancient Castle Grünberg in Bohemia. The manuscript is now in a great museum in Prague, and perhaps, some day, when you go there, you will see it for yourself.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Deucalion and Pyrrha

Deucalion and Pyrrha While the men of the Age of Bronze still dwelt upon the earth reports of their wickedness were carried to Jupiter. The god decided to verify the reports by coming to earth himself in the form of a man, and everywhere he went he found that the reports were much milder than the truth.

One evening in the late twilight he entered the inhospitable shelter of the Arcadian King Lycaon, who was famed for his wild conduct. By several signs he let it be known that he was a god, and the crowd dropped to their knees; but Lycaon made light of the pious prayers.

"Let us see," he said, "whether he is a mortal or a god."

Thereupon he decided to destroy the guest that night while he lay in slumber, not expecting death. But before doing so he killed a poor hostage whom the Molossians had sent to him, cooked the half-living limbs in boiling water or broiled them over a fire, and placed them on the table before the guest for his evening meal.

But Jupiter, who knew all this, left the table and sent a raging fire over the castle of the godless man. Frightened, the king fled into the open field. The first cry he uttered was a howl; his garments changed to fur; his arms to legs; he was transformed into a bloodthirsty wolf.

Jupiter returned to Olympus, held counsel with the gods and decided to destroy the reckless race of men. At first he wanted to turn his lightnings over all the earth, but the fear that the ether would take fire and destroy the axle of the universe restrained him. He laid aside the thunderbolt which the Cyclops had fashioned for him, and decided to send rain from heaven over all the earth and so destroy the race of mortals.

Immediately the North Wind and all the other cloud-scattering winds were locked in the cave of Aeolus, and only the South Wind sent out. The latter descended upon the earth; his frightful face was covered with darkness; his beard was heavy with clouds; from his white hair ran the flood; mists lay upon his brow; from his bosom dropped the water. The South Wind grasped the heavens, seized in his hands the surrounding clouds and began to squeeze them. The thunder rolled; floods of rain burst from the heavens. The standing corn was bent to the earth; destroyed was the hope of the farmer; destroyed the weary work of a whole year.

Even Neptune, god of the sea, came to the assistance of his brother Jupiter in the work of destruction. He called all the rivers together and said, "Give full rein to your torrents; enter houses; break through all dams!"

They followed his command, and Neptune himself struck the earth with his trident and let the flood enter. Then the waters streamed over the open meadows, covered the fields, dislodged trees, temples and houses. Wherever a palace stood, its gables were soon covered with water and the highest turrets were hidden in the torrent. Sea and earth were no longer divided; all was flood—an unbroken stretch of water.

Men tried to save themselves as best they could; some climbed the high mountains; others entered boats and rowed, now over the roofs of the fallen houses, now over the hills of their ruined vineyards. Fish swam among the branches of the highest trees; the wild boar was caught in the flood; people were swept away by the water and those whom the flood spared died of hunger on the barren mountains.

Deucalion and Pyrrha stand in a desolate landscape, under a dark sky, an altar on the hill top behind them. Human figures rise from the ground in front of them.

One high mountain in the country of Phocis still raised two peaks above the surrounding waters. It was the great Mount Parnassus. Toward this floated a boat containing Deucalion, the son of Prometheus, and his wife Pyrrha. No man, no woman, had ever been found who surpassed these in righteousness and piety. When, therefore, Jupiter, looking down from heaven upon the earth, saw that only a single pair of mortals remained of the many thousand times a thousand, both blameless, both devoted servants of the gods, he sent forth the North Wind, recalled the clouds, and once again separated the earth from the heavens and the heavens from the earth.

Even Neptune, lord of the sea, laid down his trident and calmed the flood. The ocean resumed its banks; the rivers returned to their beds; forests stretched their slime-covered tree-tops out of the deep; hills followed; finally stretches of level land appeared and the earth was as before.

Deucalion looked around him. The country was laid waste; it was wrapped in the silence of the grave. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he said to his wife, Pyrrha, "Beloved, solitary companion of my life, as far as I can see through all the surrounding country, I can discover no living creature. We two must people the earth; all the rest have been drowned by the flood. But even we are not yet certain of our lives. Every cloud that I see strikes terror to my soul. And even if danger is past, what shall we do alone on the forsaken earth? Oh, that my father Prometheus had taught me the art of creating men and breathing life into them!"

Then the two began to weep. They threw themselves on their knees before the half-destroyed altar of the goddess Themis, and began to pray, saying, "Tell us, O goddess, by what means we can replace the race that has disappeared? Oh, help the earth to new life."

"Leave my altar," sounded the voice of the goddess. "Uncover your heads, ungird your garments and cast the bones of your mother behind you."

For a long time Deucalion and Pyrrha wondered over the[Pg 32] puzzling words of the goddess. Pyrrha was the first to break the silence. "Pardon me, O noble goddess," she said, "if I do not obey you and cannot consent to scatter the bones of my mother."

Then Deucalion had a happy thought. He comforted his wife. "Either my reason deceives me," he said, "or the command of the goddess is good and involves no impiety. The great mother of all of us is the Earth; her bones are the stones, and these, Pyrrha, we will cast behind us!"

Both mistrusted this interpretation of the words, but what harm would it do to try? Thereupon they uncovered their heads, ungirded their garments and began casting stones behind them.

Then a wonderful thing happened. The stone began to lose its hardness, became malleable, grew and took form—not definite at once, but rude figures such as an artist first hews out of the rough marble. Whatever was moist or earthy in the stones was changed into flesh; the harder parts became bones; the veins in the rock remained as veins in the bodies. Thus, in a little while, with the aid of the gods, the stones which Deucalion threw assumed the form of men; those which Pyrrha threw, the form of women.

This homely origin the race of men does not deny; they are a hardy people, accustomed to work. Every moment of the day they remember from what sturdy stock they have sprung.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Third Labor of Hercules

The third demand of Eurystheus was that Hercules bring to him alive the hind Cerynitis. This was a noble animal, with horns of gold and feet of iron. She lived on a hill in Arcadia, and was one of the five hinds which the goddess Diana had caught on her first hunt. This one, of all the five, was permitted to run loose again in the woods, for it was decreed by fate that Hercules should one day hunt her.

For a whole year Hercules pursued her; came at last to the river Ladon; and there captured the hind, not far from the city Oenon, on the mountains of Diana. But he knew of no way of becoming master of the animal without wounding her, so he lamed her with an arrow and then carried her over his shoulder through Arcadia.

Here he met Diana herself with Apollo, who scolded him for wishing to kill the animal that she had held sacred, and was about to take it from him.

"Impiety did not move me, great goddess," said Hercules in his own defense, "but only the direst necessity. How otherwise could I hold my own against Eurystheus?"

And thus he softened the anger of the goddess and brought the animal to Mycene.
olus, "there is a cask in my cellar; but it belongs to all the Centaurs jointly, and I hesitate to open it because I know how little they welcome guests."

"Open it with good courage," answered Hercules, "I promise to defend you against all displeasure."

As it happened, the cask of wine had been given to the Centaurs by Bacchus, the god of wine, with the command that they should not open it until, after four centuries, Hercules should appear in their midst.

Pholus went to the cellar and opened the wonderful cask. But scarcely had he done so when the Centaurs caught the perfume of the rare old wine, and, armed with stones and pine clubs, surrounded the cave of Pholus. The first who tried to force their way in Hercules drove back with brands he seized from the fire. The rest he pursued with bow and arrow, driving them back to Malea, where lived the good Centaur, Chiron, Hercules' old friend. To him his brother Centaurs had fled for protection.

But Hercules still continued shooting, and sent an arrow through the arm of an old Centaur, which unhappily went quite through and fell on Chiron's knee, piercing the flesh. Then for the first time Hercules recognized his friend of former days, ran to him in great distress, pulled out the arrow, and laid healing ointment on the wound, as the wise Chiron himself had taught him. But the wound, filled with the poison of the hydra, could not be healed; so the centaur was carried into his cave. There he wished to die in the arms of his friend. Vain wish! The poor Centaur had forgotten that he was immortal, and though wounded would not die.

Then Hercules with many tears bade farewell to his old teacher and promised to send to him, no matter at what price, the great deliverer, Death. And we know that he kept his word.

When Hercules from the pursuit of the other Centaurs returned to the dwelling of Pholus he found him also dead. He had drawn the deadly arrow from the lifeless body of one Centaur, and while he was wondering how so small a thing could do such great damage, the poisoned arrow slipped through his fingers and pierced his foot, killing him instantly. Hercules was very sad, and buried his body reverently beneath the mountain, which from that day was called Pholoë.

Then Hercules continued his hunt for the boar, drove him with cries out of the thick of the woods, pursued him into a deep snow field, bound the exhausted animal, and brought him, as he had been commanded, alive to Mycene.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Cyclops

PolyphemusWhen the great city of Troy was taken, all the chiefs who had fought against it set sail for their homes. But there was wrath in heaven against them, for indeed they had borne themselves haughtily and cruelly in the day of their victory. Therefore they did not all find a safe and happy return. For one was shipwrecked and another was shamefully slain by his false wife in his palace, and others found all things at home troubled and changed and were driven to seek new dwellings elsewhere. And some, whose wives and friends and people had been still true to them through those ten long years of absence, were driven far and wide about the world before they saw their native land again. And of all, the wise Ulysses was he who wandered farthest and suffered most.

He was well-nigh the last to sail, for he had tarried many days to do pleasure to Agamemnon, lord of all the Greeks. Twelve ships he had with him—twelve he had brought to Troy—and in each there were some fifty men, being scarce half of those that had sailed in them in the old days, so many valiant heroes slept the last sleep by Simoïs and Scamander and in the plain and on the seashore, slain in battle or by the shafts of Apollo.

First they sailed northwest to the Thracian coast, where the Ciconians dwelt, who had helped the men of Troy. Their city they took, and in it much plunder, slaves and oxen, and jars of fragrant wine, and might have escaped unhurt, but that they stayed to hold revel on the shore. For the Ciconians gathered their neighbors, being men of the same blood, and did battle with the invaders and drove them to their ship. And when Ulysses numbered his men, he found that he had lost six out of each ship.

Scarce had he set out again when the wind began to blow fiercely; so, seeing a smooth, sandy beach, they drove the ships ashore and dragged them out of reach of the waves, and waited till the storm should abate. And the third morning being fair, they sailed again and journeyed prosperously till they came to the very end of the great Peloponnesian land, where Cape Malea looks out upon the southern sea. But contrary currents baffled them, so that they could not round it, and the north wind blew so strongly that they must fain drive before it. And on the tenth day they came to the land where the lotus grows—a wondrous fruit, of which whosoever eats cares not to see country or wife or children again. Now the Lotus eaters, for so they call the people of the land, were a kindly folk and gave of the fruit to some of the sailors, not meaning them any harm, but thinking it to be the best that they had to give. These, when they had eaten, said that they would not sail any more over the sea; which, when the wise Ulysses heard, he bade their comrades bind them and carry them, sadly complaining, to the ships.

Then, the wind having abated, they took to their oars and rowed for many days till they came to the country where the Cyclopes dwell. Now, a mile or so from the shore there was an island, very fair and fertile, but no man dwells there or tills the soil, and in the island a harbor where a ship may be safe from all winds, and at the head of the harbor a stream falling from the rock, and whispering alders all about it. Into this the ships passed safely and were hauled up on the beach, and the crews slept by them, waiting for the morning. And the next day they hunted the wild goats, of which there was great store on the island, and feasted right merrily on what they caught, with draughts of red wine which they had carried off from the town of the Ciconians.

But on the morrow, Ulysses, for he was ever fond of adventure and would know of every land to which he came what manner of men they were that dwelt there, took one of his twelve ships and bade row to the land. There was a great hill sloping to the shore, and there rose up here and there a smoke from the caves where the Cyclopes dwelt apart, holding no converse with each other, for they were a rude and savage folk, but ruled each his own household, not caring for others. Now very close to the shore was one of these caves, very huge and deep, with laurels round about the mouth, and in front a fold with walls built of rough stone and shaded by tall oaks and pines. So Ulysses chose out of the crew the twelve bravest, and bade the rest guard the ship, and went to see what manner of dwelling this was and who abode there. He had his sword by his side, and on his shoulder a mighty skin of wine, sweet smelling and strong, with which he might win the heart of some fierce savage, should he chance to meet with such, as indeed his prudent heart forecasted that he might.

So they entered the cave and judged that it was the dwelling of some rich and skilful shepherd. For within there were pens for the young of the sheep and of the goats, divided all according to their age, and there were baskets full of cheeses, and full milk pails ranged along the wall. But the Cyclops himself was away in the pastures. Then the companions of Ulysses besought him that he would depart, taking with him, if he would, a store of cheeses and sundry of the lambs and of the kids. But he would not, for he wished to see, after his wont, what manner of host this strange shepherd might be. And truly he saw it to his cost!

The huge cyclops enters his cave carrying an enormous bundle of wood, while Ulysses and his comrades stand inside the cave in the gloom. THE ONE-EYED POLYPHEMUS

It was evening when the Cyclops came home, a mighty giant, twenty feet in height or more. On his shoulder he bore a vast bundle of pine logs for his fire, and threw them down outside the cave with a great crash, and drove the flocks within, and closed the entrance with a huge rock, which twenty wagons and more could not bear. Then he milked the ewes and all the she-goats, and half of the milk he curdled for cheese and half he set ready for himself when he should sup. Next he kindled a fire with the pine logs, and the flame lighted up all the cave, showing Ulysses and his comrades.

"Who are ye?" cried Polyphemus, for that was the giant's name. "Are ye traders or, haply, pirates?"

For in those days it was not counted shame to be called a pirate.

Ulysses shuddered at the dreadful voice and shape, but bore him bravely, and answered, "We are no pirates, mighty sir, but Greeks, sailing back from Troy, and subjects of the great King Agamemnon, whose fame is spread from one end of heaven to the other. And we are come to beg hospitality of thee in the name of Zeus, who rewards or punishes hosts and guests according as they be faithful the one to the other, or no."

"Nay," said the giant, "it is but idle talk to tell me of Zeus and the other gods. We Cyclopes take no account of gods, holding ourselves to be much better and stronger than they. But come, tell me where have you left your ship?"

But Ulysses saw his thought when he asked about the ship, how he was minded to break it and take from them all hope of flight. Therefore he answered him craftily:

"Ship have we none, for that which was ours King Poseidon brake, driving it on a jutting rock on this coast, and we whom thou seest are all that are escaped from the waves."

Polyphemus answered nothing, but without more ado caught up two of the men, as a man might catch up the whelps of a dog, and dashed them on the ground, and tore them limb from limb and devoured them, with huge draughts of milk between, leaving not a morsel, not even the very bones. But the others, when they saw the dreadful deed, could only weep and pray to Zeus for help. And when the giant had ended his foul meal, he lay down among his sheep and slept.

Then Ulysses questioned much in his heart whether he should slay the monster as he slept, for he doubted not that his good sword would pierce to the giant's heart, mighty as he was. But, being very wise, he remembered that, should he slay him, he and his comrades would yet perish miserably. For who should move away the great rock that lay against the door of the cave? So they waited till the morning. And the monster woke and milked his flocks, and afterward, seizing two men, devoured them for his meal. Then he went to the pastures, but put the great rock on the mouth of the cave, just as a man puts down the lid upon his quiver.

All that day the wise Ulysses was thinking what he might best do to save himself and his companions, and the end of his thinking was this: There was a mighty pole in the cave, green wood of an olive tree, big as a ship's mast, which Polyphemus purposed to use, when the smoke should have dried it, as a walking staff. Of this he cut off a fathom's length, and his comrades sharpened it and hardened it in the fire and then hid it away. At evening the giant came back and drove his sheep into the cave, nor left the rams outside, as he had been wont to do before, but shut them in. And having duly done his shepherd's work, he made his cruel feast as before. Then Ulysses came forward with the wine skin in his hand and said:

"Drink, Cyclops, now that thou hast feasted. Drink and see what precious things we had in our ship. But no one hereafter will come to thee with such like, if thou dealest with strangers as cruelly as thou hast dealt with us."

Then the Cyclops drank and was mightily pleased, and said, "Give me again to drink and tell me thy name, stranger, and I will give thee a gift such as a host should give. In good truth this is a rare liquor. We, too, have vines, but they bear no wine like this, which indeed must be such as the gods drink in heaven."

Then Ulysses gave him the cup again and he drank. Thrice he gave it to him and thrice he drank, not knowing what it was and how it would work within his brain.

Then Ulysses spake to him. "Thou didst ask my name, Cyclops. Lo! my name is No Man. And now that thou knowest my name, thou shouldst give me thy gift."

And he said, "My gift shall be that I will eat thee last of all thy company."

And as he spake he fell back in a drunken sleep. Then Ulysses bade his comrades be of good courage, for the time was come when they should be delivered. And they thrust the stake of olive wood into the fire till it was ready, green as it was, to burst into flame, and they thrust it into the monster's eye; for he had but one eye, and that in the midst of his forehead, with the eyebrow below it. And Ulysses leaned with all his force upon the stake and thrust it in with might and main. And the burning wood hissed in the eye, just as the red-hot iron hisses in the water when a man seeks to temper steel for a sword.

Then the giant leapt up and tore away the stake and cried aloud, so that all the Cyclopes who dwelt on the mountain side heard him and came about his cave, asking him, "What aileth thee, Polyphemus, that thou makest this uproar in the peaceful night, driving away sleep? Is any one robbing thee of thy sheep or seeking to slay thee by craft or force?"

And the giant answered, "No Man slays me by craft."

"Nay, but," they said, "if no man does thee wrong, we cannot help thee. The sickness which great Zeus may send, who can avoid? Pray to our father, Poseidon, for help."

Then they departed, and Ulysses was glad at heart for the good success of his device when he said that he was No Man.

But the Cyclops rolled away the great stone from the door of the cave and sat in the midst, stretching out his hands to feel whether perchance the men within the cave would seek to go out among the sheep.

Long did Ulysses think how he and his comrades should best escape. At last he lighted upon a good device, and much he thanked Zeus for that this once the giant had driven the rams with the other sheep into the cave. For, these being great and strong, he fastened his comrades under the bellies of the beasts, tying them with osier twigs, of which the giant made his bed. One ram he took and fastened a man beneath it, and two others he set, one on either side. So he did with the six, for but six were left out of the twelve who had ventured with him from the ship. And there was one mighty ram, far larger than all the others, and to this Ulysses clung, grasping the fleece tight with both his hands. So they waited for the morning. And when the morning came, the rams rushed forth to the pasture; but the giant sat in the door and felt the back of each as it went by, nor thought to try what might be underneath. Last of all went the great ram. And the Cyclops knew him as he passed and said:

"How is this, thou, who art the leader of the flock? Thou art not wont thus to lag behind. Thou hast always been the first to run to the pastures and streams in the morning and the first to come back to the fold when evening fell; and now thou art last of all. Perhaps thou art troubled about thy master's eye, which some wretch—No Man, they call him—has destroyed, having first mastered me with wine. He has not escaped, I ween. I would that thou couldst speak and tell me where he is lurking. Of a truth I would dash out his brains upon the ground and avenge me of this No Man."

So speaking, he let him pass out of the cave. But when they were out of reach of the giant, Ulysses loosed his hold of the ram and then unbound his comrades. And they hastened to their ship, not forgetting to drive before them a good store of the Cyclops' fat sheep. Right glad were those that had abode by the ship to see them. Nor did they lament for those that had died, though they were fain to do so, for Ulysses forbade, fearing lest the noise of their weeping should betray them to the giant, where they were. Then they all climbed into the ship, and sitting well in order on the benches, smote the sea with their oars, laying-to right lustily, that they might the sooner get away from the accursed land. And when they had rowed a hundred yards or so, so that a man's voice could yet be heard by one who stood upon the shore, Ulysses stood up in the ship and shouted:

"He was no coward, O Cyclops, whose comrades thou didst so foully slay in thy den. Justly art thou punished, monster, that devourest thy guests in thy dwelling. May the gods make thee suffer yet worse things than these!"

Then the Cyclops in his wrath broke off the top of a great hill, a mighty rock, and hurled it where he had heard the voice. Right in front of the ship's bow it fell, and a great wave rose as it sank, and washed the ship back to the shore. But Ulysses seized a long pole with both hands and pushed the ship from the land and bade his comrades ply their oars, nodding with his head, for he was too wise to speak, lest the Cyclops should know where they were. Then they rowed with all their might and main.

And when they had gotten twice as far as before, Ulysses made as if he would speak again; but his comrades sought to hinder him, saying, "Nay, my lord, anger not the giant any more. Surely we thought before we were lost, when he threw the great rock and washed our ship back to the shore. And if he hear thee now, he may crush our ship and us, for the man throws a mighty bolt and throws it far."

But Ulysses would not be persuaded, but stood up and said, "Hear, Cyclops! If any man ask who blinded thee, say that it was the warrior Ulysses, son of Laertes, dwelling in Ithaca."

And the Cyclops answered with a groan, "Of a truth, the old oracles are fulfilled, for long ago there came to this land one Telemus, a prophet, and dwelt among us even to old age. This man foretold me that one Ulysses would rob me of my sight. But I looked for a great man and a strong, who should subdue me by force, and now a weakling has done the deed, having cheated me with wine. But come thou hither, Ulysses, and I will be a host indeed to thee. Or, at least, may Poseidon give thee such a voyage to thy home as I would wish thee to have. For know that Poseidon is my sire. May be that he may heal me of my grievous wound."

And Ulysses said, "Would to God, I could send thee down to the abode of the dead, where thou wouldst be past all healing, even from Poseidon's self."

Then Cyclops lifted up his hands to Poseidon and prayed:

"Hear me, Poseidon, if I am indeed thy son and thou my father. May this Ulysses never reach his home! or, if the Fates have ordered that he should reach it, may he come alone, all his comrades lost, and come to find sore trouble in his house!"

And as he ended he hurled another mighty rock, which almost lighted on the rudder's end, yet missed it as if by a hair's breadth. So Ulysses and his comrades escaped and came to the island of the wild goats, where they found their comrades, who indeed had waited long for them, in sore fear lest they had perished. Then Ulysses divided among his company all the sheep which they had taken from the Cyclops. And all, with one consent, gave him for his share the great ram which had carried him out of the cave, and he sacrificed it to Zeus. And all that day they feasted right merrily on the flesh of sheep and on sweet wine, and when the night was come, they lay down upon the shore and slept.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Odin

OdinOdin, Wuotan, or Woden was the highest and holiest god of the Northern races. He was the all-pervading spirit of the universe, the personification of the air, the god of universal wisdom and victory, and the leader and protector of princes and heroes. As all the gods were supposed to be descended from him, he was surnamed Allfather, and as eldest and chief among them he occupied the highest seat in Asgard. Known by the name of Hlidskialf, this chair was not only an exalted throne, but also a mighty watch-tower, from whence he could overlook the whole world and see at a glance all that was happening among gods, giants, elves, dwarfs, and men.

“From the hall of Heaven he rode away
To Lidskialf, and sate upon his throne,
The mount, from whence his eye surveys the world.
And far from Heaven he turned his shining orbs
To look on Midgard, and the earth, and men.”


None but Odin and his wife and queen Frigga were privileged to use this seat, and when they occupied it they generally gazed towards the south and west, the goal of all the hopes and excursions of the Northern nations. Odin was generally represented as a tall, vigorous man, about fifty years of age, either with dark curling hair or with a long grey beard and bald head. He was clad in a suit of grey, with a blue hood, and his muscular body was enveloped in a wide blue mantle flecked with grey—an emblem of the sky with its fleecy clouds. In his hand Odin generally carried the infallible [17]spear Gungnir, which was so sacred that an oath sworn upon its point could never be broken, and on his finger or arm he wore the marvellous ring, Draupnir, the emblem of fruitfulness, precious beyond compare. When seated upon his throne or armed for the fray, to mingle in which he would often descend to earth, Odin wore his eagle helmet; but when he wandered peacefully about the earth in human guise, to see what men were doing, he generally donned a broad-brimmed hat, drawn low over his forehead to conceal the fact that he possessed but one eye.

Two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), perched upon his shoulders as he sat upon his throne, and these he sent out into the wide world every morning, anxiously watching for their return at nightfall, when they whispered into his ears news of all they had seen and heard. Thus he was kept well informed about everything that was happening on earth.

“Hugin and Munin
Fly each day
Over the spacious earth.
I fear for Hugin
That he come not back,
Yet more anxious am I for Munin.”

Norse Mythology (R. B. Anderson).


At his feet crouched two wolves or hunting hounds, Geri and Freki, animals which were therefore considered sacred to him, and of good omen if met by the way. Odin always fed these wolves with his own hands from meat set before him. He required no food at all for himself, and seldom tasted anything except the sacred mead.

When seated in state upon his throne, Odin rested his feet upon a footstool of gold, the work of the gods, all of whose furniture and utensils were fashioned either of that precious metal or of silver.

Besides the magnificent hall Glads-heim, where stood the twelve seats occupied by the gods when they met in council, and Valaskialf, where his throne, Hlidskialf, was placed, Odin had a third palace in Asgard, situated in the midst of the marvellous grove Glasir, whose shimmering leaves were of red gold.

Frithiof the Bold

FrithiofFrithiof was a Norwegian hero, grandson of Viking, who was the largest and strongest man of his time. Viking had sailed the sea in a dragon ship, meeting with many adventures, and Thorsten, Frithiof's father, had likewise sailed abroad, capturing many priceless treasures and making a great name for himself.

Frithiof was entrusted to the care of Hilding, his foster father, and in his care, also, were Halfdan and Helgé, King Bélé's sons, and, some years later, their little sister, Ingeborg. Frithiof and Ingeborg became firm friends, and as the lad increased in bravery and strength, the girl increased in beauty and loveliness of soul. Hilding, noticing how each day they became fonder of each other, called Frithiof to him and bade him remember that he was only a humble subject and could never hope to wed Ingeborg, the king's only daughter, descended from the great god Odin. The warning, however, came too late, for Frithiof already loved the fair maiden, and vowed that he would have her for his bride at any cost.

Soon after this the king died, leaving his kingdom to his two sons and giving instructions that his funeral mound should be erected in sight of that of his dear friend Thorsten, so that their spirits might not be separated even in death. Then Ingeborg went to live with her brothers, the Kings of Sogn, while Frithiof retired to his own home at Framnas, closed in by the mountains and the sea.

Frithiof was now one of the wealthiest and most envied of land-owners. His treasures were richer by far than those of any king.

In the spring he held a great celebration, which the kings of Sogn and their sister Ingeborg, among many other guests, attended. Frithiof and Ingeborg were much together, and Frithiof was very happy to learn that Ingeborg returned his affection.

Great was his grief when the time came for her to sail away. Not long had she been gone, however, when he vowed to Björn, his chief companion, that he would follow after her and ask for her hand. His ship was prepared and soon he touched the shore near the temple of the god Balder.

His request was not granted and Helgé dismissed him contemptuously. In a rage at the insult Frithiof lifted his sword; but remembering that he stood on consecrated ground near Bélé's tomb, he spared the king, only cutting his heavy shield in two to show the strength of his blade.

Soon after his departure another suitor, the aged King Ring of Norway sought the hand of Ingeborg in marriage, and being refused, collected an army and prepared to make war on Helgé and Halfdan.

Then the two brothers were glad to send a messenger after Frithiof, asking his aid. The hero, still angry, refused; but he hastened at once to Ingeborg. He found her in tears at the shrine of Balder, and although it was considered a sin for a man and woman to exchange words in the sacred temple, he spoke to her, again making known his love.

The kings, her brothers, were away at war, but Frithiof stayed near Ingeborg, and when they returned, promised to free them from the oppression of Sigurd Ring if in return they would promise him the hand of their sister. But the kings had heard of how Frithiof had spoken to Ingeborg in the temple, and although they feared Sigurd they would not grant the request. Instead he was condemned in punishment to sail away to the Orkney Islands to claim tribute from the king Angantyr.

Frithiof departed in his ship Ellida, and Ingeborg stayed behind, weeping bitterly. And as soon as the vessel was out of sight the brothers sent for two witches—Heid and Ham—bidding them stir up such a tempest on the sea that even the god-given ship Ellida could not withstand its fury.

But no tempest could frighten the brave Frithiof. Singing a cheery song he stood at the helm, caring nothing for the waves that raged about the ship. He comforted his crew, and then climbed the mast to keep a sharp lookout for danger.

From there he spied a huge whale, upon which the two witches were seated, delighted at the tempest they had stirred up. Speaking to his good ship, which could both hear and obey, he bade it run down the whale and the witches.

This Ellida did. Whale and witches sank; the sea grew red with their blood; the waves were calmed. Again the sun smiled over the hardy sailors. But many of the crew were worn out by the battle with the elements and had to be carried ashore by Frithiof and Björn when they reached the Orkney Islands.

Now the watchman at Angantyr's castle had reported the ship and the gale, and Angantyr had declared that only Frithiof and Ellida could weather such a storm. One of his vassals, Atlé, caught up his weapons and hurried forth to challenge the great hero.

Frithiof had no weapons, but with a turn of his wrist he threw his opponent.

"Go and get your weapons," Atlé said, when he saw that Frithiof would have killed him.

Knowing that Atlé was a true soldier and would not run away, Frithiof left him in search of his sword; but when he returned and found his opponent calmly awaiting death, he was generous, and bade him rise and live.

Angantyr vowed that he owed no tribute to Helgé, and would pay him none, but to Frithiof he gave a vast treasure, telling him that he might dispose of it as he would.

So Frithiof sailed back to the kings of Sogn, confident that he could win Ingeborg. What was his dismay, therefore, to learn that Helgé and Halfdan had already given their sister in marriage to Sigurd Ring. In a rage he bade his men destroy all the vessels in the harbor, while he strode toward the temple of Balder where Helgé and his wife were. He flung Angantyr's purse of gold in Helgé's face, and seeing the ring he had given to Ingeborg on the hand of Helgé's wife snatched it roughly from her. In trying to get it back she dropped the image of the god, which she had just been anointing, into the fire. It was quickly consumed, while the rising flames set fire to the temple.

Horror-stricken, Frithiof tried to stop the blaze, and when he could not, hurried away to his ship.

So Frithiof became an exile, and a wanderer on the face of the earth. For many years he lived the life of a pirate or viking, exacting tribute from other ships or sacking them if they would not pay tribute; for this occupation in the days of Frithiof was considered wholly respectable. It was followed again and again by the brave men of the North.

But Frithiof was often homesick, and longed to enter a harbor, and lead again a life of peace.

At last he decided to visit the court of Sigurd Ring and find out whether Ingeborg was really happy. Landing, he wrapped himself in an old cloak and approached the court. He found a seat on a bench near the door, as beggars usually did; but when one insulting courtier mocked him he lifted the offender in his mighty hand and swung him high over his head.

At this Sigurd Ring invited the old man to remove his mantle and take a seat near him. With surprise Sigurd and his courtiers saw step from the tattered mantle a handsome warrior, richly clad; but only Ingeborg knew who he was.

"Who are you who comes to us thus?" asked Sigurd Ring.

"I am Thiolf, a thief," was the answer, "and I have grown to manhood in the Land of Sorrow."

Sigurd invited him to remain, and he soon became the almost constant companion of the king and queen.

One spring day Sigurd and Frithiof had ridden away on a hunting expedition, and the old king being tired from the chase lay down on the ground to rest, feigning sleep. The birds and beasts of the forest drew near and whispered to Frithiof that he should slay the king and have Ingeborg for his own wife. But Frithiof was too fine and loyal to listen to such suggestions.

Awaking, Sigurd Ring called Frithiof to him.

"You are Frithiof the Bold," he said, "and from the first I knew you. Be patient now a little longer and you shall have Ingeborg, for my end is near."

Soon after this Sigurd died, commending his wife to the young hero's loving care. And at his own request the funeral feast was closed by the public betrothal of Ingeborg and Frithiof.

The people, admiring his bravery, wanted to make Frithiof king, but he would not listen to their pleadings. Instead he lifted the little son of Sigurd upon his shield.

"Behold your king," he cried, "and until he is grown to manhood I will stand beside him."

So Frithiof married his beloved Ingeborg, and later, so the story runs, he returned to his own country and built again the temple of Balder, more beautiful by far than any before.

Frithiof and Ingeborg, dressed in sumptuous clothing, stand with other people at the foot of the steps in the ornately decorated temple. Women dance on the steps, and in the centre stands another person, arms raised, and wearing robes.

The Second Labor of Hercules

The second labor consisted in destroying a hydra. This monster dwelt in the swamp of Lerna, but came occasionally over the country, destroying herds and laying waste the fields. The hydra was an enormous creature—a serpent with nine heads, of which eight were mortal and one immortal.

Hercules set out with high courage for this fight. He mounted his chariot, and his beloved nephew Iolaus, the son of his stepbrother Iphicles, who for a long time had been his inseparable companion, sat by his side, guiding the horses; and so they sped toward Lerna.

At last the hydra was visible on a hill by the springs of Amymone, where its lair was found. Here Iolaus left the horses stand. Hercules leaped from the chariot and sought with burning arrows to drive the many-headed serpent from its hiding place. It came forth hissing, its nine heads raised and swaying like the branches of a tree in a storm.

Undismayed, Hercules approached it, seized it, and held it fast. But the snake wrapped itself around one of his feet. Then he began with his sword to cut off its heads. But this looked like an endless task, for no sooner had he cut off one head than two grew in its place. At the same time an enormous crab came to the help of the hydra and began biting the hero's foot. Killing this with his club, he called to Iolaus for help.

The latter had lighted a torch, set fire to a portion of the nearby wood, and with brands therefrom touched the serpent's newly growing heads and prevented them from living. In this way the hero was at last master of the situation and was able to cut off even the head of the hydra that could not be killed. This he buried deep in the ground and rolled a heavy stone over the place. The body of the hydra he cut into half, dipping his arrows in the blood, which was poisonous.

From that time the wounds made by the arrows of Hercules were fatal.

The First Labor of Hercules

The first labor that Eurystheus assigned to Hercules was to bring him the skin of the Nemean lion. This monster dwelt on the mountain of Peloponnesus, in the forest between Kleona and Nemea, and could be wounded by no weapons made of man. Some said he was the son of the giant Typhon and the snake Echidna; others that he had dropped down from the moon to the earth.

Hercules set out on his journey and came to Kleona, where a poor laborer, Molorchus, received him hospitably. He met the latter just as he was about to offer a sacrifice to Jupiter.

"Good man," said Hercules, "let the animal live thirty days longer; then, if I return, offer it to Jupiter, my deliverer, and if I do not return, offer it as a funeral sacrifice to me, the hero who has attained immortality."

So Hercules continued on his way, his quiver of arrows over his shoulder, his bow in one hand, and in the other a club made from the trunk of a wild olive tree which he had passed on Mount Helicon and pulled up by the roots. When he at last entered the Nemean wood, he looked carefully in every direction in order that he might catch sight of the monster lion before the lion should see him. It was mid-day, and nowhere could he discover any trace of the lion or any path that seemed to lead to his lair. He met no man in the field or in the forest: fear held them all shut up in their distant dwellings. The whole afternoon he wandered through the thick undergrowth, determined to test his strength just as soon as he should encounter the lion.

At last, toward evening, the monster came through the forest, returning from his trap in a deep fissure of the earth.

He was saturated with blood: head, mane and breast were reeking, and his great tongue was licking his jaws. The hero, who saw him coming long before he was near, took refuge in a thicket and waited until the lion approached; then with his arrow he shot him in the side. But the shot did not pierce his flesh; instead it flew back as if it had struck stone, and fell on the mossy earth.

Then the animal raised his bloody head; looked around in every direction, and in fierce anger showed his ugly teeth. Raising his head, he exposed his heart, and immediately Hercules let fly another arrow, hoping to pierce him through the lungs. Again the arrow did not enter the flesh, but fell at the feet of the monster.

Hercules took a third arrow, while the lion, casting his eyes to the side, watched him. His whole neck swelled with anger; he roared, and his back was bent like a bow. He sprang toward his enemy; but Hercules threw the arrow and cast off the lion skin in which he was clothed with the left hand, while with the right he swung his club over the head of the beast and gave him such a blow on the neck that, all ready to spring as the lion was, he fell back, and came to a stand on trembling legs, with shaking head. Before he could take another breath, Hercules was upon him.

Throwing down his bow and quiver, that he might be entirely unencumbered, he approached the animal from behind, threw his arm around his neck and strangled him. Then for a long time he sought in vain to strip the fallen animal of his hide. It yielded to no weapon or no stone. At last the idea occurred to him of tearing it with the animal's own claws, and this method immediately succeeded.

Later he prepared for himself a coat of mail out of the lion's skin, and from the neck, a new helmet; but for the present he was content to don his own costume and weapons, and with the lion's skin over his arm took his way back to Tirynth.

The Labors of Hercules

Before the birth of Hercules Jupiter had explained in the council of the gods that the first descendant of Perseus should be the ruler of all the others of his race. This honor was intended for the son of Perseus and Alcmene; but Juno was jealous and brought it about that Eurystheus, who was also a descendant of Perseus, should be born before Theseus. So Eurystheus became king in Mycene, and the later-born Hercules remained inferior to him.

Now Eurystheus watched with anxiety the rising fame of his young relative, and called his subject to him, demanding that he carry through certain great tasks or labors. When Hercules did not immediately obey, Jupiter himself sent word to him that he should fulfill his service to the King of Greece.

Nevertheless the hero son of a god could not make up his mind easily to render service to a mere mortal. So he traveled to Delphi and questioned the oracle as to what he should do. This was the answer:

The overlordship of Eurystheus will be qualified on condition that Hercules perform ten labors that Eurystheus shall assign him. When this is done, Hercules shall be numbered among the immortal gods.

Hereupon Hercules fell into deep trouble. To serve a man of less importance than himself hurt his dignity and self-esteem; but Jupiter would not listen to his complaints.

Prometheus, the Friend of Man

PrometheusMany, many centuries ago there lived two brothers, Prometheus or Forethought, and Epimetheus or Afterthought. They were the sons of those Titans who had fought against Jupiter and been sent in chains to the great prison-house of the lower world, but for some reason had escaped punishment.

Prometheus, however, did not care for idle life among the gods on Mount Olympus. Instead he preferred to spend his time on the earth, helping men to find easier and better ways of living. For the children of earth were not happy as they had been in the golden days when Saturn ruled. Indeed, they were very poor and wretched and cold, without fire, without food, and with no shelter but miserable caves.

"With fire they could at least warm their bodies and cook their food," Prometheus thought, "and later they could make tools and build houses for themselves and enjoy some of the comforts of the gods."

So Prometheus went to Jupiter and asked that he might be permitted to carry fire to the earth. But Jupiter shook his head in wrath.

"Fire, indeed!" he exclaimed. "If men had fire they would soon be as strong and wise as we who dwell on Olympus. Never will I give my consent."

Prometheus made no reply, but he didn't give up his idea of helping men. "Some other way must be found," he thought.

Then, one day, as he was walking among some reeds he broke off one, and seeing that its hollow stalk was filled with a dry, soft pith, exclaimed:

"At last! In this I can carry fire, and the children of men shall have the great gift in spite of Jupiter."

Immediately, taking a long stalk in his hands, he set out for the dwelling of the sun in the far east. He reached there in the early morning, just as Apollo's chariot was about to begin its journey across the sky. Lighting his reed, he hurried back, carefully guarding the precious spark that was hidden in the hollow stalk.

Then he showed men how to build fires for themselves, and it was not long before they began to do all the wonderful things of which Prometheus had dreamed. They learned to cook and to domesticate animals and to till the fields and to mine precious metals and melt them into tools and weapons. And they came out of their dark and gloomy caves and built for themselves beautiful houses of wood and stone. And instead of being sad and unhappy they began to laugh and sing. "Behold, the Age of Gold has come again," they said.

But Jupiter was not so happy. He saw that men were gaining daily greater power, and their very prosperity made him angry.

"That young Titan!" he cried out, when he heard what Prometheus had done. "I will punish him."

But before punishing Prometheus he decided to vex the children of men. So he gave a lump of clay to his blacksmith, Vulcan, and told him to mold it in the form of a woman. When the work was done he carried it to Olympus.

Jupiter called the other gods together, bidding them give her each a gift. One bestowed upon her beauty, another, kindness, another, skill, another, curiosity, and so on. Jupiter himself gave her the gift of life, and they named her Pandora, which means "all-gifted."

Then Mercury, the messenger of the gods, took Pandora and led her down the mountain side to the place where Prometheus and his brother were living.

Prometheus is shackled to an outcrop of rock. An eagle is perched on him, pecking at his flesh.

"Epimetheus, here is a beautiful woman that Jupiter has sent to be your wife," he said.

Epimetheus was delighted and soon loved Pandora very deeply, because of her beauty and her goodness.

Now Pandora had brought with her as a gift from Jupiter a golden casket. Athena had warned her never to open the box, but she could not help wondering and wondering what it contained. Perhaps it held beautiful jewels. Why should they go to waste?

At last she could not contain her curiosity any longer. She opened the box just a little to take a peep inside. Immediately there was a buzzing, whirring sound, and before she could snap down the lid ten thousand ugly little creatures had jumped out. They were diseases and troubles, and very glad they were to be free.

All over the earth they flew, entering into every household, and carrying sorrow and distress wherever they went.

How Jupiter must have laughed when he saw the result of Pandora's curiosity!

Soon after this the god decided that it was time to punish Prometheus. He called Strength and Force and bade them seize the Titan and carry him to the highest peak of the Caucasus Mountains. Then he sent Vulcan to bind him with iron chains, making arms and feet fast to the rocks. Vulcan was sorry for Prometheus, but dared not disobey.

So the friend of man lay, miserably bound, naked to the winds, while the storms beat about him and an eagle tore at his liver with its cruel talons. But Prometheus did not utter a groan in spite of all his sufferings. Year after year he lay in agony, and yet he would not complain, beg for mercy or repent of what he had done. Men were sorry for him, but could do nothing.

Then one day a beautiful white cow passed over the mountain, and stopped to look at Prometheus with sad eyes.

"I know you," Prometheus said. "You are Io, once a fair and happy maiden dwelling in Argos, doomed by Jupiter and his jealous queen to wander over the earth in this guise. Go southward and then west until you come to the great river Nile. There you shall again become a maiden, fairer than ever before, and shall marry the king of that country. And from your race shall spring the hero who will break my chains and set me free."

Centuries passed and then a great hero, Hercules, came to the Caucasus Mountains. He climbed the rugged peak, slew the fierce eagle, and with mighty blows broke the chains that bound the friend of man.

Preface

The myths and legends here gathered together have appealed and will continue to appeal to every age. Nowhere in the realm of fiction are there stories to compare with those which took form centuries ago when the race was in its childhood—stories so intimately connected with the life and history and religion of the great peoples of antiquity that they have become an integral part of our own civilization, a heritage of wealth to every child that is born into the world.

The historic basis of the tales is slight; yet who can think of the Greeks without remembering the story of Troy, or of Rome without a backward glance at Æneas, fabled founder of the race and hero of Virgil's world-famous Latin epic? Any understanding of German civilization would be incomplete without knowledge of the mythical prince Siegfried, hero of the earliest literature of the Teutonic people, finally immortalized in the nineteenth century through the musical dramas of Wagner. Any understanding of English civilization would be similarly incomplete without the semi-historic figure of King Arthur, glorified through the accumulated legends of the Middle Ages and made to live again in the melodic idylls of the great Victorian laureate. And so one might go on. In many ways the mythology and folklore of a country are a truer index to the life of its people than any of the pages of actual history; for through these channels the imagination and the heart speak. All the chronicles of rulers and governing bodies are as dust in comparison.

The imagination of the ancients had few if any bounds, and even Athens in the height of her intellectual glory accepted the fabulous tales of gods and half-gods. Today we read and wonder. But the child, who in his brief lifetime must live over in part at least the history of the whole race, delights in the myths and legends which made his ancestors admire or tremble. They are naturally not so real to him as they were to his forefathers; yet they open up a rich and gorgeous wonderland, without excursions into which every child must grow up the poorer in mind and spirit.

To the children of America, wherever they may be, this book is dedicated. It is sure to bring enjoyment, because its stories have stood the test of time.