| Old Greek Stories|
|by James Baldwin|
|Delightful retelling in simple language of the stories of the old Greek mythological heroes, and their encounters with Jupiter and the other Olympians. While each story can be read independently, they can also be read as a continuous narrative, with one story leading to the next. Includes the myths of Prometheus, Io, Cadmus, Perseus, and Theseus. A pronunciation guide and numerous illustrations accompany the text. Ages 8-10 |
THE STORY OF IO
 IN the town of Argos there lived a
maiden named Io. She was so fair and
good that all who knew her loved her,
and said that there was no one
like her in the whole world. When
Jupiter, in his home in the clouds,
heard of her, he came down to Argos to
see her. She pleased him so much,
and was so kind and wise, that he came
back the next day and the next
and the next; and by and by he stayed in
Argos all the time so that he
might be near her. She did not know who
he was, but thought that he was
a prince from some far-off land; for he
came in the guise of a young
man, and did not look like the great
king of earth and sky that he was.
But Juno, the queen who lived with
Jupiter and shared his throne in the
midst of the clouds, did not love Io at
all. When she heard why Jupiter
stayed from home so long, she made up
her mind to do the fair girl all
the harm that she could; and one day she
went down to Argos to try what
could be done.
 Jupiter saw her while she was yet a
great way off, and he knew why she
had come. So, to save Io from her, he
changed the maiden to a white cow.
He thought that when Juno had gone back
home, it would not be hard to
give Io her own form again.
But when the queen saw the cow, she knew
that it was Io.
"Oh, what a fine cow you have there!"
she said. "Give her to me, good
Jupiter, give her to me!"
Jupiter did not like to do this; but she
coaxed so hard that at last he
gave up, and let her have the cow for
her own. He thought that it would
not be long till he could get her away
from the queen, and change her to
a girl once more. But Juno was too wise
to trust him. She took the cow
by her horns, and led her out of the
"Now, my sweet maid," she said, "I will
see that you stay in this shape
as long as you live."
Then she gave the cow in charge of a
strange watchman named Argus, who
had, not two eyes only, as you and I
have, but ten times ten. And Argus
led the cow to a grove, and tied her by
a long rope to a tree, where she
had to stand and eat grass, and cry,
"Moo! moo!" from morn till night;
and when the sun had set, and it was
dark, she lay down on
 the cold
ground and wept, and cried, "Moo! moo!"
till she fell asleep.
But no kind friend heard her, and no one
came to help her; for none but
Jupiter and Juno knew that the white cow
who stood in the grove was Io,
whom all the world loved. Day in and day
out, Argus, who was all eyes,
sat on a hill close by and kept watch;
and you could not say that he
went to sleep at all, for while half of
his eyes were shut, the other
half were wide awake, and thus they
slept and watched by turns.
Jupiter was grieved when he saw to what
a hard life Io had been doomed,
and he tried to think of some plan to
set her free. One day he called
sly Mercury, who had wings on his shoes,
and bade him go and lead the
cow away from the grove where she was
kept. Mercury went down and stood
near the foot of the hill where Argus
sat, and began to play sweet tunes
on his flute. This was just what the
strange watchman liked to hear; and
so he called to Mercury, and asked him
to come up and sit by his side
and play still other tunes.
Mercury did as he wished, and played
such strains of sweet music as no
one in all the world has heard from that
day to this. And as he played,
queer old Argus lay down upon the grass
and listened, and thought that
he had not had so great a
 treat in all
his life. But by and by those
sweet sounds wrapped him in so strange a
spell that all his eyes closed
at once, and he fell into a deep sleep.
This was just what Mercury wished. It
was not a brave thing to do, and
yet he drew a long, sharp knife from his
belt and cut off the head of
poor Argus while he slept. Then he ran
down the hill to loose the cow
and lead her to the town.
But Juno had seen him kill her watchman,
and she met him on the road.
She cried out to him and told him to let
the cow go; and her face was so
full of wrath that, as soon as he saw
her, he turned and fled, and left
poor Io to her fate.
"SHE CRIED OUT TO HIM AND TOLD HIM TO LET THE COW GO."
Juno was so much grieved when she saw
Argus stretched dead in the grass
on the hilltop, that she took his
hundred eyes and set them in the tail
of a peacock; and there you may still
see them to this day.
Then she found a great gadfly, as big as
a bat, and sent it to buzz in
the white cow's ears, and to bite her
and sting her so that she could
have no rest all day long. Poor Io ran
from place to place to get out of
its way; but it buzzed and buzzed, and
stung and stung, till she was
wild with fright and pain, and wished
that she were dead. Day after day
she ran, now through the thick woods,
now in the long grass that grew on
the treeless plains, and now by the
shore of the sea.
By and by she came to a narrow neck of
the sea, and, since the land on
the other side looked as though she
might find rest there, she leaped
into the waves and swam across; and that
place has been called
Bosphorus—a word which means the Sea of
the Cow—from that time till
now, and you will find it so marked on
the maps which you use at school.
Then she went on through a strange land
on the other side, but, let her
do what she would, she could not get rid
of the gadfly.
After a time she came to a place where
there were high mountains with
snow-capped peaks which seemed to touch
the sky. There she stopped to
rest a while; and she looked up at the
calm, cold cliffs above her and
wished that she might die where all was
so grand and still. But as she
looked she saw a giant form stretched
upon the rocks midway between
earth and sky, and she knew at once that
it was Prometheus, the young
Titan, whom Jupiter had chained there
because he had given fire to men.
"My sufferings are not so great as his,"
she thought; and her eyes were
filled with tears.
Then Prometheus looked down and spoke to
her, and his voice was very
mild and kind.
"I know who you are," he said; and then
he told her not to lose hope,
but to go south and then west,
 and she
would by and by find a place in
which to rest.
She would have thanked him if she could;
but when she tried to speak she
could only say, "Moo! moo!"
Then Prometheus went on and told her
that the time would come when she
should be given her own form again, and
that she should live to be the
mother of a race of heroes. "As for me,"
said he, "I bide the time in
patience, for I know that one of those
heroes will break my chains and
set me free. Farewell!"
Then Io, with a brave heart, left the
great Titan and journeyed, as he
had told her, first south and then west.
The gadfly was worse now than
before, but she did not fear it half so
much, for her heart was full of
hope. For a whole year she wandered, and
at last she came to the land of
Egypt in Africa. She felt so tired now
that she could go no farther, and
so she lay down near the bank of the
great River Nile to rest.
All this time Jupiter might have helped
her had he not been so much
afraid of Juno. But now it so chanced
that when the poor cow lay down by
the bank of the Nile, Queen Juno, in her
high house in the clouds, also
lay down to take a nap. As soon as she
was sound asleep, Jupiter like a
 of light sped over the sea to
Egypt. He killed the cruel gadfly
and threw it into the river. Then he
stroked the cow's head with his
hand, and the cow was seen no more; but
in her place stood the young
girl Io, pale and frail, but fair and
good as she had been in her old
home in the town of Argos. Jupiter said
not a word, nor even showed
himself to the tired, trembling maiden.
He hurried back with all speed
to his high home in the clouds, for he
feared that Juno might waken and
find out what he had done.
The people of Egypt were kind to Io, and
gave her a home in their sunny
land; and by and by the king of Egypt
asked her to be his wife, and made
her his queen; and she lived a long and
happy life in his marble palace
on the bank of the Nile. Ages afterward,
the great-grandson of the
great-grandson of Io's great-grandson
broke the chains of Prometheus and
set that mighty friend of mankind free.
The name of the hero was Hercules.
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