| 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 WONDERFUL WEAVER
I. THE WARP
 THERE was a young girl in Greece whose
name was Arachne. Her face was
pale but fair, and her eyes were big and
blue, and her hair was long and
like gold. All that she cared to do from
morn till noon was to sit in
the sun and spin; and all that she cared
to do from noon till night was
to sit in the shade and weave.
And oh, how fine and fair were the
things which she wove in her loom!
Flax, wool, silk—she worked with them
all; and when they came from her
hands, the cloth which she had made of
them was so thin and soft and
bright that men came from all parts of
the world to see it. And they
said that cloth so rare could not be
made of flax, or wool, or silk, but
that the warp was of rays of sunlight
and the woof was of threads of
Then as, day by day, the girl sat in the
sun and span, or sat in the
shade and wove, she said: "In all the
world there is no yarn so fine as
 in all the world there is no
cloth so soft and smooth, nor
silk so bright and rare."
"Who taught you to spin and weave so
well?" some one asked.
"No one taught me," she said. "I learned
how to do it as I sat in the
sun and the shade; but no one showed
"But it may be that Athena, the queen of
the air, taught you, and you
did not know it."
"Athena, the queen of the air? Bah!"
said Arachne. "How could she teach
me? Can she spin such skeins of yarn as
these? Can she weave goods like
mine? I should like to see her try. I
can teach her a thing or two."
She looked up and saw in the doorway a
tall woman wrapped in a long
cloak. Her face was fair to see, but
stern, oh, so stern! and her gray
eyes were so sharp and bright that
Arachne could not meet her gaze.
"Arachne," said the woman, "I am Athena,
the queen of the air, and I
have heard your boast. Do you still mean
to say that I have not taught
you how to spin and weave?"
" 'ARACHNE, I AM ATHENA, THE QUEEN OF THE AIR.' "
"No one has taught me," said Arachne;
"and I thank no one for what I
know;" and she stood up, straight and
proud, by the side of her loom.
 "And do you still think that you can
spin and weave as well as I?" said
Arachne's cheeks grew pale, but she
said: "Yes. I can weave as well as
"Then let me tell you what we will do,"
said Athena. "Three days from
now we will both weave; you on your
loom, and I on mine. We will ask all
the world to come and see us; and great
Jupiter, who sits in the clouds,
shall be the judge. And if your work is
best, then I will weave no more
so long as the world shall last; but if
my work is best, then you shall
never use loom or spindle or distaff
again. Do you agree to this?" "I
agree," said Arachne.
"It is well," said Athena. And she was
II. THE WOOF
When the time came for the contest in
weaving, all the world was there
to see it, and great Jupiter sat among
the clouds and looked on.
Arachne had set up her loom in the shade
of a mulberry tree, where
butterflies were flitting and
grasshoppers chirping all through the
livelong day. But Athena had set up her
loom in the sky, where the
breezes were blowing and the summer sun
was shining; for she was the
queen of the air.
 Then Arachne took her skeins of finest
silk and began to weave. And she
wove a web of marvelous beauty, so thin
and light that it would float in
the air, and yet so strong that it could
hold a lion in its meshes; and
the threads of warp and woof were of
many colors, so beautifully
arranged and mingled one with another
that all who saw were filled with
"No wonder that the maiden boasted of
her skill," said the people.
And Jupiter himself nodded.
Then Athena began to weave. And she took
of the sunbeams that gilded the
mountain top, and of the snowy fleece of
the summer clouds, and of the
blue ether of the summer sky, and of the
bright green of the summer
fields, and of the royal purple of the
autumn woods,—and what do you
suppose she wove?
The web which she wove in the sky was
full of enchanting pictures of
flowers and gardens, and of castles and
towers, and of mountain heights,
and of men and beasts, and of giants and
dwarfs, and of the mighty
beings who dwell in the clouds with
Jupiter. And those who looked upon
it were so filled with wonder and
delight, that they forgot all about
the beautiful web which Arachne had
woven. And Arachne herself was
 afraid when she saw it; and
she hid her face in her hands
"Oh, how can I live," she cried, "now
that I must never again use loom
or spindle or distaff?"
And she kept on, weeping and weeping and
weeping, and saying, "How can I
Then, when Athena saw that the poor
maiden would never have any joy
unless she were allowed to spin and
weave, she took pity on her and
"I would free you from your bargain if I
could, but that is a thing
which no one can do. You must hold to
your agreement never to touch loom
or spindle again. And yet, since you
will never be happy unless you can
spin and weave, I will give you a new
form so that you can carry on your
work with neither spindle nor loom."
Then she touched Arachne with the tip of
the spear which she sometimes
carried; and the maiden was changed at
once into a nimble spider, which
ran into a shady place in the grass and
began merrily to spin and weave
a beautiful web.
I have heard it said that all the
spiders which have been in the world
since then are the children of Arachne;
but I doubt whether this be
true. Yet, for aught I know, Arachne
still lives and spins and weaves;
and the very next spider that you see
may be she herself.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics