| Thirty More Famous Stories Retold|
|by James Baldwin|
|This volume was written by the author in answer to the requests of hundreds of children for more stories like the ones they had enjoyed in Fifty Famous Stories Retold. This volume includes stories of historical events, scientific discoveries, and legendary heroes. The richer vocabulary and more complicated plot elements in these stories gradually accustom children to following a longer narrative. Ages 7-10 |
THE FALL OF TROY
I. THE LONG SIEGE
 ON the farther side of the Ægean Sea there once
flourished a fair, rich city, the most famous in the
world. This city was called Ilium by its own people,
but in story and song it is known as Troy. It stood on
a sloping plain some distance back from the shore, and
was surrounded by high, strong walls which no enemy
could scale or batter down. Within the gates were the
homes of the people, houses great and small, a fine
stone palace for the king and his sons, and a beautiful
temple of Athene, the guardian of the city. Outside the
walls were gardens and farms and woodlands; and in the
distance rose the green slopes and rocky heights of
Troy was a very old city. For hundreds of years it had
been growing in power and pride, and no man knew when
or how the foundations of its greatness had been laid.
"Ilium will endure forever," said the boastful Trojans
as they looked at its solid walls and its noble
buildings. But, alas, sad changes at length took place,
and cruel war destroyed many a proud hope.
 From beyond the sea came hosts of Greeks, armed for war
and bent upon the conquest of the city. They came
because one of the princes of Troy, Paris by name, had
done a grievous wrong to Greece. He had stolen and
carried away from her shores the most beautiful of all
her women, even Helen, the wife of Menelaus of Sparta.
The cry was for vengeance; and heroes and warriors from
every city and town joined hands and vowed vengeance
upon Troy. They came in a thousand little ships, with
sails and oars, and landed on the beach at the foot of
the plain. They built huts and tents along the shore;
they kindled fires; they threw up a breastwork of earth
and stones around their camp; they defied the warriors
of Troy to come out on the plain and meet them in
Thus the siege was begun, and for more than nine years
the city was surrounded by determined foes; but the
walls were strong, and the men who defended them were
brave. Many fierce battles were fought outside of the
gates. Sometimes the victory seemed to be with the
Greeks, sometimes with the Trojans; but neither could
gain any great advantage over the other. The Trojans
could not drive the invaders from their shores; the
Greeks could not force their way into the city. One
hero after another was slain, now on this side, now on
 Great were the losses of besiegers and besieged, and
great the suffering and grief; but still the struggle
"Athene protects us," said the hopeful people of Troy.
"So long as the Palladium is with us, our city cannot
The Palladium was a beautiful statue which stood in the
temple of Athene. In it the Trojans placed their hopes,
for they believed that it had the strange power of
protecting its friends.
"It is useless for us to fight longer," said some of
the Greeks; "for we can never prevail while the
Palladium is in Troy."
"We have already stayed too long," said others. "Let us
abandon this hopeless siege and return to our homes."
But Ulysses, the shrewdest of all the heroes of Greece,
was unwilling to give up. On a dark and stormy night he
made his way by stealth into the city; he passed the
guards unnoticed; he crept into the temple of Athene
while all the watchers were asleep; he seized upon the
Palladium and carried it in triumph to the camp by the
"Now we shall surely prevail," said the Greeks; "for the
Palladium is ours."
But still the Trojans persevered and guarded well their
gates; and still the weary siege went on.
 One morning in the early summer all Troy was awakened
at daybreak by shouts from the sentinels on the walls.
"What is the matter now?" asked men, women, and
children, as they hurried into the streets.
gone," said one of the sentinels.
"Who are gone?"
"Why the Greeks, of course."
"Oh, no! That is too good to be true."
"Then come up here and see for yourselves."
Soon a hundred eager men and women were standing on the
wall, straining their eyes in the gray light of dawn,
and trying to discern the hated tents by the beach and
the black-hulled ships along the shore.
"They are not there," said the sharp-sighted sentinel.
"No sign of Greek can be seen—no ship nor tent nor
smoking camp fire. Thanks to Athene, they have left us
"Look again," said some of the doubtful ones. "Perhaps
the fog hides them from your view."
"There is no fog," answered the sentinel. "But I see a
strange, dark object among the reeds, close by the
inlet where the boys used to go swimming. I wonder what
it can be."
 All looked toward the spot indicated. Surely enough
there was something among the reeds. It was smaller
than a ship and larger than a man. In the dim light of
the morning, it looked like a sea monster lately
emerged from the waves.
"Perhaps it has devoured the Greeks and their ships,"
suggested a bustling little man. "Ah, but what a fine
large meal it must have had!"
Just then the sun rose above Mount Ida, shedding a rosy
golden light upon sea and shore and making every object
on the beach plainly visible. There was no longer any
doubt about the strange appearance in the reeds.
"It is a horse!" shouted one and all.
"But not a real horse," said the sharp-sighted sentinel—"it
is much too large. It is a huge; grizzly,
ill-shapen image which the Greeks have left behind
them, perhaps to frighten us. And now I remember that
for several days there was something unusual going on
behind the reeds and bushes there—workmen hurrying
back and forth, and much noise of hammering and
pounding. They were building this very image."
Just then Laocoön, a prince of Troy, joined the company
on the wall. He was an old man, wrinkled and gray—a
priest of Apollo, wiser and more discreet than most of
his fellows. After looking long
 and carefully at the strange image, he turned to the
crowd around him and said, "It is a trick. My children,
beware of the cunning Greeks. They have prepared this
image to deceive you. I warn you to have nothing to do
II. THE DESERTED CAMP
ABOUT the middle of the morning, Priam, the old king of
Troy, caused a proclamation to be sounded in the
"Our enemies have departed, and peace and safety are
ours once again. At noon the gates of the city shall be
opened, and our people may resume their peaceful
Forthwith there was a great bustling and stirring in
every corner of the city. It was as though day had
dawned after a long and fearful night. How sweet it was
to feel free from dread, and to go about one's business
in peace! The women began to sweep and air their
long-neglected houses, talking loudly and singing as
they attended to their various tasks. The shopkeepers
brought out their goods and announced fine bargains to
the first buyers. The smiths kindled fires in their
forges, and began to hammer old spears into reaping
hooks and other implements of peace. The fishermen
 their nets. The farmers counted their rakes and hoes
and plows, and talked about the fine crops they would
have on lands that had lain idle so long.
But not all the people were thus busy preparing for the
occupations of peace. Long before the hour of noon a
great company of idlers and sightseers, soothsayers and
warriors, half-grown boys, and indeed many respectable
men, had gathered before the gate on the seaward side
of the town, anxious to get out of the long-pent-up
city. No sooner was the gate opened than there was a
wild rush across the plain toward the shore. Men as
well as boys were anxious to see whether the Greeks had
left anything behind them that was worth having.
They wandered along the beach, looking in every nook
and corner of the old camp, but finding nothing more
than a few bits of crockery, a broken sword hilt or
two, and a few worthless ornaments. But they kept well
away from the inlet where the reeds grew. The boldest
of them could not be persuaded to go near the huge
wooden horse which stood there. For Laocoön, the
priest, had warned them again to beware of it; and so
they were content to stand at a distance and gaze at
the strange, unshapely object and wonder what evil
trick the Greeks had intended by leaving it behind.
Suddenly on the other side of the camp a great
 shouting was heard. Then some countrymen, who had been
hunting in the marshes, were seen approaching with a
"A Greek! a Greek!" was the shout; and men and boys ran
forward to see the captive and join in abusing him. The
poor fellow was led by a thong of oxhide twisted around
his neck; and, as he stumbled along over the sand, the
rude crowd jeered at him and jostled him and pelted him
with sticks and sand and whatever objects they could
lay hold of. The blood was trickling down his scarred
face, his eyes were swollen, his left ear was mangled
and torn, and his right arm seemed useless. But his
persecutors, as they saw his condition, shouted only
the louder, "A Greek! a Greek! Away with him!"
Then, all at once, the uproar ceased and a great
silence fell upon the rude rabble; for, standing in his
chariot quite near the spot, was one of the officers of
"What prisoner is this whom you are thus abusing?" he
"We think he is a Greek," answered his captors, "We
found him in the tall grass by the slimy marshes; and
as he was already wounded and half blind, it was easy
for us to take him, although we were unarmed."
"Already wounded!" said the officer. "That is
 indeed strange." Then turning to the prisoner, he
asked, "How is this? Tell me whether you are a Greek or
whether you are a friend of Troy. What is your name,
and what is your country?"
"My name," said the prisoner, "is Sinon, and although I
am by birth a Greek, yet I have no country. Until ten
days ago I counted myself a friend of Greece, and
fought valiantly among her heroes. But see these
grievous wounds, this ear, this bleeding face, these
eyes. Can I remain friendly to those who thus maimed me
and would fain have taken my life also?"
"Tell us about it," said the officer; "and tell us
truly if the Greeks have sailed to their homes never to
vex us again." And he motioned to the young men to
loosen the thong about the prisoner's neck.
"Yes, I will tell you," answered Sinon, "and I will be
brief. When Ulysses, the craftiest of men, stole the
Palladium from your temple, the Greeks felt sure that
the city would soon fall into their hands. But as day
after day passed by, and they gained not a single
fight before the gates, they began to despair. Then a
council was held, and it was decided to give up the
siege and sail for home. Immediately great storms
arose on the sea. The south wind blew continuously for
days together. The waves dashed over the beach and
destroyed more than one of our
 tents. It was impossible for any ship to put to sea,
and we all lay idle and despairing within our
storm-beaten camp. Then the chiefs of the Greeks called
the soothsayers and bade them tell what was the cause
of these things, and by what means we should be able in
the end to return home. Calchas was the first
soothsayer to speak.
" 'Athene is angry,' he said, 'because her statue, the
Palladium, was stolen from her temple. That is why the
storms rage so fiercely on the sea; and they will
continue to rage until you do something to atone for
the wrong that she has suffered.'
" 'Tell us what we must do,' said the chiefs.
" 'You must make a statue of a horse and leave it on
this shore as a token of your shame and repentance,'
answered Calchas. 'Never can your ships return to
Greece until that is done.'
"Then another soothsayer was called. Ulysses had
instructed him what to say. 'The ships of Greece,' said
he, 'can never sail until a hero well known in the
councils of the Greeks shall be sacrificed to Apollo.'
" 'Who is the hero that must thus be sacrificed?' asked
" 'It is Sinon,' answered the soothsayer, being urged
on by Ulysses. For the man of wiles desired my death,
being offended at me without cause.
 "I was at once bound with thongs and confined in a tent
on the outskirts of the camp. I was told that at
sunrise on the following day I was to die. But in the
dead of night I broke the cords and would have escaped
unhurt had I not been discovered by Ulysses. Fiercely
he attacked me as I fled from the camp, and with
unpitying blows he gave me the wounds that you see upon
my body. Yet in the darkness I eluded him and found
shelter in the slimy marshes by the shore. There I lay
hidden till I saw the last of the ships sail away. But,
as I was creeping out of my hiding place these rude
fellows seized me and dragged me hither. Now, as to
whether I am a friend of the Greeks you may readily
III. THE DOOM OF LAOCOON
"But what about the horse?" cried the rabble of
Trojans. "What about the horse?"
"The horse," said Sinon, "wars built as the soothsayer,
Calchas, had directed. Otherwise, the ships could never
have sailed. There it is now, standing among the reeds.
The soothsayers declared that it would carry happiness
and prosperity and peace wherever it should go. But
the Greeks were unwilling that it should ever be a
 benefit to Troy. Therefore they built it so wide and
high that it cannot be taken through your gates. They
placed it among the reeds by the shore, hoping that the
waves might undermine it and carry it away to the deep
"Ah, that is their plan is it?" cried the excited
Trojans. "Well, we shall see whether Troy is not made
happy and prosperous by such a piece of work." And,
forgetting Sinon, the whole company, with the king's
officer at its head, rushed madly to the spot where the
great horse stood.
"Beware, my countrymen, beware!" cried the voice of old
Laocoön, as he struggled through the crowd. "This is a
trick of the Greeks. The horse will not bring you
happiness and prosperity, but rather misery and ruin.
Cast it into the sea, burn it to ashes, but do not
receive it into the city."
With these words he hurled his spear at the huge image.
The weapon struck it full in the breast, and those who
stood nearest declared that they heard deep hollow
groans and a sound like the rattle of shields issuing
from the throat of the monster.
"To the sea with it! To the sea with it!" cried a few
who believed in the old priest.
But the greater number shouted, "To the city
 with it! To the city with it! We will yet outwit the
Some ran to the city for ropes and wheels, and others
hastened to make a breach in the wall large enough for
the monster to pass through.
The followers of Laocoön were too few and feeble to
object or resist; and the old priest, with his two sons
as assistants, withdrew from the crowd and went out on
the beach to offer a sacrifice to Apollo, as was the
custom of his country. He had built an altar of smooth
stones and was preparing the sacrifice, when fearful
cries were heard among the people by the shore, and all
fled away in a panic of terror. Laocoön, looking up,
saw the cause of the alarm.
In the sea two huge serpents were swimming. They
appeared to be coming from the island of Tenedos, four
miles away, and they were approaching the beach with
wondrous speed. No doubt Laocoön thought they were
common water snakes and would not come upon the land;
for, after watching them a moment, he turned again to
his altar and began offering the sacrifice. Swift as
light the serpents sped toward the shore. Rearing
their heads high in the air, they emerged from the
waves and glided over the sandy beach. Before Laocoön
saw his danger, the slimy creatures had
 reached the altar. In another moment they had wrapped
their horrid folds around the arms, the necks, the
bodies of the unfortunate priest and his sons. Lifeless
and crushed, the victims fell down beside the altar
they had builded; and the serpents, as though satisfied
with their work, glided away and hid themselves under
some rocks where the Greeks had carved a figure of
The Trojans, who had watched this dreadful scene from a
distance, stood for a while speechless with fear, not
knowing who might be the next victims. At length,
seeing that the serpents remained hidden, they began to
breathe more freely; and, as their courage slowly
returned, some among them cried out, "Behold how the
mighty Athene has punished the man who dared to insult
her by striking the great horse with his spear!"
"May such be the fate of all others who would oppose
the will of the ever living powers!" cried a
white-bearded soothsayer. "Let us offer thanks to our
protector, the wise and kind Athene; and let us hasten
to draw her horse into the city, where it can have the
protection which is its due. Then shall Troy be forever
Forthwith the fears of the past hour were forgotten.
All began to talk at the same time, and all were intent
upon taking the great horse to the city
 as soon as possible. Ropes were fastened to its neck
and forelegs. Wooden rollers were placed under each
corner of the platform on which it stood. Men with axes
and hoes ran forward to clear a trackway across the
plain to the place in the city wall where the breach
had been made. Then the strongest and most willing
seized hold of the long ropes and began to pull. Others
pushed against the hind part of the platform. Still
others stood by and offered kind advice to the workers.
Some prayed to Athene.
IV. THE DREADFUL SURPRISE
 AT length, after a great deal of tugging and sweating
by those at the ropes, the huge image began to move,
the rollers beneath it creaked and groaned, and every
Trojan shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far
out to sea.
Slowly but steadily the multitude advanced across the
plain, dragging the wonderful horse which they believed
would bless the city. The sun had set before they
passed through the breach in the wall; and the darkness
of night was beginning to fall when the lumbering
wheels ceased their noise. The great horse came to a
standstill in a quiet corner close by the temple of
"My friends," said the king's officer, "we have
 done a fine day's work, and Athene's horse rests near
the place where it shall remain. Now, indeed, the
happiness of Troy is insured. Let every person depart
to his own home; for to-night, the first time in ten
years, we shall sleep in security, fearing no foe."
With joyful shouts and friendly good nights the crowd
separated, and every man went quietly to his own house.
Soon the city was wrapped in darkness, and the streets
were silent and empty. And Athene's horse stood grim
and gaunt and motionless beside the temple wall.
About midnight a man crept stealthily out of the temple
and made his way to the breach in the wall. In one hand
he carried a basket of pitch, in the other a small
torch which he had lighted at the temple fire. With
much caution he climbed to the top of the wall. He hid
his torch in a cranny, and swung the basket of pitch by
a chain on the outer edge of the stone coping. Then he
sat still and waited. Soon the sky began to grow
lighter and the shadows in the city less dark.
Presently the moon rose, bright and round. The roofs of
the houses, the broad top of the city wall, the dull,
deserted plain, the silent sea—all were silvered over
with her soft, mellow beams.
The man on the wall looked eagerly toward the
 sea. What were those dark objects which he saw moving
swiftly over the water and drawing rapidly toward the
shore? A thousand ships, black-hulled and low, driven
by twenty thousand oars. The cunning Greeks had not
started for home, as the Trojans foolishly believed.
They had gone only to the island of Tenedos and had
lain there all day, hidden in the coves and inlets of
the reedy shore. Soon their vessels would again be
drawn up in their old places by the deserted camp.
The man on the wall seemed to understand it all. He
lifted the torch from its cranny and dropped it
carefully into the basket of pitch. A lurid flame
arose. As it lighted up the plain and the outside of
the wall, it shone also upon the face of the man. His
eyes were red, his face was wounded and swollen, the
half of his left ear was gone. It was Sinon.
Lights were seen on the ships; and then Sinon
hurried down to the spot where the great horse was
standing silent in the moonlight. With the flat of his
short sword, he struck its foreleg three times. There
was a noise above as of the rattling of armor. Then a
panel in the horse's breast slid aside. A man's head,
encased in a gleaming helmet, appeared at the opening.
"Is all well, Simon?" asked a deep voice.
 "All is well, Cousin Ulysses. Our ships are even now
moored to the shore, and our friends are marching
across the plain. The foolish Trojans lie sleeping in
their homes, little dreaming of what awaits them."
A rope ladder was let down, and Ulysses descended to
the ground. Then fifty other heroes followed him,
seeming glad to be in the open air again.
"But, Sinon," said Ulysses, "what mean those scars on
your face, those half-blind eyes, and that mangled ear?
Did the Trojans abuse you thus?"
"They abused me, but they made not these wounds,"
answered Sinon. "I made them myself, that I might the
more easily persuade them to fall into our trap."
"I understand, Sinon," said Ulysses. "People call me
the man of wiles, but that title must now belong to
you. And now, for the ending of the whole business!
Follow me, my men, and let fire and sword do their
" 'Follow me, my men!' "
Why should I tell the rest? The Trojans awoke from
their dreams of peace to see their homes in flames, to
hear the shouts of the triumphant Greeks, to know that
for them there was naught but captivity and sorrow and
death. Thus the long siege came to an end, and thus the
fair, rich city beyond the Ægean Sea was overthrown.
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