| Gods and Heroes|
|by Robert Edward Francillon|
|One of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children. Includes the stories of all the prominent gods and heroes, woven together into a continuous narrative, ending with a full treatment of the twelve labors of Hercules. Ages 8-12 |
THE MAN WHO NEVER DIED
HERE was just one mortal who kept clear of
Hades altogether. But whether he was really
lucky in that or not, I must leave you to settle when
you have heard his story.
If you have ever seen the sun rise, you have seen
the wings of Aurora. Aurora is the dawn; and as she
opens her wings you see all their colors—first pale-grey;
then a delicate amber, which deepens into
saffron; then the tint of a pink-rose, which grows
fuller and fuller till it becomes crimson and purple,
which turns to gold when the chariot of the Sun
appears. It is she who throws open the gates of the
sky for Phœbus Apollo to start upon his daily journey,
just as it is Thetis who shuts them, and brings the
twilight, when his journey is done.
Aurora is always glad and beautiful and young;
always full of hope, because she closes her splendid
wings and goes to sleep before the troubles of the day
begin; and her only work is to feed the flowers with
dew. But once upon a time she fell in love with a
 mortal named Tithōnus; and she promised to grant
him whatever boon he most desired.
I suppose almost everybody has tried to think of
what he would wish for if a goddess or fairy gave him
such a chance. Tithonus though hard for a minute,
and then said:—
"Great and beautiful goddess, my wish is that I
may never die, so that I may see you every morning
Now of course it was against all the laws of Hades
that a mortal should never die—unless, of course, he
was allowed to taste the Ambrosia, the food of the
gods, which was very seldom allowed. How Aurora
managed it, I cannot tell, because I have never been
told. But she kept her word somehow, and Tithonus
got leave to live forever.
And so long as he was young and strong, and could
get up early in the morning to look at the color of
Aurora's wings, that was all very well. It did just as
well as if he were to die in time, like other men. But
it happened at last that, while Aurora remained as
young as ever, Tithonus began to get old. The
promise of endless life did not prevent him from growing
bald, and toothless, and liable to catch cold if he
went out into the keen morning air. By the time that
he was a hundred years old, he became tired of getting
up to see the sun rise day after day. At two hundred
 he felt like a bundle of aches and pains, and he liked
a doze in the sun better than a thousand Auroras. At
three hundred he became tired of living, and wanted
to be able to creep into some quiet corner of Hades,
drink a cup of Lethe, and go to sleep and think of
nothing. But he could not; for though racked with
pain and weary of life, he could not die!
He could only shrink and shrivel till, after many
hundreds of years, he was less than two inches long.
His skin turned dry and brown. His voice became
cracked, and thin, and shrill. He lost his senses, and
kept on chirping the same thing over and over again.
He never stirred from the warmth of the chimney-corner,
night or day. His legs grew as thin as threads
of cotton. He dwindled into a dry, wooden-like insect.
In short, a Cricket.
And such he remains to this day. But Aurora is
as young and as beautiful and as fresh as ever, and
has clean forgotten him; while he spends his life in
trying to be merry, and in chirping:—
"Oh, how I want to die!"
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