| 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 FIRST MAN; OR, THE STORY OF PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA
NE of the Titans left two sons, Prometheus and
Epimetheus. Prometheus means Forethought,
and Epimetheus means Afterthought. Now Prometheus
was not big and strong like the other Titans,
but he was more clever and cunning than all of them
put together. And he said to himself, "Well, the gods
have shown themselves stronger than we. We can't
conquer them by fighting, that's clear. But there are
cleverer ways of winning than by fighting, as they
So Prometheus dug up a good-sized lump of clay,
more than six feet long, and nearly four feet round.
And now, said he to himself, "I only want just one
little spark of Heavenly Fire."
Now the Heavenly Fire is only to be found in the
sky; and Jupiter had ordered that no Titan was ever
to enter the sky again. But Prometheus was much
too clever to find any difficulty about that. The great
goddess Minerva, who is the goddess of Wisdom,
happened to be on a visit to the earth just then, so
Prometheus called upon her and said:—
 "Great goddess, I am only a poor, beaten Titan, and
I have never seen the sky. But my father and my
father's father used to live there in the good old times,
and I should like, just once, to see the inside of the
beautiful blue place above the clouds which was once
their home. Please, great goddess, let me go in just
once, and I'll promise to do no harm."
Now Minerva did not like to break the rule. But
she was very trusting and very good-natured, because
she was very wise; and besides, Prometheus looked
such a poor little creature, so different from all the
other Titans and Giants, that she said:—
"You certainly don't look as if you could do us any
harm, even if you tried. Very well—you shall have
a look at the sky, and I'll show you round."
So she told Prometheus to follow her up Mount
Olympus; but she did not notice a little twig that he
carried in his hand: and if she had noticed it, she
would not have thought it mattered. Wise people
don't notice all the little things that cunning people
do. Then she opened the golden gate of the sky, and
let him in. She was very kind, and showed him everything.
He went over the palace of the gods, and saw
Jupiter's great ivory throne, and his eagle, and the
brew-house where the nectar is made. He looked at
the places behind the clouds, where they keep the rain
and snow. Then they looked at all the stars; and at
 last they came to the Stables of the Sun. For you
must know that the sun is a great fiery car, drawn by
four white horses from the east to the west, and is put
away in a stable during the night-time, where the four
horses eat wheat made of gold.
"Now you have seen everything," said Minerva;
"and you must go."
"Thank you," said Prometheus. And he went back
to earth again. But just as he was leaving, he touched
one of the wheels of the sun with his little twig, so
that a spark came off upon the end.
The spark was still there when he got home. He
touched his lump of clay with the spark of Heavenly
Fire—and, lo and behold, the lump of clay became a
"There!" said Prometheus. "There's Something
that will give the gods more trouble than anything
that ever was made!"
It was the First Man.
Jupiter very soon found out what Prometheus had
done, and was very vexed and annoyed. He forgave
Minerva, who was his favorite daughter, but he said to
the god of Fire: "Make something that will trouble
the man even more than the man will trouble me."
So the god of Fire took another lump of clay, and
a great deal of Heavenly Flame, and made the First
 All the gods admired her very much, for she had
been made very nicely—better than the man. Jupiter
said to her, "My child, go to Prometheus and give
him my compliments, and tell him to marry you." The
gods and goddesses thought it a good idea, and all of
them made her presents for her wedding. One gave
her beauty, another wit, another fine clothes, and so
on; but Jupiter only gave her a little box, which was
not to be opened till her wedding-day.
Prometheus was sitting one day at his door, thinking
how clever he was, when he saw, coming down
Olympus, the most beautiful creature he had ever
seen. As soon as she came close—
"Who are you?" he asked. "From where do you
"My name is Pandora," said she. "And I am come
from the skies to marry you."
"With all my heart," said Prometheus. "You
will be a very nice wife, I am sure. But—let
me see—Pandora means 'All Gifts,' doesn't it?
What have you got to give me, to keep house
"The gods have given me everything!" said Pandora.
"I bring you Beauty, Wit, Love, Wisdom,
Health, Wealth, Virtue, Fine Clothes—in a word,
everything that you can wish for."
 "And that little box—what have you in that?"
"Oh, that's only a little box that Jupiter gave me—I
don't know what's in that, for it is not to be opened
till after we're married. Perhaps it is diamonds."
"Who gave it you?" asked he.
"Jupiter," said Pandora.
"Oho!" thought the cunning Prometheus. "Secret
boxes from Jupiter are not to my fancy. My dear,"
he said to Pandora, "on second thoughts, I don't think
I will marry you. But as you've had so much trouble
in coming, I'll send you to my brother Epimetheus,
and you shall marry him. He'll do just as well."
So Pandora went on to Epimetheus, and he married
her. But Prometheus had sent him a private message
not to open the box that had been given by Jupiter.
So it was put away, and everything went on very well
for a long time.
But, at last, Pandora happened to be alone in the
house; and she could not resist the temptation to just
take one little peep into the box to see what was
inside. Such a little box could not hold any harm:
and it might be the most beautiful present of all.
Anyhow, she could do no harm by lifting the lid; she
could easily shut it up again. She felt she was doing
what would displease Epimetheus, and was rather
 ashamed of her curiosity, but—well, she did open
the box. And then—out there flew thousands and
thousands of creatures, like a swarm of wasps and flies,
buzzing and darting about with joy to be free. Out at
the window, and over the world they flew. Alas!
they were all the evil things that are in the world to
torment and hurt mankind. Those flies from Pandora's
box were War, Pain, Grief, Anger, Sickness,
Sorrow, Poverty, Death, Sin. What could she do?
She could not get them back into the box again; she
could only scream and wring her hands. Epimetheus
heard her cries, and did all he could: he shut down
the lid, just in time to keep the very last of the swarm
from flying away. By good luck, it was the only one
worth keeping—a little creature called Hope, who
still lives in the box to comfort us when the others are
stinging us, and to make us say, "There is good in
everything—even in the box of Pandora."
But Jupiter, when he heard how Prometheus had
refused to marry Pandora, and had tried to outwit him
again, was very angry indeed. He sent down one of
the gods, who took Prometheus and carried him to
Mount Caucasus, and bound him to the highest and
coldest peak with chains. And a vulture was sent to
gnaw his heart forever.
So cunning could not conquer the strength of the
gods after all.
 I have something to say about this story, which you
may not quite understand now, but which you will,
some day, when you read it again. Think how Man
is made of dead common clay, but with one spark of
Heavenly Fire straight from the sky. Think how
Woman is made, with less clay, but with more of the
Heavenly Fire. Think of that "Afterthought," which
saved Hope when there was nothing else to be saved,
and think of the Pain sent to gnaw the heart of Prometheus,
who used all his cleverness to make himself
great in wrong-doing.
You will be glad to hear that, a long time afterwards,
the greatest and best man in all Mythology
came and killed the vulture, and set Prometheus free.
You will read all about it in time. But I want you to
know and remember the man's name. It was Hercules.
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