| 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 |
NE day, Apollo, while following his flock of sheep,
met a little boy playing with a bow and arrows.
"That isn't much of a bow you've got there," said
"Isn't it?" said the boy. "Perhaps not; but all
the same, I don't believe you've got a better, though
you're so big and I'm so small."
Now you know that Apollo never could bear to be
told that anybody could have anything, or do anything,
better than he. You remember how he treated Marsyas
and Midas for saying the same kind of thing. So
he took his own bow from his shoulder, and showed
it to the boy, and said, "As you think you know so
much about bows and arrows, look at that; perhaps
you'll say that the bow which killed the great serpent
Python isn't stronger than your trumpery little toy."
The boy took Apollo's bow and tried to bend it; but
it was much too strong for him. "But never mind,"
said he. "My little bow and arrows are better than
your big ones, all the same."
Apollo was half angry and half amused. "You little
blockhead! how do you make out that?" asked he.
"Because," said the boy, "your bow can kill everybody
else—but mine can conquer you. You shall
And so saying he let fly one of his arrows right into
Apollo's heart. The arrow was so little that Apollo
felt nothing more than the prick of a pin: he only
laughed at the boy's nonsense, and went on his way
as if nothing had happened.
But Apollo would not have thought so little of the
matter if he had known that his heart had been pricked
by a magic arrow. The boy's name was Cupid: and
you will read a good deal about him both in this book
and in others. Oddly enough, though the boy was one
of the gods of Olympus, Apollo had never seen him
before, and knew nothing about him. Perhaps Cupid
had not been born when Apollo was banished from the
sky. However this may be, there is no doubt about
what Cupid's arrows could do. If he shot into the
hearts of two people at the same time with two of his
golden arrows, they loved each other, and were happy.
But if he shot only one heart, as he did Apollo's, that
person was made to love somebody who did not love
him in return, and perhaps hated him: so he became
 So it happened to Apollo. He became very fond of
a nymph named Daphne. But thought he was so great
and glorious a god, and she only a Naiad, she was only
afraid of him and would have nothing to do with him—because
Cupid, out of mischief, shot her heart with
one of his leaden arrows, which prevented love. Apollo
prayed her to like him; but she could not, and when
she saw him coming used to hide away at the bottom
of her river.
But one day she was rambling in a wood a long way
from her home. And, to her alarm, she suddenly saw
Apollo coming towards her. She took to her heels
and ran. She ran very fast indeed; but her river was
far away, and Apollo kept gaining upon her—for nobody
on the earth or in the sky could run so fast as
he. At last she was so tired and so frightened that
she could run no longer, and was obliged to stand
"Rather than let Apollo touch me," she said, "I
would be a Hamadryad, and never be able to run
She wished it so hard, that suddenly she felt her
feet take root in the earth. Then her arms turned to
branches, and her fingers to twigs, and her hair to
leaves. And when Apollo reached the spot, he found
nothing but a laurel bush growing where Daphne had
 That is why "Daphne" is the Greek for "Laurel."
And forever after Apollo loved the bush into which
Daphne had been turned. You may know Apollo in
pictures by his laurel wreath as well as by his lyre and
It is a very ancient saying that "Love conquers all
things." And that is exactly what Cupid meant by
saying that his toy-bow was stronger even than the
bow which had killed Python, and could conquer with
ease even the god of the Sun.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics