| 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 GOD OF FIRE
OU may remember reading, at the end of the
story of "The Gods and the Giants," that the
quarrels of Jupiter and Juno never ceased to disturb
the peace of the sky where the gods dwell. Juno's
temper was terrible, and so was her jealousy, and her
pride was beyond all bounds. On the other hand, her
character was without reproach, while Jupiter was the
worst husband in the whole of heaven. To such a
pitch did their quarrels at last reach, that Juno went
away to earth, vowing never to see Jupiter again.
I suppose, however, that Jupiter loved Juno in the
depth of his heart, or else he was afraid of the scandal
that would follow upon a separation between the King
and Queen of Heaven. At any rate he consulted his
friends as to how the quarrel could be made up, and
was advised by one of them, King Cithæron of Platæa,
to have it announced that he was about to make some
other goddess his queen. On hearing the news, back
 flew Juno in a rage to the sky to stop the marriage,
and finding that there was no marriage to stop, consented
to remain, and to forgive her husband once
But to quarrel once always makes it easier and
easier to quarrel again, and harder and harder to
keep love or friendship alive. And before long came
another quarrel—the worst of all.
Juno scolded furiously, and Jupiter at last said:—
"Enough. You shall destroy the peace of heaven
no longer. Out you shall go."
"All the better," said Juno. "I will go back to
earth as I did before. And I am not going to be
tricked by your false stories a second time."
"No," said Jupiter; "the happiness of the earth is
as dear to me as the happiness of the sky. You shall
neither go to earth nor stay in heaven."
Taking a long golden chain, he fastened it round
her, under her shoulders. Then he sent for one of the
Cyclopes' anvils, and fastened it to her feet. Securing
the other end of the chain to the keystone of the rainbow,
he let her down, so that Juno hung suspended in
mid-air, neither upon the earth nor in the sky, while
the anvil at her feet prevented her from swinging and
from climbing up again by the chain.
It was a terrible position for Juno. Her anger was
still at full heat, and such a degradation, in full sight
 of gods and men, was a heavy wound to her pride, not
to speak of the bodily pain which she had helplessly to
bear. But she scorned to beg for pardon. So there
she hung, plotting revenge, until night came—till
Apollo was asleep under the sea, and Diana was away
hunting, and Jupiter, making the most of his long-lost
quiet, was dozing upon his throne. Then Juno, who
certainly could not sleep with an anvil dragging at
her legs and a chain at her shoulders, heard a whisper
from above, "Hush! Don't start—don't scream; keep
quite still, and I'll soon draw your majesty up again."
Not that Juno had thought of starting or screaming—she
was much too dignified. Besides, the whisper,
though rather rough and hoarse, was very pleasant to
hear just then. For she recognized the voice of Vulcan,
her own son, and she knew that he was going to help
So she kept quite quiet as she was bidden, and
presently she felt herself, anvil and all, being drawn
very slowly upwards, just as you may have seen a
heavy sack drawn up by a machine to a warehouse
window. It must have been rather painful being
dragged up while the anvil dragged her down; but
she found herself on firm sky at last, and sighed with
relief when Vulcan, whipping out his knife, cut the
cord at her feet, and let the anvil go thundering down
upon the earth below.
 You can fancy what a clatter it made. People
started out of their sleep—not that that mattered.
But it did matter that Jupiter started out of his. He
sprang from his throne, and saw at once what had
happened. The next moment, with a tremendous
kick, he sent Vulcan flying after the anvil.
Vulcan fell and fell, spinning through space, till he
lost his senses, and then—
The anvil had fallen upon the island of Lemnos, and
the islanders, rushing out of their houses to see what
the crash and clatter could be about, were amazed to
see what looked like a confused bundle of legs and
arms tumbling and whirling through the air. As it
came nearer, it seemed to be a human figure. So the
people made a sort of network of their arms, to catch
it and prevent its being dashed to pieces.
And lucky it was for Vulcan that they did. For
when he came to himself he found himself with nothing
worse the matter than one leg badly broken.
God though he was, he always remained lame, and
he was naturally somewhat deformed. But neither
lameness nor deformity prevented his having amazing
strength; and he was as clever as he was strong. The
people of Lemnos treated him kindly, and he in return
taught them to work in metals. They built him a
palace, and he set up forges and furnaces, and made
all sorts of useful and curious things. He used to
work at the forges himself, blowing the fires and
wielding the hammer. Among the curious things he
made were two mechanical statues, which seemed alive,
walked about with him, and even helped him in his
work. And at last there came into his head a plan
for getting called back into heaven. So he shut
himself up in his smithy with his two mechanical
workmen, and let nobody know what he was doing
there. Those mechanical workmen were among the
most useful things he made, for he could trust them
to help him in his most secret work without understanding
it or being able to tell how it was done.
One day the gods up in heaven were excited by the
arrival of a splendid golden throne—a present from
the earth for Jupiter. How it came there nobody
knew. But there it was, and all agreed that nothing
so magnificent in its way had ever been seen before,
even in the skies. Jupiter was about to try how it
felt to sit upon, when Juno, jealous even of that, went
quickly before him and seated herself.
"Ah! that is a comfortable throne!" she exclaimed.
"There is nothing like gold to sit upon, after all."
Jupiter was annoyed with Juno's behavior, as indeed
he was with most things she did. As, however, he did
not like to make another scene before all the gods and
 goddesses, he waited patiently for her to get up again.
But she did not move.
At last—"I think that is my throne," he hinted, in
a tone which seemed gentle, but which Juno understood
exceedingly well. Still she did not move.
"Thrones are not meant to go to sleep upon," he
said in a yet more meaning way.
And still she did not move.
"Get up!" he thundered at last, his patience gone.
"I can't!" was all she could say, as she made a
vain effort to rise. "The throne is holding me with
And so it proved. Juno was held so tightly by
the throne that she could scarcely struggle. It was
very strange. And presently it became stranger still.
Neither the authority of Jupiter, nor all the strength
and skill of all Olympus together, could loosen the
clutch of the magic throne.
"Ah!" said Mercury—who, you may remember,
was Jupiter's chief messenger, and the quickest and
cleverest of all the gods—"if only Vulcan were here!
He understands these things."
"And why is he not here?" asked Jupiter, sternly.
But nobody dared answer, though everybody knew.
However, Mercury took the hint, vanished for an
instant or two, and, while the gods were vainly tugging
at the arms of the throne, reappeared, followed by a
 limping figure all black and hot from the forge—in
short by Vulcan.
"What is the matter?" asked Vulcan, as innocently
as if he had nothing to do with it at all. "Ah!
I see. A clever invention; but—By the way, I can't
afford another broken leg: so if I help my mother
Seeing from the face of Jupiter that he had nothing
to fear, he pressed the tip of his grimy finger upon a
secret spring—the arms instantly opened, and Juno
was free. What they did with the throne I cannot tell
you; but you may be certain that nobody ever sat on
After that, Vulcan remained among the gods as the
god of Fire, and was the chief blacksmith of nature.
He opened vast forges in the middle of the earth, where
he made weapons and armor for gods and heroes, and
thunderbolts for Jupiter. The Cyclopes, the giants
with one eye in the middle of their foreheads, were his
workmen. The chimneys of his furnaces are called
volcanoes, of which the chief is Mount Ætna in the
island of Sicily; and one can tell when some great work
is going on by the smoke and flame that bursts out of
these. Volcano, you will no doubt notice, is very
nearly the same word as Vulcan.
And so things went on quietly till one day a very
wonderful thing happened. Nobody has ever been able
 to account for it or understand it; so I must just tell
you the story as it stands. One lovely spring morning,
when there was scarcely the softest breeze to stir the
sea, shining like a mirror in the sun, a light amber-colored
froth that floated upon the ripples was seen, by
watchers upon the shore of the island of Cyprus, to
gather into a delicate rosy cloud that presently began
to tremble as if it were trying to be alive. It still
rested lightly upon the water—so lightly that the
breeze, soft and gentle as it was, might have blown it
away; but its delicate trembling carried it upwards till
at last it seemed to breathe, then to take shape, and at
last blossomed into the most beautiful woman—if
woman it was—that had ever been seen in the world,
or even in heaven. With wonderful grace she glided
to the shore; and poets have told how the zephyrs, or
soft west winds, guided her as she came, and the four
seasons received her on the shore. The people of
Cyprus could only wonder and worship; and this was
the birth of the great goddess Venus, the Queen of
Love, whom the Greeks called Aphrodīte, which means
born of the Foam of the Sea.
And this wonderful goddess of Love and Beauty
Jupiter chose to give in marriage to Vulcan, the
deformed and limping god of Fire.
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