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Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
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HERA, THE QUEEN OF THE GODS

[18]

T
HE wife of Zeus was the tall and beautiful goddess Hera. As Zeus was the king of all the gods, so she was their queen. She sat beside him in the council-hall of the gods, on a throne only a little less splendid than his own. She was the greatest of all the goddesses, and was extremely proud of her own strength and beauty.

Hera chose the peacock for her favorite bird, because its plumage was so beautiful. The goddess Iris was her servant and messenger, and flew swiftly through the air upon her errands. The rainbow, which seemed to join heaven and earth with its beautiful arch, was thought to be the road by which Iris traveled.

Here was not only proud of her own beauty, but she was also very jealous of the beauty of any one else. She would even punish women that she thought were too beautiful, as if they had done something very wrong; she often did [19] this by changing them into animals or birds. There was one woman whom Hera changed into the form of a savage bear, and turned out to wander in the forest because she hated her beautiful face. The poor creature was terribly frightened among the fierce animals of the woods; for although she herself now had the form of a beast, her soul was still human. At last Zeus, who was kinder of heart than Hera, took pity upon her. He lifted her far above the earth, and placed her among the stars of heaven; and so, ever after that, the Greeks called one group of stars the Great Bear.

There was once a wood-nymph named Echo, who deceived Hera, and so made her very angry Echo was a merry, beautiful girl, whose tongue was always going, and who was never satisfied unless she could have the last word. As a punishment for her deception, Hera took away her voice, leaving her only the power to repeat the last word that should be spoken to her. Echo now no longer cared to join her companions in their merry games, and so wandered through the forests all alone. But she longed to talk, and would often hide in the woods, and repeat the words of hunters and others who passed that way.

At last she learned to take delight in puz- [20] zling and mocking the people who listened to her.

"Who are you?" they would shout at her.

"You," would come her answer.

"Then, who am I?" they would ask, still more puzzled.

"I," Echo would answer in her sweet, teasing manner.

One day Echo met in the woods a young man named Narcissus, and loved him. But he was very unkind, and would take no notice of her except to tease her for the loss of her voice. She became very unhappy, and began to waste away from grief, until at last there was nothing left of her but her beautiful mocking voice.

When the gods found what had happened to the lovely Echo they were very angry. To punish Narcissus for his unkindness, they changed him from a strong young man to a weak, delicate flower, which is now always called by his name.


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