|A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys|
|by Nathaniel Hawthorne|
|Delightful retelling of six Greek myths to a crowd of energetic youngsters by a master storyteller. Includes The Gorgonís Head, The Golden Touch, The Paradise of Children, The Three Golden Apples, and The Miraculous Pitcher. Ages 9-12 |
OUSIN EUSTACE," demanded Sweet Fern, who had been
sitting at the story-teller's feet, with his mouth wide
open, "exactly how tall was this giant?"
"O Sweet Fern, Sweet Fern!" cried the student, "do you
think I was there, to measure him with a yard-stick?
Well, if you must know to a hair's-breadth, I suppose he
might be from three to fifteen miles straight upward,
and that he might have seated himself on Taconic, and
had Monument Mountain for a footstool."
"Dear me!" ejaculated the good little boy, with a
contented sort of a grunt, "that was a giant, sure
enough! And how long was his little finger?"
"As long as from Tanglewood to the lake," said Eustace.
"Sure enough, that was a giant!" repeated Sweet Fern,
in an ecstasy at the precision of these
"And how broad, I wonder, were the shoulders of
"That is what I have never been able to find out,"
answered the student. "But I think they must have been
a great deal broader than mine, or than your father's,
or than almost any shoulders which one sees nowadays."
"I wish," whispered Sweet Fern, with his mouth close to
the student's ear, "that you would tell me how big were
some of the oak-trees that grew between the giant's
"They were bigger," said Eustace, "than the great
chestnut-tree which stands beyond Captain Smith's
"Eustace," remarked Mr. Pringle, after some
deliberation, "I find it impossible to express such an
opinion of this story as will be likely to gratify, in
the smallest degree, your pride of authorship. Pray let
me advise you never more to meddle with a classical
myth. Your imagination is altogether Gothic, and will
inevitably Gothicize everything that you touch. The
effect is like bedaubing a marble statue with paint.
This giant, now! How can you have ventured to thrust
his huge, disproportioned mass among the seemly
outlines of Grecian fable, the tendency of which is to
reduce even the extravagant within limits, by its
"I described the giant as he appeared to me," replied
the student, rather piqued. "And, sir, if you would
only bring your mind into such a relation with these
fables as is necessary in order to remodel them, you
would see at once that an old
 Greek had no more
exclusive right to them than a modern Yankee has. They
are the common property of the world, and of all time.
The ancient poets remodeled them at pleasure, and held
them plastic in their hands; and why should they not be
plastic in my hands as well?"
Mr. Pringle could not forbear a smile.
"And besides," continued Eustace, "the moment you put
any warmth of heart, any passion or affection, any
human or divine morality, into a classic mould, you
make it quite another thing from what it was before. My
own opinion is, that the Greeks, by taking possession
of these legends (which were the immemorial birthright
of mankind), and putting them into shapes of
indestructible beauty, indeed, but cold and heartless,
have done all subsequent ages an incalculable injury."
"Which you, doubtless, were born to remedy," said Mr.
Pringle, laughing outright. "Well, well, go on; but
take my advice, and never put any of your travesties on
paper. And, as your next effort, what if you should try
your hand on some one of the legends of Apollo?"
"Ah, sir, you propose it as an impossibility," observed
the student, after a moment's meditation; "and, to be
sure, at first thought, the idea of a Gothic Apollo
strikes one rather ludicrously. But I will turn over
your suggestion in my mind, and do not quite despair of
During the above discussion, the children (who
understood not a word of it) had grown very sleepy, and
were now sent off to bed. Their drowsy babble was
heard, ascending the staircase,
 while a northwest wind
roared loudly among the tree-tops of Tanglewood, and
played an anthem around the house. Eustace Bright went
back to the study, and again endeavored to hammer out
some verses, but fell asleep between two of the rhymes.
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