| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
STORIES OF THE TROJAN WAR
I. THE APPLE OF DISCORD
 THERE was once a war so great that the sound of it has come ringing
down the centuries from singer to singer, and will never
The rivalries of men and gods brought about many calamities,
but none so heavy as this; and it would never have come to
pass, they say, if it had not been for jealousy among the
immortals,—all because of a golden apple! But Destiny has
nurtured ominous plants from little seeds; and this is how
one evil grew great enough to overshadow heaven and earth.
The sea-nymph Thetis (whom Zeus himself had once desired for
his wife) was given in marriage to a mortal, Peleus, and
there was a great wedding-feast in heaven. Thither all the
immortals were bidden, save one, Eris, the goddess of
Discord, ever an unwelcome guest. But she came unbidden.
While the wedding-guests sat at feast, she broke in upon
their mirth, flung among them a golden apple,
and departed with looks that boded ill. Some one picked up
the strange missile and read its inscription:
For the Fairest; and at once discussion
arose among the
goddesses. They were all eager to claim the prize, but only
Venus, the very goddess of beauty, said that it was hers by
right; but Juno could not endure to own herself less fair
than another, and even Athena
cov-  eted the palm of beauty as
well as of wisdom, and would not give it up! Discord had
indeed come to the wedding-feast. Not one of the gods dared
to decide so dangerous a question,—not Zeus himself,—and the
three rivals were forced to choose a judge among mortals.
Now there lived on Mount Ida, near the city of Troy, a
certain young shepherd by the name of Paris. He was as
comely as Ganymede himself,—that Trojan youth whom Zeus, in
the shape of an eagle, seized and bore away to Olympus, to
be a cup-bearer to the gods. Paris, too, was a Trojan of
royal birth, but like Œdipus he had been left on the
mountain in his infancy, because the Oracle had foretold
that he would be the death of his kindred and the ruin of
his country. Destiny saved and nurtured him
to fulfil that prophecy. He grew up as a shepherd
and tended his flocks on the mountain,
but his beauty held the favor of all the wood-folk there
and won the heart of the nymph Œnone.
To him, at last, the three goddesses entrusted the judgment
and the golden apple. Juno first stood before him in all her
glory as Queen of gods and men, and attended by her
favorite peacocks as gorgeous to see as royal fan-bearers.
"Use but the judgment of a prince, Paris," she said, "and I
will give thee wealth and kingly power."
Such majesty and such promises would have moved the heart of
any man; but the eager Paris had at least to hear the claims
of the other rivals. Athena rose before him, a vision
welcome as daylight, with her sea-gray eyes and golden hair
beneath a golden helmet.
"Be wise in honoring me, Paris," she said, "and I
 will give thee wisdom that shall last forever, great glory among
men, and renown in war."
Last of all, Venus shone upon him, beautiful as none can
ever hope to be. If she had come, unnamed, as any country
maid, her loveliness would have dazzled him like sea-foam in
the sun; but she was girt with her magical Cestus, a spell
of beauty that no one can resist.
Without a bribe she might have conquered,
and she smiled upon his dumb amazement, saying, "Paris, thou
shalt yet have for wife the fairest woman in the world."
At these words, the happy shepherd fell on his knees and
offered her the golden apple. He took no heed of the
slighted goddesses, who vanished in a cloud that boded
From that hour he sought only the counsel of Venus, and only
cared to find the highway to his new fortunes. From her he
learned that he was the son of King Priam of Troy, and with
her assistance he deserted the nymph Œnone, whom he had
married, and went in search of his royal kindred.
For it chanced at that time that Priam proclaimed a contest
of strength between his sons and certain other princes, and
promised as prize the most splendid bull that could be found
among the herds of Mount Ida. Thither came the herdsmen to
choose, and when they led away the pride of Paris's heart,
he followed to Troy, thinking that he would try his fortune
and perhaps win back his own.
The games took place before Priam and Hecuba and all their
children, including those noble princes Hector and Helenus,
and the young Cassandra, their sister. This poor maiden had
a sad story, in spite
 of her royalty; for,
because she had once disdained Apollo, she was fated to
foresee all things, and ever to have her prophecies
disbelieved. On this fateful day, she alone was oppressed
with strange forebodings.
But if he who was to be the ruin of his country had
returned, he had come victoriously. Paris won the
contest. At the very moment of his honor, poor
Cassandra saw him with her prophetic eyes; and seeing as
well all the guilt and misery that he was to bring upon
them, she broke into bitter lamentations, and would have
warned her kindred against the evil to come. But the Trojans
gave little heed; they were wont to look upon her visions
as spells of madness. Paris had come back to them a
glorious youth and a victor; and when he made known the
secret of his birth, they cast the words of the Oracle to
the winds, and received the shepherd as a long-lost prince.
Thus far all went happily. But Venus, whose promise had
not yet been fulfilled, bade Paris procure a ship and go in
search of his destined bride. The prince said nothing of
this quest, but urged his kindred to let him go; and giving
out a rumor that he was to find his father's lost sister
Hesione, he set sail for Greece, and finally landed at
There he was kindly received by Menelaus, the king, and his
wife, Fair Helen.
This queen had been reared as the daughter of Tyndarus and
Queen Leda, but some say that she was the child of an
enchanted swan, and there was indeed a strange spell about
her. All the greatest heroes of Greece had wooed her before
she left her father's palace to be the wife of King Menelaus;
and Tyndarus, fearing for her peace, had bound her many
suitors by an oath. According to this pledge, they
 were to
respect her choice, and to go to the aid of her husband if
ever she should be stolen away from him. For in all Greece
there was nothing so beautiful as the beauty of Helen. She
was the fairest woman in the world.
Now thus did Venus fulfil her promise and the shepherd win
his reward with dishonor. Paris dwelt at the court of
Menelaus for a long time, treated with a royal courtesy
which he ill repaid. For at length while the king was absent
on a journey to Crete, his guest won the heart of Fair
Helen, and persuaded her to forsake her husband and sail
away to Troy.
King Menelaus returned to find the nest empty of the swan.
Paris and the fairest woman in the world were well across
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