| 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 |
 EVEN with the gifts of Prometheus, men could not rest
content. As years went by, they lost all the innocence of
the early world; they grew more and more covetous and
evil-hearted. Not satisfied with the fruits of the Earth, or
with the fair work of their own hands, they delved in the
ground after gold and jewels; and for the sake of treasure
nations made war upon each other and hate sprang up in
households. Murder and theft broke loose and left nothing
At last Zeus spoke. Calling the gods together, he said:
"Ye see what the Earth has become through the baseness of
men. Once they were deserving of our protection; now they
even neglect to ask it. I will destroy them with my
thunderbolts and make a new race."
But the gods withheld him from this impulse. "For," they
said, "let not the Earth, the mother of all, take fire and
perish. But seek out some means to destroy mankind and leave
So Zeus unloosed the waters of the world and there was a
The streams that had been pent in narrow channels, like wild
steeds bound to the ploughshare, broke away with
exultation; the springs poured down from the mountains, the
air was blind with rain. Valleys and uplands were covered;
strange countries were joined in one great sea; and where
the highest trees had towered, only a little greenery
pricked through the water, as weeds show in a brook.
 Men and women perished with the flocks and herds. Wild
beasts from the forest floated away on the current with the
poor sheep. Birds, left homeless, circled and flew far
and near seeking some place of rest, and, finding none, they
fell from weariness and died with human folk, that had no
Then for the first time the sea-creatures—nymphs and
dolphins—ventured far from their homes, up, up through the
swollen waters, among places that they had never seen
before,—forests whose like they had not dreamed, towns and
deluged farmsteads. They went in and out of drowned palaces,
and wondered at the strange ways of men. And in and
out the bright fish darted, too, without a fear.
Wonderful man was no more. His hearth was empty; and fire, his
servant, was dead on earth.
One mountain alone stood high above this
ruin. It was Parnassus, sacred to the gods; and here one man
and woman had found refuge. Strangely enough, this
husband and wife were of the race of the Titans,—Deucalion, a
son of Prometheus, and Pyrrha, a child of Epimetheus, his
brother; and these alone had lived pure and true of heart.
Warned by Prometheus of the fate in store for the Earth,
they had put off from their home in a little boat, and had
made the crest of Parnassus their safe harbor.
The gods looked down on these two lonely creatures, and,
beholding all their past lives clear and just, suffered
them to live on. Zeus bade the rain cease and the floods
Once more the rivers sought their wonted channels, and the
sea-gods and the nymphs wandered home reluctantly with the
sinking seas. The sun came out;
 and they hastened more
eagerly to find cool depths. Little by little the forest
trees rose from the shallows as if they were growing anew.
At last the surface of the world lay clear to see, but
sodden and deserted, the fair fields covered with ooze, the
houses rank with moss, the temples cold and lightless.
Deucalion and Pyrrha saw the bright waste of water sink and
grow dim and the hills emerge,
and the earth show green once more. But even their
thankfulness of heart could not make them merry.
"Are we to live on this great earth all alone?" they said.
"Ah! if we had but the wisdom and cunning of our fathers,
we might make a new race of men to bear us company. But
now what remains to us? We have only each other for all our
"Take heart, dear wife," said Deucalion at length, "and let
us pray to the gods in yonder temple."
They went thither hand in hand. It touched their hearts to
see the sacred steps soiled with the water-weeds,—the altar
without fire; but they entered reverently, and besought the
Oracle to help them.
"Go forth," answered the spirit of the place, "with your
faces veiled and your robes ungirt; and cast behind you, as
ye go, the bones of your mother."
Deucalion and Pyrrha heard with amazement. The strange word
was terrible to them.
"We may never dare do this," whispered Pyrrha. "It would be
impious to strew our mother's bones along the way."
In sadness and wonder they went out together and took
thought, a little comforted by the firmness
of the dry earth beneath their feet. Suddenly
Deucalion pointed to the ground.
"Behold the Earth, our
mother!" said he. "Surely
 it was this that the Oracle
meant. And what should her bones be but the rocks that are
a foundation for the clay, and the pebbles that strew that
Uncertain, but with lighter hearts, they veiled their faces,
ungirt their garments, and, gathering each an armful of the
stones, flung them behind, as the Oracle had bidden.
And, as they walked, every stone that Deucalion flung
became a man; and every one that Pyrrha threw sprang up a
woman. And the hearts of these two were filled with joy and
Down from the holy mountain they went, all those new
creatures, ready to make them homes and to go about human
work. For they were strong to endure, fresh and hardy of
spirit, as men and women should be who are true children of
our Mother Earth.
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