IN THE WOODS
MONG the Greeks every trade or business was believed to be
under the care of some god or goddess. The god of
shepherds was called Pan. He lived in caves and
forests, and was fond of dancing with the satyrs and
Dryads. He invented the shepherd's pipe of reeds, with
which he made sweet music.
Satyrs were creatures who lived in the woods. They
were neither man nor beast, but looked like both.
Their heads and bodies were human, but were covered
with short hair. They had feet like those of goats,
and on their heads grew two short horns.
Dryads, or Hamadryads, were the beings who lived in the
trees. Each had a tree which was her home and of which
she was the life. She could come out and dance and
play for a while, but if she stayed away for too long
her tree withered and perished. When a tree was cut
down or died, its Dryad died with it. This belief made
the people careful not to hurt trees without good
Groves, or clumps of trees, were often sacred to the
gods. There was one very large oak dedicated to
Demeter. It measured nearly twenty-five feet around
the trunk, and it was higher than any of the trees
among which it stood.
 The man who owned the grove wished to build a boat. He
said to his servants, "That oak is just what I need;
get axes and cut it down."
One of them answered, "Master, we do not like to do
that. It is sacred to the goddess, and she will not be
"Goddess!" he cried, "what is the goddess to me? Do I
not own the tree? Is it not my right to cut it down?
Say no more, but strike."
They did not move. He took an ax and angrily struck
the tree. The thick trunk shivered and seemed to
groan. Blood flowed from the cut made by the ax.
Those who stood by were frightened, and one of them
took hold of his master's arm and begged him not to
THE TREE KILLER
"See, master," he said, "see the blood! You heard that
dreadful groan. You are killing the Dryad as well as
"Slave," shouted the master, "do you dare to touch me?
Though it were the goddess herself I would cut it down.
But you shall be rewarded for your piety. Take that,
He struck the servant a heavy blow with the ax.
Then the tree spoke. A solemn voice said, "I have long
lived in this tree as its guardian spirit. Demeter
knows me and loves me. I die, and your hands kill me.
Wicked enemy of the gods, you shall be punished.
Remember my dying words!"
The man forced his slaves to cut down the tree. In its
fall it broke down many of its neighbors, and the
beauty of the grove was gone forever.
 The Dryads who lived there went in a sad procession to
"Mother!" they said, "behold our mourning garments and
pity our tears. A wicked man has killed our sister and
destroyed your holy grove. O mother, punish him as he
The goddess nodded her head. She thought of a dreadful
punishment for the cruel and wicked man. She would
give him into the power of Famine.
She called an Oread, or mountain spirit.
"You must carry a message for me," she said. "Far away
in the icy land of Scythia is a place where there are
no trees and no crops. Cold and Fear and Famine live
there. It has been ordered that Famine and I can never
come together, but tell her from me that she must go to
that wicked tree killer and enter into him and make him
entirely her own. Take my chariot and go quickly!"
The Oread mounted the chariot, and after a long drive
came to the field of Famine. It had no grain, or
grass, or trees, —only rocks. Famine was digging
with her nails in the ground. Her face was pale, her
lips were white, her eyes were sunken, the flesh was
drawn tight over her bones. Even the Oread could not
go very near her.
So she called out what Demeter had told her to say, and
drove away as fast as possible, for the very sigh of
Famine had made her hungry.
Famine went by night to the room of the tree killer.
He was asleep. She folded him in her wings and
breathed her spirit into him, then flew away.
 He woke up in the middle of the night, very hungry.
His family gave him food, but could never give him
enough. He ate all the time, yet always grew more
He sold his property piece by piece and bought food.
At last everything was gone, and he was as hungry as
Then he took his daughter to the slave market by the
sea and sold her. She prayed to Poseidon. "O kind god
of the sea!" she said, "do not let a poor, innocent
girl be sold into slavery. Save me from this dreadful
The sea-god answered her prayer. In a moment she
[unreadable in copy] no longer a girl, but a fisherman
busy with his net. The man who had bought her was
surprised not to see his new slave.
"Fisherman," he said, "have you seen a poorly dressed
girl who had her hair down over her shoulders, and who
was crying? It is only an instant since she stood
where you are and now she seems to be gone."
The girl was delighted that he did not know her. She
answered, "Good stranger, you see that I am very busy
with my net. But I tell you truly that for the last
half hour I have seen nobody on this spot except
The owner went off, thinking that his slave had run
away. Then Poseidon changed her back to her own self.
Her father sold her again many times, but the god
always changed her before she could be taken away.
Sometimes the buyer saw a horse, or a bird, or a cow or
a deer, but never the girl. Still her father could not
get enough food. He began to eat himself, and that was
 the last of him. So the tree killer, Erysichthon, was
A young man named Rhcus, walking in a forest, saw
an oak tree ready to fall to the earth. The wind had
loosened its hold on the ground. He put a prop against
the tree to keep it upright, and carefully trampled
soil around the roots. Suddenly a beautiful creature
stood before him. "I am the Dryad of this tree," she
said. "You have saved my life. What shall I give to
The young man answered, "Give me your love!"
The Dryad said, "I would do that gladly, but you would
soon forget me."
"No," he cried. "That is impossible."
"Very well," she replied. "Come to me here in the wood
an hour before sunset. I will send a bee to let you
know when it is time."
The young man went away proud and happy. To while away
the time he began to play dice with some gay
companions. The afternoon passed quickly. A bee flew
in at the window and buzzed about his ears. He brushed
it away. It came back again and again. He struck at
it in anger. The bee darted out of the window. The
young man looking after it saw the sunset light just
fading from the mountain peak. Too late, he
remembered. He hurried to the forest, but all was dark
and still. He had lost the Dryad and her love.