Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rapunzel


Illustrated by Johnny Gruelle

There were once a man and a woman who had long in vain wished for a child. At length the woman hoped that God was about to grant her desire. These people had a little window at the back of their house from which a splendid garden could be seen, which was full of the most beautiful flowers and herbs. It was, however, surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to go into it because it belonged to an enchantress, who had great power and was dreaded by all the world. One day the woman was standing by this window and looking down into the garden, when she saw a bed which was planted with the most beautiful rampion (rapunzel), and it looked so fresh and green that she longed for it, she quite pined away, and began to look pale and miserable. Then her husband was alarmed, and asked: ’What ails thee, dear wife?’ ’Ah,’ she replied, ’if I can’t eat some of the rampion, which is in the garden behind our house, I shall die.’ The man, who loved her, thought: ’Sooner than let thy wife die, bring her some of the rampion thyself, let it cost what it will.’ At twilight, he clambered down over the wall into the garden of the enchantress, hastily clutched a handful of rampion, and took it to his wife. She at once made herself a salad of it, and ate it greedily. It tasted so good to her–so very good, that the next day she longed for it three times as much as before. If he was to have any rest, her husband must once more descend into the garden. In the gloom of evening therefore, he let himself down again; but when he had clambered down the wall he was terribly afraid, for he saw the enchantress standing before him. ’How canst thou dare,’ said she with angry look, ’descendest into my garden and stealest my rampion like a thief? Thou shalt suffer for it!’ ’Ah,’ answered he, ’let mercy take the place of justice, I only made up my mind to do it out of necessity. My wife saw your rampion from the window, and felt such a longing for it that she would have died if she had not got some to eat.’ Then the enchantress allowed her anger to be softened, and said to him: ’If the case be as thou sayest, I will allow thee to take away with thee as much rampion as thou wilt, only I make one condition, thou must give me the child which thy wife will bring into the world; it shall be well treated, and I will care for it like a mother.’ The man in his terror consented to everything, and when the woman was brought to bed, the enchantress appeared at once, gave the child the name of Rapunzel, and took it away with her.
Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child under the sun. When she was twelve years old, the enchantress shut her into a tower, which lay in a forest, and had neither stairs nor door, but quite at the top was a little window. When the enchantress wanted to go in, she placed herself beneath it and cried:
 ’Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
  Let down thy hair to me.’
Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, fine as spun gold, and when she heard the voice of the enchantress she unfastened her braided tresses, wound them round one of the hooks of the window above, and then the hair fell twenty ells down, and the enchantress climbed up by it.
After a year or two, it came to pass that the king’s son rode through the forest and passed by the tower. Then he heard a song, which was so charming that he stood still and listened. This was Rapunzel, who in her solitude passed her time in letting her sweet voice resound. The king’s son wanted to climb up to her, and looked for the door of the tower, but none was to be found. He rode home, but the singing had so deeply touched his heart, that every day he went out into the forest and listened to it. Once when he was thus standing behind a tree, he saw that an enchantress came there, and he heard how she cried:
 ’Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
  Let down thy hair to me.’
Then Rapunzel let down the braids of her hair, and the enchantress climbed up to her. ’If that is the ladder by which one mounts, I too will try my fortune,’ said he, and the next day when it began to grow dark, he went to the tower and cried:
 ’Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
  Let down thy hair to me.’
Immediately the hair fell down and the king’s son climbed up.
At first Rapunzel was terribly frightened when a man, such as her eyes had never yet beheld, came to her; but the king’s son began to talk to her quite like a friend, and told her that his heart had been so stirred that it had let him have no rest, and he had been forced to see her. Then Rapunzel lost her fear, and when he asked her if she would take him for her husband, and she saw that he was young and handsome, she thought: ’He will love me more than old Dame Gothel does’; and she said yes, and laid her hand in his. She said: ’I will willingly go away with thee, but I do not know how to get down. Bring with thee a skein of silk every time that thou comest, and I will weave a ladder with it, and when that is ready I will descend, and thou wilt take me on thy horse.’ They agreed that until that time he should come to her every evening, for the old woman came by day. The enchantress remarked nothing of this, until once Rapunzel said to her: ’Tell me, Dame Gothel, how it happeneth that ye are so much heavier for me to draw up than the young king’s son–he is with me in a moment.’ ’Ah! thou wicked child,’ cried the enchantress. ’What do I hear thee say! I thought I had separated thee from all the world, and yet thou hast deceived me!’ In her anger she clutched Rapunzel’s beautiful tresses, wrapped them twice round her left hand, seized a pair of scissors with the right, and snip, snap, they were cut off, and the lovely braids lay on the ground. And she was so pitiless that she took poor Rapunzel into a desert where she had to live in great grief and misery.
On the same day that she cast out Rapunzel, however, the enchantress fastened the braids of hair, which she had cut off, to the hook of the window, and when the king’s son came and cried:
 ’Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
  Let down thy hair to me.’
she let the hair down. The king’s son ascended, but instead of finding his dearest Rapunzel, he found the enchantress, who gazed at him with wicked and venomous looks. ’Aha!’ she cried mockingly, ’thou wouldst fetch thy dearest, but the beautiful bird siteth no longer singing in the nest; the cat hath got it, and will scratch out thine eyes as well. Rapunzel is lost to thee; thou wilt never see her again.’ The king’s son was beside himself with pain, and in his despair he leapt down from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell pierced his eyes. Then he wandered quite blind about the forest, ate nothing but roots and berries, and did naught but lament and weep over the loss of his dearest wife. Thus he roamed about in misery for some years, and at length came to the desert where Rapunzel, with the twins to which she had given birth, a boy and a girl, lived in wretchedness. He heard a voice, and it seemed so familiar to him that he went towards it, and when he approached, Rapunzel knew him and fell on his neck and wept. Two of her tears wetted his eyes and they grew clear again, and he could see with them as before. He led her to his kingdom where he was joyfully received, and they lived for a long time afterwards, happy and contented.

The Elves and the Shoemaker


There was once a shoemaker, who worked very hard and was very honest: but still he could not earn enough to live upon; and at last all he had in the world was gone, save just leather enough to make one pair of shoes.
Then he cut his leather out, all ready to make up the next day, meaning to rise early in the morning to his work. His conscience was clear and his heart light amidst all his troubles; so he went peaceably to bed, left all his cares to Heaven, and soon fell asleep. In the morning after he had said his prayers, he sat himself down to his work; when, to his great wonder, there stood the shoes all ready made, upon the table. The good man knew not what to say or think at such an odd thing happening. He looked at the workmanship; there was not one false stitch in the whole job; all was so neat and true, that it was quite a masterpiece.
The same day a customer came in, and the shoes suited him so well that he willingly paid a price higher than usual for them; and the poor shoemaker, with the money, bought leather enough to make two pairs more. In the evening he cut out the work, and went to bed early, that he might get up and begin betimes next day; but he was saved all the trouble, for when he got up in the morning the work was done ready to his hand. Soon in came buyers, who paid him handsomely for his goods, so that he bought leather enough for four pair more. He cut out the work again overnight and found it done in the morning, as before; and so it went on for some time: what was got ready in the evening was always done by daybreak, and the good man soon became thriving and well off again.
One evening, about Christmas-time, as he and his wife were sitting over the fire chatting together, he said to her, ’I should like to sit up and watch tonight, that we may see who it is that cometh and does my work for me.’ The wife liked the thought; so they left a light burning, and hid themselves in a corner of the room, behind a curtain that was hung up there, and watched what would happen.
As soon as it was midnight, there came in two little naked dwarfs; and they sat themselves upon the shoemaker’s bench, took up all the work that was cut out, and began to ply with their little fingers, stitching and rapping and tapping away at such a rate, that the shoemaker was all wonder, and could not take his eyes off them. And on they went, till the job was quite done, and the shoes stood ready for use upon the table. This was long before daybreak; and then they bustled away as quick as lightning.
The next day the wife said to the shoemaker. ’These little wights have made us rich, and we ought to be thankful to them, and do them a good turn if we can. I am quite sorry to see them run about as they do; and indeed it is not very decent, for they have nothing upon their backs to keep off the cold. I’ll tell thee what, I will make each of them a shirt, and a coat and waistcoat, and a pair of pantaloons into the bargain; and do thou make each of them a little pair of shoes.’
The thought pleased the good cobbler very much; and one evening, when all the things were ready, they laid them on the table, instead of the work that they used to cut out, and then went and hid themselves, to watch what the little elves would do.
About midnight in they came, dancing and skipping, hopped round the room, and then went to sit down to their work as usual; but when they saw the clothes lying for them, they laughed and chuckled, and seemed mightily delighted.
Then they dressed themselves in the twinkling of an eye, and danced and capered and sprang about, as merry as could be; till at last they danced out at the door, and away over the green.
The good couple saw them no more; but everything went well with them from that time forward, as long as they lived.

Rumpelstiltskin


By the side of a wood, in a country a long way off, ran a fine stream of water; and upon the stream there stood a mill. The miller’s house was close by, and the miller, thou must know, had a very beautiful daughter. She was, moreover, very shrewd and clever; and the miller was so proud of her, that he one day told the king of the land, who used to come and hunt in the wood, that his daughter could spin gold out of straw. Now this king was very fond of money; and when he heard the miller’s boast his greediness was raised, and he sent for the girl to be brought before him. Then he led her to a chamber in his palace where there was a great heap of straw, and gave her a spinning-wheel, and said, ’All this must be spun into gold before morning, as thou love thy life.’ It was in vain that the poor maiden said that it was only a silly boast of her father, for that she could do no such thing as spin straw into gold: the chamber door was locked, and she was left alone.
She sat down in one corner of the room, and began to bewail her hard fate; when on a sudden the door opened, and a droll-looking little man hobbled in, and said, ’Good morrow to thee, my good lass; what art thou weeping for?’ ’Alas!’ said she, ’I must spin this straw into gold, and I know not how.’ ’What wilt thou give me,’ said the hobgoblin, ’to do it for thee?’ ’My necklace,’ replied the maiden. He took her at her word, and sat himself down to the wheel, and whistled and sang:
 ’Round about, round about,
    Lo and behold!
  Reel away, reel away,
    Straw into gold!’
And round about the wheel went merrily; the work was quickly done, and the straw was all spun into gold.
When the king came and saw this, he was greatly astonished and pleased; but his heart grew still more greedy of gain, and he shut up the poor miller’s daughter again with a fresh task. Then she knew not what to do, and sat down once more to weep; but the dwarf soon opened the door, and said, ’What wilt thou give me to do thy task?’ ’The ring on my finger,’ said she. So her little friend took the ring, and began to work at the wheel again, and whistled and sang:
 ’Round about, round about,
    Lo and behold!
  Reel away, reel away,
    Straw into gold!’
till, long before morning, all was done again.
The king was greatly delighted to see all this glittering treasure; but still he had not enough: so he took the miller’s daughter to a yet larger heap, and said, ’All this must be spun tonight; and if it is, thou shalt be my queen.’ As soon as she was alone that dwarf came in, and said, ’What wilt thou give me to spin gold for thee this third time?’ ’I have nothing left,’ said she. ’Then say thou wilt give me,’ said the little man, ’the first little child that thou may have when thou art queen.’ ’That may never be,’ thought the miller’s daughter: and as she knew no other way to get her task done, she said she would do what he asked. Round went the wheel again to the old song, and the manikin once more spun the heap into gold. The king came in the morning, and, finding all he wanted, was forced to keep his word; so he married the miller’s daughter, and she really became queen.
At the birth of her first little child she was very glad, and forgot the dwarf, and what she had said. But one day he came into her room, where she was sitting playing with her baby, and put her in mind of it. Then she grieved sorely at her misfortune, and said she would give him all the wealth of the kingdom if he would let her off, but in vain; till at last her tears softened him, and he said, ’I will give thee three days’ grace, and if during that time thou tellest me my name, thou shalt keep thy child.’
Now the queen lay awake all night, thinking of all the odd names that she had ever heard; and she sent messengers all over the land to find out new ones. The next day the little man came, and she began with TIMOTHY, ICHABOD, BENJAMIN, JEREMIAH, and all the names she could remember; but to all and each of them he said, ’Madam, that is not my name.’
The second day she began with all the comical names she could hear of, BANDY-LEGS, HUNCHBACK, CROOK-SHANKS, and so on; but the little gentleman still said to every one of them, ’Madam, that is not my name.’
The third day one of the messengers came back, and said, ’I have travelled two days without hearing of any other names; but yesterday, as I was climbing a high hill, among the trees of the forest where the fox and the hare bid each other good night, I saw a little hut; and before the hut burnt a fire; and round about the fire a funny little dwarf was dancing upon one leg, and singing:
 ’"Merrily the feast I’ll make.
  Today I’ll brew, tomorrow bake;
  Merrily I’ll dance and sing,
  For next day will a stranger bring.
  Little does my lady dream
  Rumpelstiltskin is my name!"’
When the queen heard this she jumped for joy, and as soon as her little friend came she sat down upon her throne, and called all her court round to enjoy the fun; and the nurse stood by her side with the baby in her arms, as if it was quite ready to be given up. Then the little man began to chuckle at the thought of having the poor child, to take home with him to his hut in the woods; and he cried out, ’Now, lady, what is my name?’ ’Is it JOHN?’ asked she. ’No, madam!’ ’Is it TOM?’ ’No, madam!’ ’Is it JEMMY?’ ’It is not.’ ’Can thy name be RUMPELSTILTSKIN?’ said the lady slyly. ’Some witch told thee that!– some witch told thee that!’ cried the little man, and dashed his right foot in a rage so deep into the floor, that he was forced to lay hold of it with both hands to pull it out.
Then he made the best of his way off, while the nurse laughed and the baby crowed; and all the court jeered at him for having had so much trouble for nothing, and said, ’We wish thee a very good morning, and a merry feast, Mr RUMPLESTILTSKIN!’

Andrew Coffey


My grandfather, Andrew Coffey, was known to the whole barony as a quiet, decent man. And if the whole barony knew him, he knew the whole barony, every inch, hill and dale, bog and pasture, field and covert. Fancy his surprise one evening, when he found himself in a part of the demesne he couldn’t recognise a bit. He and his good horse were always stumbling up against some tree or stumbling down into some bog-hole that by rights didn’t ought to be there. On the top of all this the rain came pelting down wherever there was a clearing, and the cold March wind tore through the trees. Glad he was then when he saw a light in the distance, and drawing near found a cabin, though for the life of him he couldn’t think how it came there. However, in he walked, after tying up his horse, and right welcome was the brushwood fire blazing on the hearth. And there stood a chair right and tight, that seemed to say, “Come, sit down in me.” There wasn’t a soul else in the room. Well, he did sit, and got a little warm and cheered after his drenching. But all the while he was wondering and wondering.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!”
Good heavens! who was calling him, and not a soul in sight? Look around as he might, indoors and out, he could find no creature with two legs or four, for his horse was gone.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY! tell me a story.”
It was louder this time, and it was nearer. And then what a thing to ask for! It was bad enough not to be let sit by the fire and dry oneself, without being bothered for a story.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY!! Tell me a story, or it’ll be the worse for thee.”
My poor grandfather was so dumbfounded that he could only stand and stare.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY! I told thee it’d be the worse for thee.”
And with that, out there bounced, from a cupboard that Andrew Coffey had never noticed before,a man. And the man was in a towering rage. But it wasn’t that. And he carried as fine a blackthorn as you’d wish to crack a man’s head with. But it wasn’t that either. But when my grandfather clapped eyes on him, he knew him for Patrick Rooney, and all the world knew he’d gone overboard, fishing one night long years before.
Andrew Coffey would neither stop nor stay, but he took to his heels and was out of the house as hard as he could. He ran and he ran taking little thought of what was before till at last he ran up against a big tree. And then he sat down to rest.
He hadn’t sat for a moment when he heard voices.
“It’s heavy he is, the vagabond.” “Steady now, we’ll rest when we get under the big tree yonder.” Now that happened to be the tree under which Andrew Coffey was sitting. At least he thought so, for seeing a branch handy he swung himself up by it and was soon snugly hidden away. Better see than be seen, thought he.
The rain had stopped and the wind fallen. The night was blacker than ever, but Andrew Coffey could see four men, and they were carrying between them a long box. Under the tree they came, set the box down, opened it, and who should they bring out but–Patrick Rooney. Never a word did he say, and he looked as pale as old snow.
Well, one gathered brushwood, and another took out tinder and flint, and soon they had a big fire roaring, and my grandfather could see Patrick plainly enough. If he had kept still before, he kept stiller now. Soon they had four poles up and a pole across, right over the fire, for all the world like a spit, and on to the pole they slung Patrick Rooney.
“He’ll do well enough,” said one; “but who’s to mind him whilst we’re away, who’ll turn the fire, who’ll see that he doesn’t burn?”
With that Patrick opened his lips: “Andrew Coffey,” said he.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!”
“I’m much obliged to you, gentlemen,” said Andrew Coffey, “but indeed I know nothing about the business.”
“Thou'd better come down, Andrew Coffey,” said Patrick.
It was the second time he spoke, and Andrew Coffey decided he would come down. The four men went off and he was left all alone with Patrick.
Then he sat and he kept the fire even, and he kept the spit turning, and all the while Patrick looked at him.
Poor Andrew Coffey couldn’t make it all out at all, at all, and he stared at Patrick and at the fire, and he thought of the little house in the wood, till he felt quite dazed.
“Ah, but it’s burning me thou art!” says Patrick, very short and sharp.
“I’m sure I beg your pardon,” said my grandfather “but might I ask you a question?”
“If thou wantest a crooked answer,” said Patrick; “turn away or it’ll be the worse for thee.”
But my grandfather couldn’t get it out of his head; hadn’t everybody, far and near, said Patrick had fallen overboard. There was enough to think about, and my grandfather did think.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY! IT’S BURNING ME THOU ART.”
Sorry enough my grandfather was, and he vowed he wouldn’t do so again.
“Thou’d better not,” said Patrick, and he gave him a cock of his eye, and a grin of his teeth, that just sent a shiver down Andrew Coffey’s back. Well it was odd, that here he should be in a thick wood he had never set eyes upon, turning Patrick Rooney upon a spit. Thou canst’t wonder at my grandfather thinking and thinking and not minding the fire.
“ANDREW COFFEY, ANDREW COFFEY, IT’S THE DEATH OF THEE I’LL BE.”
And with that what did my grandfather see, but Patrick unslinging himself from the spit and his eyes glared and his teeth glistened.
It was neither stop nor stay my grandfather made, but out he ran into the night of the wood. It seemed to him there wasn’t a stone but was for his stumbling, not a branch but beat his face, not a bramble but tore his skin. And wherever it was clear the rain pelted down and the cold March wind howled along.
Glad he was to see a light, and a minute after he was kneeling, dazed, drenched, and bedraggled by the hearth side. The brushwood flamed, and the brushwood crackled, and soon my grandfather began to feel a little warm and dry and easy in his mind.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY!”
It’s hard for a man to jump when he has been through all my grandfather had, but jump he did. And when he looked around, where should he find himself but in the very cabin he had first met Patrick in.
“Andrew Coffey, Andrew Coffey, tell me a story.”
“Is it a story ye want?” said my grandfather as bold as may be, for he was just tired of being frightened. “Well if ye can tell me the rights of this one, I’ll be thankful.”
And he told the tale of what had befallen him from first to last that night. The tale was long, and may be Andrew Coffey was weary. It’s asleep he must have fallen, for when he awoke he lay on the hill-side under the open heavens, and his horse grazed at his side.

The Quest of Medusa’s Head


I. The Wooden Chest
There was a king of Argos who had but one child, and that child was a girl. If he had had a son, he would have trained him up to be a brave man and great king; but he did not know what to do with this fair-haired daughter. When he saw her growing up to be tall and slender and wise, he wondered if, after all, he would have to die some time and leave his lands and his gold and his kingdom to her. So he sent to Delphi and asked the Pythia about it. The Pythia told him that he would not only have to die some time, but that the son of his daughter would cause his death.
This frightened the king very much, and he tried to think of some plan by which he could keep the Pythia’s words from coming true. At last he made up his mind that he would build a prison for his daughter and keep her in it all her life. So he called his workmen and had them dig a deep round hole in the ground, and in this hole they built a house of brass which had but one room and no door at all, but only a small window at the top. When it was finished, the king put the maiden, whose name was Danaë, into it; and with her he put her nurse and her toys and her pretty dresses and everything that he thought she would need to make her happy.
“Now we shall see that the Pythia does not always tell the truth,” he said.
So Danaë was kept shut up in the prison of brass. She had no one to talk to but her old nurse; and she never saw the land or the sea, but only the blue sky above the open window and now and then a white cloud sailing across. Day after day she sat under the window and wondered why her father kept her in that lonely place, and whether he would ever come and take her out. I do not know how many years passed by, but Danaë grew fairer every day, and by and by she was no longer a child, but a tall and beautiful woman; and Jupiter amid the clouds looked down and saw her and loved her.
One day it seemed to her that the sky opened and a shower of gold fell through the window into the room; and when the blinding shower had ceased, a noble young man stood smiling before her. She did not know–nor do I–that it was mighty Jupiter who had thus come down in the rain; but she thought that he was a brave prince who had come from over the sea to take her out of her prison-house.
After that he came often, but always as a tall and handsome youth; and by and by they were married, with only the nurse at the wedding feast, and Danaë was so happy that she was no longer lonesome even when he was away. But one day when he climbed out through the narrow window there was a great flash of light, and she never saw him again.
Not long afterwards a babe was born to Danaë, a smiling boy whom she named Perseus. For four years she and the nurse kept him hidden, and not even the women who brought their food to the window knew about him. But one day the king chanced to be passing by and heard the child’s prattle. When he learned the truth, he was very much alarmed, for he thought that now, in spite of all that he had done, the words of the Pythia might come true.
The only sure way to save himself would be to put the child to death before he was old enough to do any harm. But when he had taken the little Perseus and his mother out of the prison and had seen how helpless the child was, he could not bear the thought of having him killed outright. For the king, although a great coward, was really a kind-hearted man and did not like to see anything suffer pain. Yet something must be done.
So he bade his servants make a wooden chest that was roomy and watertight and strong; and when it was done, he put Danaë and the child into it and had it taken far out to sea and left there to be tossed about by the waves. He thought that in this way he would rid himself of both daughter and grandson without seeing them die; for surely the chest would sink after a while, or else the winds would cause it to drift to some strange shore so far away that they could never come back to Argos again.
All day and all night and then another day, fair Danaë and her child drifted over the sea. The waves rippled and played before and around the floating chest, the west wind whistled cheerily, and the sea birds circled in the air above; and the child was not afraid, but dipped his hands in the curling waves and laughed at the merry breeze and shouted back at the screaming birds.
But on the second night all was changed. A storm arose, the sky was black, the billows were mountain high, the winds roared fearfully; yet through it all the child slept soundly in his mother’s arms. And Danaë sang over him this song:
“Sleep, sleep, dear child, and take thy rest
Upon thy troubled mother’s breast;
For thou canst lie without one fear
Of dreadful danger lurking near.
Wrapped in soft robes and warmly sleeping,
Thou doest not hear thy mother weeping;
Thou doest not see the mad waves leaping,
Nor heed the winds their vigils keeping.
The stars are hid, the night is drear,
The waves beat high, the storm is here;
But thou canst sleep, my darling child,
And know naught of the uproar wild.”
At last the morning of the third day came, and the chest was tossed upon the sandy shore of a strange island where there were green fields and, beyond them, a little town. A man who happened to be walking near the shore saw it and dragged it far up on the beach. Then he looked inside, and there he saw the beautiful lady and the little boy. He helped them out and led them just as they were to his own house, where he cared for them very kindly. And when Danaë had told him her story, he bade her feel no more fear; for they might have a home with him as long as they should choose to stay, and he would be a true friend to them both.
II. The Magic Slippers
So Danaë and her son stayed in the house of the kind man who had saved them from the sea. Years passed by, and Perseus grew up to be a tall young man, handsome, and brave, and strong. The king of the island, when he saw Danaë, was so pleased with her beauty that he wanted her to become his wife. But he was a dark, cruel man, and she did not like him at all; so she told him that she would not marry him. The king thought that Perseus was to blame for this, and that if he could find some excuse to send the young man on a far journey, he might force Danaë to have him whether she wished or not.
One day he called all the young men of his country together and told them that he was soon to be wedded to the queen of a certain land beyond the sea. Would not each of them bring him a present to be given to her father? For in those times it was the rule, that when any man was about to be married, he must offer costly gifts to the father of the bride.
“What kind of presents doest thou want?” said the young men.
“Horses,” he answered; for he knew that Perseus had no horse.
“Why don’t ye ask for something worth the having?” said Perseus; for he was vexed at the way in which the king was treating him. “Why don’t ye ask for Medusa’s head, for example?”
“Medusa’s head it shall be!” cried the king. “These young men may give me horses, but thou shalt bring Medusa’s head.”
“I will bring it,” said Perseus; and he went away in anger, while his young friends laughed at him because of his foolish words.
What was this Medusa’s head which he had so rashly promised to bring? His mother had often told him about Medusa. Far, far away, on the very edge of the world, there lived three strange monsters, sisters, called Gorgons. They had the bodies and faces of women, but they had wings of gold, and terrible claws of brass, and hair that was full of living serpents. They were so awful to look upon, that no man could bear the sight of them, but whoever saw their faces was turned to stone. Two of these monsters had charmed lives, and no weapon could ever do them harm; but the youngest, whose name was Medusa, might be killed, if indeed anybody could find her and could give the fatal stroke.
When Perseus went away from the king’s palace, he began to feel sorry that he had spoken so rashly. For how should he ever make good his promise and do the king’s bidding? He did not know which way to go to find the Gorgons, and he had no weapon with which to slay the terrible Medusa. But at any rate he would never show his face to the king again, unless he could bring the head of terror with him. He went down to the shore and stood looking out over the sea towards Argos, his native land; and while he looked, the sun went down, and the moon arose, and a soft wind came blowing from the west. Then, all at once, two persons, a man and a woman, stood before him. Both were tall and noble. The man looked like a prince; and there were wings on his cap and on his feet, and he carried a winged staff, around which two golden serpents were twined.
He asked Perseus what was the matter; and the young man told him how the king had treated him, and all about the rash words which he had spoken. Then the lady spoke to him very kindly; and he noticed that, although she was not beautiful, she had most wonderful gray eyes, and a stern but lovable face and a queenly form. And she told him not to fear, but to go out boldly in quest of the Gorgons; for she would help him obtain the terrible head of Medusa.
“But I have no ship, and how shall I go?” said Perseus.
“Thou shalt don my winged slippers,” said the strange prince, “and they will bear thee over sea and land.”
“Shall I go north, or south, or east, or west?” asked Perseus.
“I will tell thee,” said the tall lady. “Thou must go first to the three Gray Sisters, who liven beyond the frozen sea in the far, far north. They haven a secret which nobody knoweth, and thou must force them to tell it to thee. Ask them where thou shalt find the three Maidens who guarden the golden apples of the West; and when they shall have told thee, turn about and go straight thither. The Maidens will give thee three things, without which thou canst never obtain the terrible head; and they will show thee how to wing thy way across the western ocean to the edge of the world where lieth the home of the Gorgons.”
Then the man took off his winged slippers, and put them on the feet of Perseus; and the woman whispered to him to be off at once, and to fear nothing, but be bold and true. And Perseus knew that she was none other than Athena, the queen of the air, and that her companion was Mercury, the lord of the summer clouds. But before he could thank them for their kindness, they had vanished in the dusky twilight.
Then he leaped into the air to try the Magic Slippers.
III. The Gray Sisters
Swifter than an eagle, Perseus flew up towards the sky. Then he turned, and the Magic Slippers bore him over the sea straight towards the north. On and on he went, and soon the sea was passed; and he came to a famous land, where there were cities and towns and many people. And then he flew over a range of snowy mountains, beyond which were mighty forests and a vast plain where many rivers wandered, seeking for the sea. And farther on was another range of mountains; and then there were frozen marshes and a wilderness of snow, and after all the sea again,–but a sea of ice. On and on he winged his way, among toppling icebergs and over frozen billows and through air which the sun never warmed, and at last he came to the cavern where the three Gray Sisters dwelt.
These three creatures were so old that they had forgotten their own age, and nobody could count the years which they had lived. The long hair which covered their heads had been gray since they were born; and they had among them only a single eye and a single tooth which they passed back and forth from one to another. Perseus heard them mumbling and crooning in their dreary home, and he stood very still and listened.
“We know a secret which even the Great Folk who liven on the mountain top can never learn; don’t we, sisters?” said one.
“Ha! ha! That we do, that we do!” chattered the others.
“Give me the tooth, sister, that I may feel young and handsome again," said the one nearest to Perseus.
“And give me the eye that I may look out and see what is going on in the busy world,” said the sister who sat next to her.
“Ah, yes, yes, yes, yes!” mumbled the third, as she took the tooth and the eye and reached them blindly towards the others.
Then, quick as thought, Perseus leaped forward and snatched both of the precious things from her hand.
“Where is the tooth? Where is the eye?” screamed the two, reaching out their long arms and groping here and there. “Hast thou dropped them, sister? Hast thou lost them?”
Perseus laughed as he stood in the door of their cavern and saw their distress and terror.
“I have your tooth and your eye,” he said, “and ye shall never touch them again until you tell me your secret. Where are the Maidens who keepen the golden apples of the Western Land? Which way shall I go to find them?”
“Thou art young, and we are old,” said the Gray Sisters; “pray, do not deal so cruelly with us. Pity us, and give us our eye.”
Then they wept and pleaded and coaxed and threatened. But Perseus stood a little way off and taunted them; and they moaned and mumbled and shrieked, as they found that their words did not move him.
“Sisters, we must tell him,” at last said one.
“Ah, yes, we must tell him,” said the others. “We must part with the secret to save our eye.”
And then they told him how he should go to reach the Western Land, and what road he should follow to find the Maidens who kept the golden apples. When they had made everything plain to him Perseus gave them back their eye and their tooth.
“Ha! ha!” they laughed; “now the golden days of youth have come again!" And, from that day to this, no man has ever seen the three Gray Sisters, nor does any one know what became of them. But the winds still whistle through their cheerless cave, and the cold waves murmur on the shore of the wintry sea, and the ice mountains topple and crash, and no sound of living creature is heard in all that desolate land.
IV. The Western Maidens
As for Perseus, he leaped again into the air, and the Magic Slippers bore him southward with the speed of the wind. Very soon he left the frozen sea behind him and came to a sunny land, where there were green forests and flowery meadows and hills and valleys, and at last a pleasant garden where were all kinds of blossoms and fruits. He knew that this was the famous Western Land, for the Gray Sisters had told him what he should see there. So he alighted and walked among the trees until he came to the center of the garden. There he saw the three Maidens of the West dancing around a tree which was full of golden apples, and singing as they danced. For the wonderful tree with its precious fruit belonged to Juno, the queen of earth and sky; it had been given to her as a wedding gift, and it was the duty of the Maidens to care for it and see that no one touched the golden apples.
Perseus stopped and listened to their song:
“We sing of the old, we sing of the new,–
Our joys are many, our sorrows are few;
  Singing, dancing,
  All hearts entrancing,
We wait to welcome the good and the true.
The daylight is waning, the evening is here,
The sun will soon set, the stars will appear.
  Singing, dancing,
  All hearts entrancing,
We wait for the dawn of a glad new year.
The tree shall wither, the apples shall fall,
Sorrow shall come, and death shall call,
  Alarming, grieving,
  All hearts deceiving,–
But hope shall abide to comfort us all.
Soon the tale shall be told, the song shall be sung,
The bow shall be broken, the harp unstrung,
  Alarming, grieving,
  All hearts deceiving,
Till every joy to the winds shall be flung.
But a new tree shall spring from the roots of the old,
And many a blossom its leaves shall unfold,
  Cheering, gladdening,
  With joy maddening,–
For its boughs shall be laden with apples of gold.”
[Illustration: Perseus stopped and listened to their song]
Then Perseus went forward and spoke to the Maidens. They stopped singing, and stood still as if in alarm. But when they saw the Magic Slippers on his feet, they ran to him, and welcomed him to the Western Land and to their garden.
“We knew that thou wert coming,” they said, “for the winds told us. But why doest thou come?”
Perseus told them of all that had happened to him since he was a child, and of his quest of Medusa’s head; and he said that he had come to ask them to give him three things to help him in his fight with the Gorgons.
The Maidens answered that they would give him not three things, but four. Then one of them gave him a sharp sword, which was crooked like a sickle, and which she fastened to the belt at his waist; and another gave him a shield, which was brighter than any looking-glass thou ever saw; and the third gave him a magic pouch, which she hung by a long strap over his shoulder.
“These are three things which thou must have in order to obtain Medusa’s head; and now here is a fourth, for without it thy quest must be in vain.” And they gave him a magic cap, the Cap of Darkness; and when they had put it upon his head, there was no creature on the earth or in the sky–no, not even the Maidens themselves–that could see him.
When at last he was arrayed to their liking, they told him where he would find the Gorgons, and what he should do to obtain the terrible head and escape alive. Then they kissed him and wished him good luck, and bade him hasten to do the dangerous deed. And Perseus donned the Cap of Darkness, and sped away and away towards the farthermost edge of the earth; and the three Maidens went back to their tree to sing and to dance and to guard the golden apples until the old world should become young again.
V. The Dreadful Gorgons
With the sharp sword at his side and the bright shield upon his arm, Perseus flew bravely onward in search of the dreadful Gorgons; but he had the Cap of Darkness upon his head, and thou couldst no more have seen him than thou canst see the wind. He flew so swiftly that it was not long until he had crossed the mighty ocean which encircles the earth, and had come to the sunless land which lies beyond; and then he knew, from what the Maidens had told him, that the lair of the Gorgons could not be far away.
He heard a sound as of some one breathing heavily, and he looked around sharply to see where it came from. Among the foul weeds which grew close to the bank of a muddy river there was something which glittered in the pale light. He flew a little nearer; but he did not dare to look straight forward, lest he should all at once meet the gaze of a Gorgon, and be changed into stone. So he turned around, and held the shining shield before him in such a way that by looking into it he could see objects behind him as in a mirror.
Ah, what a dreadful sight it was! Half hidden among the weeds lay the three monsters, fast asleep, with their golden wings folded about them. Their brazen claws were stretched out as though ready to seize their prey; and their shoulders were covered with sleeping snakes. The two largest of the Gorgons lay with their heads tucked under their wings as birds hide their heads when they go to sleep. But the third, who lay between them, slept with her face turned up towards the sky; and Perseus knew that she was Medusa.
Very stealthily he went nearer and nearer, always with his back towards the monsters and always looking into his bright shield to see where to go. Then he drew his sharp sword and, dashing quickly downward, struck a back blow, so sure, so swift, that the head of Medusa was cut from her shoulders and the black blood gushed like a river from her neck. Quick as thought he thrust the terrible head into his magic pouch and leaped again into the air, and flew away with the speed of the wind.
Then the two older Gorgons awoke, and rose with dreadful screams, and spread their great wings, and dashed after him. They could not see him, for the Cap of Darkness hid him from even their eyes; but they scented the blood of the head which he carried in the pouch, and like hounds in the chase, they followed him, sniffing the air. And as he flew through the clouds he could hear their dreadful cries and the clatter of their golden wings and the snapping of their horrible jaws. But the Magic Slippers were faster than any wings, and in a little while the monsters were left far behind, and their cries were heard no more; and Perseus flew on alone.
VI. The Great Sea Beast
Perseus soon crossed the ocean and came again to the Land of the West. Far below him he could see the three Maidens dancing around the golden tree; but he did not stop, for, now that he had the head of Medusa safe in the pouch at his side, he must hasten home. Straight east he flew over the great sea, and after a time he came to a country where there were palm trees and pyramids and a great river flowing from the south. Here, as he looked down, a strange sight met his eyes: he saw a beautiful girl chained to a rock by the seashore, and far away a huge sea beast swimming towards her to devour her. Quick as thought, he flew down and spoke to her; but, as she could not see him for the Cap of Darkness which he wore, his voice only frightened her.
Then Perseus took off his cap, and stood upon the rock; and when the girl saw him with his long hair and wonderful eyes and laughing face, she thought him the handsomest young man in the world.
“Oh, save me! save me!” she cried as she reached out her arms towards him.
Perseus drew his sharp sword and cut the chain which held her, and then lifted her high up upon the rock. But by this time the sea monster was close at hand, lashing the water with his tail and opening his wide jaws as though he would swallow not only Perseus and the young girl, but even the rock on which they were standing. He was a terrible fellow, and yet not half so terrible as the Gorgon. As he came roaring towards the shore, Perseus lifted the head of Medusa from his pouch and held it up; and when the beast saw the dreadful face he stopped short and was turned into stone; and men say that the stone beast may be seen in that selfsame spot to this day.
Then Perseus slipped the Gorgon’s head back into the pouch and hastened to speak with the young girl whom he had saved. She told him that her name was Andromeda, and that she was the daughter of the king of that land. She said that her mother, the queen, was very beautiful and very proud of her beauty; and every day she went down to the seashore to look at her face as it was pictured in the quiet water; and she had boasted that not even the nymphs who live in the sea were as handsome as she. When the sea nymphs heard about this, they were very angry and asked great Neptune, the king of the sea, to punish the queen for her pride. So Neptune sent a sea monster to crush the king’s ships and kill the cattle along the shore and break down all the fishermen’s huts. The people were so much distressed that they sent at last to ask the Pythia what they should do; and the Pythia said that there was only one way to save the land from destruction,–that they must give the king’s daughter, Andromeda, to the monster to be devoured.
The king and the queen loved their daughter very dearly, for she was their only child; and for a long time they refused to do as the Pythia had told them. But day after day the monster laid waste the land, and threatened to destroy not only the farms, but the towns; and so they were forced in the end to give up Andromeda to save their country. This, then, was why she had been chained to the rock by the shore and left there to perish in the jaws of the beast.
While Perseus was yet talking with Andromeda, the king and the queen and a great company of people came down the shore, weeping and tearing their hair; for they were sure that by this time the monster had devoured his prey. But when they saw her alive and well, and learned that she had been saved by the handsome young man who stood beside her, they could hardly hold themselves for joy. And Perseus was so delighted with Andromeda’s beauty that he almost forgot his quest which was not yet finished; and when the king asked him what he should give him as a reward for saving Andromeda’s life, he said:
“Give her to me for my wife.”
This pleased the king very much; and so, on the seventh day, Perseus and Andromeda were married, and there was a great feast in the king’s palace, and everybody was merry and glad. And the two young people lived happily for some time in the land of palms and pyramids; and, from the sea to the mountains, nothing was talked about but the courage of Perseus and the beauty of Andromeda.
VII. The Timely Rescue
But Perseus had not forgotten his mother; and so, one fine summer day, he and Andromeda sailed in a beautiful ship to his own home; for the Magic Slippers could not carry both him and his bride through the air. The ship came to land at the very spot where the wooden chest had been cast so many years before; and Perseus and his bride walked through the fields towards the town.
Now, the wicked king of that land had never ceased trying to persuade Danaë to become his wife; but she would not listen to him, and the more he pleaded and threatened, the more she disliked him. At last when he found that she could not be made to have him, he declared that he would kill her; and on this very morning he had started out, sword in hand, to take her life.
So, as Perseus and Andromeda came into the town, whom should they meet but his mother fleeing to the altar of Jupiter, and the king following after, intent on killing her? Danaë was so frightened that she did not see Perseus, but ran right on towards the only place of safety. For it was a law of that land that not even the king should be allowed to harm any one who took refuge on the altar of Jupiter.
When Perseus saw the king rushing like a madman after his mother, he threw himself before him and bade him stop. But the king struck at him furiously with his sword. Perseus caught the blow on his shield, and at the same moment took the head of Medusa from his magic pouch.
“I promised to bring you a present, and here it is!” he cried.
The king saw it, and was turned into stone, just as he stood, with his sword uplifted and that terrible look of anger and passion in his face.
The people of the island were glad when they learned what had happened, for no one loved the wicked king. They were glad, too, because Perseus had come home again, and had brought with him his beautiful wife, Andromeda. So, after they had talked the matter over among themselves, they went to him and asked him to be their king. But he thanked them, and said that he would rule over them for one day only, and that then he would give the kingdom to another, so that he might take his mother back to her home and her kindred in distant Argos.
On the morrow therefore, he gave the kingdom to the kind man who had saved his mother and himself from the sea; and then he went on board his ship, with Andromeda and Danaë, and sailed away across the sea towards Argos.
VIII. The Deadly Quoit
When Danaë’s old father, the king of Argos, heard that a strange ship was coming over the sea with his daughter and her son on board, he was in great distress; for he remembered what the Pythia had foretold about his death. So, without waiting to see the vessel, he left his palace in great haste and fled out of the country.
“My daughter’s son cannot kill me if I will keep out of his way,” he said.
But Perseus had no wish to harm him; and he was very sad when he learned that his poor grandfather had gone away in fear and without telling any one where he was going. The people of Argos welcomed Danaë to her old home; and they were very proud of her handsome son, and begged that he would stay in their city, so that he might some time become their king.
It happened soon afterwards that the king of a certain country not far away was holding games and giving prizes to the best runners and leapers and quoit throwers. And Perseus went thither to try his strength with the other young men of the land; for if he should be able to gain a prize, his name would become known all over the world. No one in that country knew who he was, but all wondered at his noble stature and his strength and skill; and it was easy enough for him to win all the prizes.
One day, as he was showing what he could do, he threw a heavy quoit a great deal farther than any had been thrown before. It fell in the crowd of lookers-on, and struck a stranger who was standing there. The stranger threw up his hands and sank upon the ground; and when Perseus ran to help him, he saw that he was dead. Now this man was none other than Danaë’s father, the old king of Argos. He had fled from his kingdom to save his life, and in doing so had only met his death.
Perseus was overcome with grief, and tried in every way to pay honor to the memory of the unhappy king. The kingdom of Argos was now rightfully his own, but he could not bear to take it after having killed his grandfather. So he was glad to exchange with another king who ruled over two rich cities, not far away, called Mycenae and Tiryns. And he and Andromeda lived happily in Mycenae for many years.