Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Arrow's Graze

Sculpture by Bertel Thorvaldsen
There came one day when Cupid, the god of desire and son of Venus, took up the arms of Apollo, lord of the Sun, mischief on his powerful mind. Stringing the bow of Leto's son, he loosed a bolt to and fro, merrily playing and readying his aim. But Apollo saw him, and was incensed to fury at the young spirit. "Thou lascivious boy", spake he, "are arms like these for children to employ?" The Sun god berated Cupid, denouncing him as inferior in strength of body and of mind, of aim and eye. Might had been the conquests of the Sun gods bow, mortal and monster alike, the great serpent which terrorised the Delphic vale and more beside. "What is the power of desire, beside the fatal barb of my shot?", he mocked. But wily Cupid, cunning within him beyond his size, rounded on the god. "Mine the fame shall be, of all thy conquests, when I conquer thee". Vowing vengeance upon Apollo for his curses, Cupid, flying high to the peak of Mount Parnassus, brandished his deadly gift.

                    " Two diff'rent shafts he from his quiver draws;
                      One to repel desire, and one to cause.
                      One shaft is pointed with refulgent gold:
                      To bribe the love, and make the lover bold:
                      One blunt, and tipped with lead, whose base allay
                      Provokes disdain, and drives desire away.
                      The blunted bolt against the nymph he drest:
                      But with the sharp transfixt Apollo's breast. "
                            - CUPID CURSES APOLLO

Taking the arrow fixed with lead, the youthful spirit took deadly aim, and loosed the barb at his target. Far below upon the plain, there danced a naiad, Daphne was her name, daughter of the river Peneus. A fair lady beyond all others, the nymph had always been plagued by the advances of weak hearted men. But, shunning the ways of ordinary maidens, Daphne preferred the hunt to the arts of grace. Faithful to Diana, the Lady of the Moon and Hunt, many a time could Daphne be found, stalking her quarry in the forests. As the goddess herself, she swore herself pure, never to be violated in body, or in mind. The title of bride she scorned, the glades of the trees, she embraced. Often did her father chide her ways, for such passions were not the ways of other ladies and nymphs. But strong willed Daphne cared not, throwing her arms around her father's neck. "Give me, my Lord", she cried, "to live, and die, a spotless mad, without the marriage tye. 'Tis but a small request; I beg no more than what Zeus the Thunderer, sire of Diana, gave before". His angered gaze softened, and he at last relented, seeing the daughter he held so dear, granting her destiny. He granted her wish, but gave her warning - her wish would one day prove her punishment. Her beauty was as a curse now. Her own face would be her doom. It was to Daphne now, that Cupid's leaden dart flew swift and true, soaring through the Heavens, over plain and field and brook, piercing the nymph's oblivious side, banishing desire from her once and for all, cursing her to despise the first being she looked upon.

Apollo and the Muses
Painting by Jan van Balen
Not a moment to delay, young Cupid seized the golden barb from his quiver, and took careful aim. Just yonder stood the Sun god himself, Apollo in his rage. Steady was his hand, and keen his eye. A flash of gold, and the arrow whipped into the Sun god's breast, bearing upon its burnished tip the sparks of desire , dooming its victim to deadly infatuation with the first being he looked upon. His eyes averted by the shock of the dart, Apollo opened his divine eye, and down upon the mortal plain he gazed. It was there that he caught sight of her. Tender arms, and flowing hair, she danced through the sylvan glade. As the parched field in the high summer, when the traveller casts his flaming brand upon the grass, that was how the god was now afire. The golden point within fuelled a fire without mercy or respite, seizing his mind, all thought and hope now bent upon the nymph. His eyes passed over her dishevelled hair, her eyes as heavenly lamps, her delicate hands, and in that moment he was doomed.

With the celerity no god could match, but a god filled with raw passion alone could know, Apollo thundered down from the heights of Mount Olympus, all thought of other things, all hopes, all fears, all duties, banished from his mind. Into the shade of the great forest the light of the Sun came, and it was in that moment that Daphne turned and saw her admirer for the first time. Hideous revulsion and disgust raw flooded her, as the leaden bolt burned bright within her. With horror at the hateful figure she saw before her, the naiad turned tail in flight. More swiftly than any spirit had moved before, Daphne fled. Anguish mingled with fear when the Sun god saw her run, would he lose her? No doubt in the mind of the god, he made hot pursuit. Both spirits of the immortal gods, both unmoved by fatigue, both raced across the world, one doomed never to reach his quarry, the other never to leave it. The huntress was now as the hunted. Through open plains, through meadows, through mountains, through rivers and through valleys god and naiad chased, no hint of sweat upon either brow, for god, no hint of capture, for naiad, no hint of evasion. "Stay Nymph", Apollo cried, "I follow not a foe... Thou shunn'st a God, and shunn'st a God that loves!". To Daphne Apollo called, begging her to stop:

                    " Abate thy speed, and I will bate of mine.
                      Yet think from whom thou dost so rashly fly;
                      Nor basely born, nor shepherd's swain am I.
                      Perhaps thou know'st not my superior state;
                      And from that ignorance proceeds thy hate.
                      Me Claros, Delphi, Tenedos obey;
                      These hands the Patareian scepter sway.
                      The King of Gods begot me: what shall be,
                      Or is, or ever was, in Fate, I see.
                      Mine is th' invention of the charming lyre;
                      Sweet notes, and heaven'ly numbers, I inspire.
                      Sure is my bow, unerring is my dart... "
                              - APOLLO CALLS TO DAPHNE

Not half of the Sun god's pleas did bold Daphne hear. Long ago had she voweda life of chastity, here was her greatest test, and she would not violate her oath now. "Fear gave her wings", and as she fled with haste anew, the wind blew her flowing hair, and Apollo, stricken by flame again, was fired anew.

The Metamorphosis of Daphne
Painting by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
"She urg'd by fear, her feet did swiftly move, but he more swiftly, who was urg'd by love". Now at last, the god gained pace, and the gap began to edge closer. With such fury did Apollo thunder across the plains, he spared not one spare reserve of divine effort calling to her, focused as he was on just touching her. A glance behind, and pure Daphne spied the god bearing closer down, and the naiad grew pale with terror. The labours of her long bid for freedom wore heavy upon her soft shoulders, but still she did not bow to what could have been inevitable. Desperate now, she called to her father, Peneus, lord of the river, "Oh help", she cried, "in this extremest need! If water gods are deities indeed, gape Earth, and this unhappy wretch intomb; or change my form, when all my sorrows come." With the utmost need did Daphne call, and the god heard her. Pitying her daughter, remembering how he had warned her that she would be forever cursed by her beauty, he bowed to her final wish. An incantation he spake aloud, words of power radiating from the river. Apollo reached out for her, and Daphne gasped:

                   " Scarce had she finish'd, when her feet she found
                      Benumb'd with cold, and fasten'd to the ground:
                      A filmy rind about her body grows;
                      Her hair to leaves, her arms extend to boughs:
                      The nymph is all into a laurel gone;
                      The smoothness of her skin remains alone... "
                            - THE METAMORPHOSIS OF DAPHNE

With a howl of broken hope, Apollo looked on as the very pinnacle of his heart's desire changed to tree before his eyes, cursing the god that robbed him of his prize. Round her waist he threw his arms, but round a trunk his arms fell. Some warmth he found still, a heaving heart within. But in vain did he call her name, for once where there was naiad, there was now only the fair bark of a laurel tree, the first laurel tree. Apollo, stricken with tears, embraced the trunk and fixed his lips upon it. Wiping the tears from his eyes, the Sun god declared:

                   " Because thou canst not be
                      My mistress, I espouse thee for my tree:
                      Be thou the prize of honour, and renown;
                      The deathless poet, and the poem, crown.
                      Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn,
                      And, after poets, be by victors be worn.
                      Thou shalt returning Caesar's triumph grace;
                      When pomps shall in a long procession grace;
                       Wreath'd on the posts before his palace wait;
                       And be the sacred guardian of the Gate.
                       Secure from thunder, and unharm'd by Jupiter,
                       Unfading as th' immortal Pow'rs above...
                       So shall perpetual green thy boughs adorn... "
                                - APOLLO'S PLEDGE TO THE LAUREL

Deep within the spirit of the tree, Daphne heard his words at last, and grateful was she, and the tree bowed respectfully to the god. Ever after was the laurel tree the symbol of victory, worn as a wreath upon the crown of champions, and never again did Apollo doubt the power of desire...

United Kingdom

Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
(The Source for many of the myths of ancient lore, written by a Roman poet)

United States

Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics)
(The Source for many of the myths of ancient lore, written by a Roman poet)  

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The White Buffalo

We turn today to a people who, like the Aboriginal people of Oceania, are not a civilisation that rose and fell in the past, but one that endures even today. They, as much as any, are testament to the serenity of a life without electricity, gas, great monuments or even writing. All that was needed was what could be found on the prairies of North America, and a belief in the spirit bound in all things. These were, are and will be the indigenous peoples of North America. The sheer diversity of the Native Americans is as varied as their culture is rich. We begin with one story from a tribe of the Great Plains.

A Sioux Village before Chimney Rock
Painting by Albert Bierstadt
The Great Sioux Nation, perhaps the most iconic of all the American Indian tribes, are a people with a dramatic history. Hailing from the Mississippi Valley, the Sioux came to populate a great swathe of the vast Great Plains. From humble origins, the Sioux peoples could be found in what are now the States of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana and Iowa of the present day United States, as well as Saskatchewan and Alberta in modern Canada. The Sioux peoples were bound by common family of language, and core of beliefs, but even the Sioux themselves were diverse. The Eastern Dakota, the Western Dakota, and the Lakota all made up the Great Sioux Nation. It is to the Lakota that we turn today, a people famous for their horse culture, their nomadic ways, and their fierce resistance to the United States of America. It is from this tribe that the famous war chiefs Sitting Bull (of the Hunkpapa subtribe), Crazy Horse and Red Cloud (both of the Oglala subtribe) all hailed. The Lakota will always be remembered for their part in the great victory over Custer at the Little Bighorn in the June of 1876, but theirs is a culture that began many centuries earlier. For a people who did not have writing, but oral tradition of stories told from father to son over long passages of time, even the same tale can have many variations, even within a tribe. Here is one story that is told, of the earliest days of the Sioux.

The Black Hills - sacred ground to the Sioux
Photograph taken by Jake DeGroot, in modern day
South Dakota and Wyoming, USA
Long ago, in the days of the ancestors, before the Lakota people knew of horses (surprisingly, for a people so iconically associated with their bond with horses, the Sioux were introduced to them only around 1730, by the Cheyenne), it was with great toil and sweat that the people hunted the Buffalo. One summer arrived, and there was great heat on the prairies. More than ever, Lakota hunters struggled to feed their people, as they searched far and wide for the Buffalo. Starvation threatened the people, and an ominous feeling gripped the Lakota. When morning arose one day, two young braves of the Itázipčho resolved to embark upon one last hunt, early, before the Plains grew stifling hot. The Itázipčho encampment slept, and the dogs yawned. Only the song of the Meadowlark could be heard, and the soft breeze, percussion of the great prairie that had no end. The braves were skilled in the ways of the hunt, and none heard their footfalls as they took their leave.

It seemed an age, as their journey seemed as endless as the inhospitable Plains. To the untrained eye, these new pastures were indistinguishable from any other, but these were not untrained eyes. Generations since the dawn of time of tracking the great herds across the prairie had taught the Lakota the subtleties of the Great Spirit, and the way of the land. Before long, however, a small hill had broken the horizon. The crickets chirped in the grass, swayed by the wind, and the prairie dogs scurried away into their burrows at the braves' advance. One brave looked up. The Sun grew higher in the sky, and he wiped the sweat from his brow. With great exertion, both men overcame the crest of the mound, and the vista that greeted their eyes was at once both serene and shattering. More than ever before, the Plains seemed without end, and the braves were forced to raise their arms to shield their eyes from the intense heat and brightness of the Sun.

The Sioux hunt the buffalo
Painting by George Catlin
Just then, when hope had all but vanished, through the fiery haze in the distance, their appeared a dark figure.   It was a enchanting, yet somehow familiar, silhouette, and both braves looked on in amazement. It was no bison, it was a woman, but one unlike any the Lakota had ever set eyes on before. Extraordinarily beautiful, yet somehow seeming forbidden, as she approached, the young men saw that she was clad in a gleaming white buckskin, which only enhanced her transfixing visage. As she drew closer still, they saw that it was richly decorated in sacred symbols, adorned with the brightly coloured quills of the porcupine. She bore upon her shoulders a hefty bundle, and in her fair hand a fan of sage leaves that exuded an alluring scent. Her coal black hair swayed in the breeze, save for one lock bound in the fur of a buffalo, all framing her radiant eyes, in which it seemed the very light of the Sun radiated. One of the braves, an impious youth, was seized with forbidden desire. Turning to his kin, "What a woman!" he exclaimed, as he vowed to take his chance. "You fool", spake the other, a wise man, "this woman is holy", he warned. The mysterious woman beckoned him forth, and the hot-headed and foolhardy brave, deaf to his fellow's wise counsel, immediately ran up to the stranger. The boy reached out to her. Just before their hands met, a strange feeling descended upon the Plains, and both figures were shrouded in a great cloud. In a flash, the haze lifted, and all that remained of the brave were his bones, serpents hissing and writhing within. The wise brave, a pious and wise man, saw the holy nature of this woman, and was afraid, not for his life, but out of the awe of her majesty, and bowed before her as she approached. "Behold", she spake to the honourable Lakota, "I am come to your people by word of Tatanka Oyate, land of the buffalo. Return to Chief Standing Hollow Horn and tell him all you have seen here. Tell the Itázipčho to raise a Tipi great in size that all the Itázipčho may be sheltered within it, and prepare for my coming".

The young brave tarried not a moment, and at once turned and sprinted across the prairie. Sweat poured, and his muscles ached, but the Sioux ran on under the burning Sun, the blades of the long grass whipping at his bare chest. Gasping for breath, he reached the Itázipčho encampment. Finding the Chief Standing Hollow Horn, he told him all that he had seen, of his comrade's impiety, and of his divine command. Seeing the sincerity of the brave's word, the Chief ordered at once for all the Tipis of the Itázipčho to be bound together and raised as one. After much effort, in near unbearable heat, the task was done, and the grand Tipi was mighty enough to shade all the tribe. Pleased with their work, the Itázipčho awaited the coming of the wise woman.

A Sioux Tipi
Photograph taken by John C. H. Grabill
United States Library of Congress
Three days passed, and the Lakota scouts bore now word of her approach. The fourth day dawned, and the Itázipčho spied a strange figure on the horizon. In an instant, they looked back eagerly to their kin, and to their shock, she was already amongst them in their great lodge, prowling it in the way of the Sun. The fair woman came before Chief Standing Hollow Horn, holding her arms outstretched before her. There, in her hands, was the strange bundle the brave had seen. "Look upon this", she spake, "and always love and honour it. None who is impure may ever lay hand upon this, for this contains the sacred pipe". She took the bundle and unravelled it, revealing the pipe, the Chanunpa, and a small stone. Laying the stone upon the ground, and addressed the Lakota:

" With this pipe you will walk on the Earth, which is your grandmother and your mother.
  The Earth is sacred, and so is every step that you take on her. The bowl of the pipe
   is of red stone; it is the Earth. The image carved upon it that you see is the calf
   of the Buffalo, for all things of four legs. The stem you see is of wood,
   for all things that grow on this Earth. The twelve feathers you see hail from the
   Great Spotted Eagle, for all winged creatures of this world. All these living things
   are the children of Mother Earth. You are all bound as one family,
   and you will be reminded when you smoke this pipe. Treat it, and the Earth,
   with respect, and your people will know good fortune forever... "

To seven circles upon the Chanunpa she pointed, and bade them to follow the seven rites that they heralded. The first rite would weave immortality into the soul. The remaining six, she prophesied, she would teach the Lakota, in time.The Lakota were silent in reverence before her majesty, and struck dumb at her words. The holy woman rose to her feet, and made to leave, but before she did, she turned to Chief Standing Hollow Horn one last time. "This pipe will carry you to the end. Remember that in me are four ages of this world. I go now, but I will watch over you in all the ages of this world, and one day, at the end, I will return". Treading slowly, she circled the lodge in the direction of the Sun, as all present gazed in wonder fused with awe, even the children of the Lakota were captivated by her. Into the distance of the prairie she strode, but before the horizon claimed her, she turned to look at the people one last time, and sat down. When she arose once again, the Lakota were stunned to see that she was now as a young calf of the Buffalo, with a magnificent coat of chestnut brown, flecked with red. The calf proudly strode into the beyond, before it too, lay down, and rolled over in the grass. Looking back to the Lakota, now a mighty White Buffalo, radiant on the horizon. One last time, the powerful figure touched the Earth, Mother of all, and rolled over. For the last time she rose, a Buffalo as black as the night. The beast bowed to the North, to the South, to the East and to the West, before finally the light took it, and the horizon met the Prairie pure once again.

So was born the Lakota people, and a way of life...

United Kingdom

Stories of the North American Indians
American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon Fairy Tales & Fantasies)
An impressive collection of legends gathered from over eighty tribes

United States

Stories of the North American Indians
American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
An impressive collection of legends gathered from over eighty tribes

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


The beginning of things is always a moment enshrined in history. The greater the thing, the greater the myth, especially for those few who founded entire civilisations, for whom myth and history can be so closely intertwined as to be nigh on indistinguishable. One such hero was Cadmus.

The Rape of Europa
Painting by Titian
Far past, in the distant mists of time, there ruled over the great city of Tyre the King Agenor and his Queen Telephassa. Under their happy and benevolent rule Tyre rose to great heights, and the the Tyrians were blessed with a formidable progeny. To the royal family were born three sons; Phoenix, Cilix and Cadmus, and a daughter, Europa. Tyre rejoiced in the splendour of each of her heirs, each magnificent to behold and strong of heart. As the four grew up, the future seemed radiant for the great city. But it was not only man and woman who admired the majesty of these four, for they, as all things, could not escape the gaze of the Olympians on high. No mere nymph, dryad or spirit, but Zeus himself, King of the all gods, became enamoured of the young princess Europa. One sun drenched day, Europa danced merrily by the ocean's edge, under the Thunderer's watchful gaze. Transfixed by her beauty, Zeus came down to the Earth as a mighty white bull, of gleaming horns and glistening coat. Europa looked up, entranced at the majestic sight before her. Laying a fair hand upon the Bull's shining mane, in a bewitching trance she dared to mount its back. Gently, the Bull turned toward the surf, and sauntered into the waves. Triumphant, Zeus spirited her beyond the horizon, glorying in his prize, as the maiden held on, taken up in the thrill of adventure, as the land fell away behind her. Never again was she to be seen again on Tyrian shores.

When word reached King Agenor's ears of his daughter's flight, he was stricken with anguish. Summoning his three sons before him, he bade each search every coast far and wide, across the world, in search of Europa, unbeknownst to him that a god's hand was at work. With ready abandon did each brother set forth in search of his sister, three directions did they depart, and in three ways did they journey, and for an endless age did they go. To the South and West did Phoenix go, after time giving his name to the land of Phoenicia. To the North did Cilix go, after time giving his name to the land of Cilicia. To the West did young Cadmus go, landing soon upon Grecian shores. Time passed and the maiden could not be found, for what mortal can pursue the Thunder god himself? Weary from ageless toil, Cadmus decided to seek out the Oracle, and know her counsel. High upon the Delphic road he thus trod, with kindred Tyrians in tow, coming to the Pythian Halls. Intoxicated by the mists of prophecy, the Oracle thus did cry:

                      " Behold among the fields a lonely cow,
                        Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plow;
                        Mark well the place where first she lays her down,
                        There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,
                        And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,
                        In which the destin'd walls and town shall stand... "      
                             - THE ORACLE SPEAKS TO CADMUS

The Prince of Tyre was taken aback by the command of Heaven. To find his sister was to be a destiny not his, it seemed, but as the founder of a nation. No sooner had he departed the towering sanctum, pondering deep his divine mission, than he spied in the fields that sacred cow, unshackled by rope or chain, unfitted with plow. The cow raised her head and saw the Prince of Tyre. Both looked into the eyes of the other for a brief moment, before the beast turned and trod. At a distance Cadmus stalked, in silence, praying to the god whose path he followed now. Through mountain high and plain wide Prince and beast continued their strange dance, crossing the silvery rapids of the river Cephisus, when all of a sudden, the cow raised her head to on high, bellowing thrice, before turning back to gaze at he, and laying in the grass. Cadmus saw the sign, and gave thanks to on high, thanks for his destiny, thanks for the nameless place, pastures and mountains which would be the land of his progeny. Turning to his kin, he bade them seek water with all haste from living streams, so as to prepare a sacrifice to Zeus the father of men and gods. So, over the wide plain his comrades trod, for their lay in a dark vale beyond a shady wood, its boughs hanging heavy over unlit grass, pathless and thick with brambles in the scrub.

Cadmus and the Dragon
Painting by Hendrick Goltzius
Yet Death incarnate lay in the darkness of the trees. For deep in the dank forest, sacred to Ares, lord of War, a powerful dragon lay, "bloated with poison to a monstrous size; fire broke in flashes when he glanc'd his eyes: his tow'ring crest was glorious to behold, his shoulders and his sides were scal'd with gold...". The Tyrians searched wide for water in the eerie glade, and with their vessels upturned, they gathered from the stream. From side to side their urns bounded, the ripples echoing deep into the infernal pond. Upon the the wyrms's crest they crashed, rousing the beast from evil slumber. Evil stirs, and with a hiss that shrivels the skin of the very sky, the dragon rose from the stagnant pool, his many tongues flickering, his many eyes darting to and fro. The Tyrians gave a shout of fear, their urns lying, shattered, discarded, upon the soil, now their grave. The dragon, towering high into the sky, then saw trembling men in his glade, and fell upon them in a rage. To their arms some Tyrians look, but in vain, to flight from the evil glade others. But no man there would breath the fresh air again, no man live to see the destiny of their prince. Some lie broken underfoot, others devoured by the monstrous creature, their final screams masked by the roar of the wyrm's ghastly breath.

The Sun began to rise into the warm, midday sky, and Cadmus began to wonder where his comrades had got to. Impatient to commence the rites the Olympians themselves had ordained him to do, the Prince of Tyre at once set forth to search for them, casting his eyes upon the fell glade in the distance, a place where the rays of the Sun never shone. The hide of a lion he wore around his muscled form, a raised spear in his hand, but a heart of valour was his greatest arm by far. Not long did he tread in the forest's eaves before the  broken bodies of his kin his eyes did spy, the monstrous beast in their midst, feasting upon his friends, gore spattering his jaw. In a shout of rage and grief, Cadmus heaved a mighty boulder, no ten men today could lift it, weak as men are now, and hurled it at the creature. The mightiest rock flung by the mightiest engine of war never had cast so mighty a payload at a towering wall, yet harmlessly did the stone deflect from the iron scales. His slumber disturbed a second time, the dragon seared with fury, and bore down upon the Prince of Tyre with thundering haste. Undaunted, the young Prince took up his spear, taking careful aim. The strength of the greatest of men, and beyond, he put into the throw, casting the dart into creature's spine. More success this time, as the iron tip burrowed between the scales, punching into the vile flesh. A screeching hiss the serpent wailed, sending eerie chill down Cadmus' spine. The powerful body writhed and turned, and monstrous teeth closed around the shaft of wood, splintering Tyrian spear. Pain feeding his building rage, the wyrm's eyes clouded a hideous red, hate pounding in every vein, as from his mouth a putrid gale blew, spraying a lethal foam about the clearing. Plant, flower and tree all wither under its hail, but not the Prince of Tyre. Uncoiling now, the monster lunges, a torrent of power. Desperate now, Cadmus seized the ruined spear, as the serpent's jaws clamped upon the point, mixing blood and venom raw. Not a moment to spare, the Prince dived behind a tree, as the mighty trunk deflects his foe's strike. Seizing his chance, Cadmus took the shattered point and thrust it will all his might and will to live, deep into the creature's throat. Labouring hard for breath, the accursed wyrm writhed in a final agony, crashing to the dust, lifeless as stone.

Cadmus sows the Dragon's Teeth
Painting by Maxfield Parrish
Not a moment did young Cadmus have to relish his triumph before a terrible voice roared throughout the dale, the voice of a god. "Why dost thou thus with secret pleasure see, insulting man! What thou thy self shalt be?" With horror chill did the Prince of Tyre realise, the voice of Ares, god of war himself, thundered all around, in anger at the slaying of his sacred beast. It was then that Athena, lady of wisdom, soared down from the Olympian heights, favouring the innocent Prince. Quickly, she bade him act, plow the field and scatter the teeth of the dragon as though the seed of a crop, for from them shall arise the people of his new city. Confused, but piously obedient, Cadmus obeyed. Plowing the field, and readying the seed, the Prince bent low over the wyrm's lethal teeth, wrenching them from the scaly cadaver:

       " He sows the teeth at Pallas' command,
         And flings the future people from his hand.
         The clods grow warm, and crumble where he sows;
         And now the pointed spears advance in rows;
         Now nodding plumes appear, and shining crests,
         Now the broad shoulders and the rising breasts;
         O'er all the field the breathing harvest swarms,
         A growing host, a crop of men and arms "

To his utter amazement, the furrowed ground churned, and from the teeth of the dragon, fully armed and fierce men sprang. As the warlike men began to seek out their creator, Cadmus, wary of their bloodlust, cast a stone in their midst. It struck one of the men, who immediately rounded on his comrade to his rear, believing him to be the culprit, and struck him cold dead to the floor. Consternation broke out in the battalion of the Teeth, as brother turned against brother, and blood ran in torrents, the evil glad awash with gore anew.  Soon, all but five had been slain, and in that moment, Pallas Athena stayed their hands, and at her command, their arms to the ground did fall, as they embraced the way of peace. Before them now did the Prince of Tyre appear, and call each man his brother, and at last he set about the business of raising his great city. Thebes, the city would be called, and Cadmus her King, and the five men the fathers of the great noble families. Raising a high cliff in the city's heart, they named it for their founder, the Cadmeia (which you can visit today if you go to ancient Thebes), and thus began the days of Thebes, and the Royal House of Cadmus.

Long did Cadmus reign in peace, and to him the gods gave a wife, Harmonia, a symbol of new concordance between men and gods. Yet there was one in their midst who reeled with spite, proud Ares, his anger great still at the desecration of his sacred beast. Upon Cadmus and his progeny he placed a terrible curse. Ever after the Royal House of Thebes was plagued by misfortune. The grandson of Cadmus, Actaeon (whose own downfall you can read about here), and many generations later, his descendant Laius (whose fate you can read of here), father of Oedipus, would feel the curse's wrath. Many long years later, Cadmus ripe with age lamented the ill omens that plagued his family, raising his head to the Heavens. If the gods troubled so over the life of a serpent, he would rather be one himself than a mortal man. Upon him pity fell, and granted was his wish. Before his very eyes his skin was as scales, his teeth as fangs, his legs a whipping tail. His beloved Harmonia upon him gazed, imploring the gods to spare her pain of separation from him. To her too the gods gave their gift, and in a flash she too slithered upon the ground, freed from the evils of man and their ways forever...

What happened to Europa, you might ask? Zeus the Thunderer spirited her away to the island of Crete, and upon those radiant shores he revealed his true form. To the stars he flung his Bull like form, and the constellation Taurus was thus born. Upon Europa's head the crown of Crete the god did place, but greater still was to be her legacy. For even today the Continent of Europe bears her name...

United Kingdom

Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation (Penguin Classics)
(The Source for many of the myths of ancient lore, written by a Roman poet)

United States

Metamorphoses (Penguin Classics)
(The Source for many of the myths of ancient lore, written by a Roman poet)