Philemon & Baucis 5

From Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'A wonder Book for Boys & Girls' illustrated by Walter Crane

From Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘A Wonder Book for Boys & Girls’ illustrated by Walter Crane

As gods do, Zeus and Hermes decided to test humanity. Probably they were just trying to prove what an all-round disappointment we are. Justifying themselves for not really giving a crap about us poor schmucks below, while they’re living the high life on top of Mount Olympus – no pun intended.

Philemon & Baucis (Crane) 2

Strangers in the Village (Walter Crane)

Disguised as dusty, weary mortals they arrived in the middle of the night and knocked on every door in town; only to be told to piss off – or words to that effect. On the outskirts they came to a falling down hovel, the home of elderly couple, Philemon & Baucis.

Philemon & Baucis never had much, but they always had each other. And let’s face it, when you’ve got someone you love and who loves you back, what else do you need?

The Strangers entertained (Walter Crane)

The Strangers Entertained (Walter Crane)

To cut a long story short, the nice old folks invited the strangers in and treated them right royally – even though they didn’t know them from Adam. (Which is only to be expected as Adam belongs to the Bible, and they were a couple of ancient Greek peasants.)

The strangers ate the poor old bleeders out of house and home. They even killed and cooked their only goose for their guests. Which just in case you’re wondering, didn’t lay golden eggs; that’s another story entirely.

When they had eaten everything that wasn’t nailed down, the strangers asked the old couple to accompany them up the local hill. Which to my way of thinking, when you keep a pair of pensioners up all night waiting on your hand and foot, is a bit of a liberty. But there I am… digressing again.

From the hilltop, Philemon & Baucis were surprised to see a lake where the town once stood, and instead of their hovel a beautiful temple dedicated to… Zeus. Who else?

Meanwhile the gods had dropped their mortal disguises and stood looking majestic and radiant. Philemon & Baucis fell to their knees, as you would. But of course, it could just have been the arthritis.

Zeus grandly announced as a reward for their hospitality they would serve as the temple’s guardians, and asked if there was anything else they wanted.

Unlike the rest of us, instead of inquiring about hours, wages, holiday entitlement and whether a flat came with the job, the old couple simply replied they had spent their whole life together and all they really wanted was not to live apart. So when the time came, could they also die together?

Now I know you think me a tad sarcastic recounting this hoary old fable. But one thing I’m sure of… when you’ve met your soulmate and spent all your lives happily together, then not being left behind is the greatest gift of all.

For once Zeus was as good as his word, for that’s what happened. When the time came, they died together; just as they’d lived together.

And good old Zeus didn’t finish there, for when they were laid to earth, side by side, a tree grew from each grave, branches intertwining.  It was said if you listened to the leaves blowing in the breeze, you could still hear them saying how much they loved each other.

Transformed to Trees (Arthur Rackham)

Transformed to Trees (Arthur Rackham)

At long last; a Greek myth with a happy ending!

That’s if you’re not one of the poor buggers who drown because you turned away two suspicious looking strangers knocking seven bells out of your door in the dead of night.

Personally I suspect this isn’t even a real Greek myth. It’s just something put about by con-men who prey on pensioners!

And we’re back to sarcasm!

 

Check out the stories of these other Greek myths

Echo & Narcissus

Tiresias – To me there’s no mystery

What Men Want

5 thoughts on “Philemon & Baucis

  1. Reply Melissa Barker-Simpson Nov 27,2016 8:27 pm

    I’m a little obsessed with Greek mythology, so I must hang my head in shame that I haven’t heard this delightful story – made all the more delightful by the humour in the telling. A highly enjoyable post.

  2. Reply Sue Vincent Nov 24,2016 11:58 pm

    We have the same story in Yorkshire…though the gods had become angels and no temple was built when they drowned the viallge, creating Semer Water.

    • Reply Paul Nov 28,2016 1:02 am

      Dear Sue, that is interesting. I wonder if it is an example of the Roman influence lingering in Britain for all those millennia? Of course it would have to be Christianised to get past the church censors. It is incredible how stories stay in the imagination of folk for generations. But after reading your wonderful stuff about the landscape and its mysteries, you would know better than I. Paul

    • Reply Paul Nov 28,2016 1:02 am

      Dear Sue, that is interesting. I wonder if it is an example of the Roman influence lingering in Britain for all those millennia? Of course it would have to be Christianised to get past the church censors. It is incredible how stories stay in the imagination of folk for generations

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