Deucalion And Pyrrha

While the men of the Age of Bronze still dwelt upon the earth reports

of their wickedness were carried to Jupiter. The god decided to verify

the reports by coming to earth himself in the form of a man, and

everywhere he went he found that the reports were much milder than the


One evening in the late twilight he entered the inhospitable shelter

of the Arcadian King Lycaon, who was famed for his wild conduct. By

several signs he let it be known that he was a god, and the crowd

dropped to their knees; but Lycaon made light of the pious prayers.

"Let us see," he said, "whether he is a mortal or a god."

Thereupon he decided to destroy the guest that night while he lay in

slumber, not expecting death. But before doing so he killed a poor

hostage whom the Molossians had sent to him, cooked the half-living

limbs in boiling water or broiled them over a fire, and placed them on

the table before the guest for his evening meal.

But Jupiter, who knew all this, left the table and sent a raging fire

over the castle of the godless man. Frightened, the king fled into the

open field. The first cry he uttered was a howl; his garments changed

to fur; his arms to legs; he was transformed into a bloodthirsty wolf.

Jupiter returned to Olympus, held counsel with the gods and decided to

destroy the reckless race of men. At first he wanted to turn his

lightnings over all the earth, but the fear that the ether would take

fire and destroy the axle of the universe restrained him. He laid

aside the thunderbolt which the Cyclops had fashioned for him, and

decided to send rain from heaven over all the earth and so destroy the

race of mortals.

Immediately the North Wind and all the other cloud-scattering winds

were locked in the cave of Aeolus, and only the South Wind sent out.

The latter descended upon the earth; his frightful face was covered

with darkness; his beard was heavy with clouds; from his white hair

ran the flood; mists lay upon his brow; from his bosom dropped the

water. The South Wind grasped the heavens, seized in his hands the

surrounding clouds and began to squeeze them. The thunder rolled;

floods of rain burst from the heavens. The standing corn was bent to

the earth; destroyed was the hope of the farmer; destroyed the weary

work of a whole year.

Even Neptune, god of the sea, came to the assistance of his brother

Jupiter in the work of destruction. He called all the rivers together

and said, "Give full rein to your torrents; enter houses; break

through all dams!"

They followed his command, and Neptune himself struck the earth with

his trident and let the flood enter. Then the waters streamed over the

open meadows, covered the fields, dislodged trees, temples and houses.

Wherever a palace stood, its gables were soon covered with water and

the highest turrets were hidden in the torrent. Sea and earth were no

longer divided; all was flood--an unbroken stretch of water.

Men tried to save themselves as best they could; some climbed the high

mountains; others entered boats and rowed, now over the roofs of the

fallen houses, now over the hills of their ruined vineyards. Fish swam

among the branches of the highest trees; the wild boar was caught in

the flood; people were swept away by the water and those whom the

flood spared died of hunger on the barren mountains.

One high mountain in the country of Phocis still raised two peaks

above the surrounding waters. It was the great Mount Parnassus. Toward

this floated a boat containing Deucalion, the son of Prometheus,

and his wife Pyrrha. No man, no woman, had ever been found who

surpassed these in righteousness and piety. When, therefore, Jupiter,

looking down from heaven upon the earth, saw that only a single pair

of mortals remained of the many thousand times a thousand, both

blameless, both devoted servants of the gods, he sent forth the North

Wind, recalled the clouds, and once again separated the earth from the

heavens and the heavens from the earth.

Even Neptune, lord of the sea, laid down his trident and calmed the

flood. The ocean resumed its banks; the rivers returned to their beds;

forests stretched their slime-covered tree-tops out of the deep; hills

followed; finally stretches of level land appeared and the earth was

as before.

Deucalion looked around him. The country was laid waste; it was

wrapped in the silence of the grave. Tears rolled down his cheeks and

he said to his wife, Pyrrha, "Beloved, solitary companion of my life,

as far as I can see through all the surrounding country, I can

discover no living creature. We two must people the earth; all the

rest have been drowned by the flood. But even we are not yet certain

of our lives. Every cloud that I see strikes terror to my soul. And

even if danger is past, what shall we do alone on the forsaken earth?

Oh, that my father Prometheus had taught me the art of creating men

and breathing life into them!"

Then the two began to weep. They threw themselves on their knees

before the half-destroyed altar of the goddess Themis, and began to

pray, saying, "Tell us, O goddess, by what means we can replace the

race that has disappeared? Oh, help the earth to new life."

"Leave my altar," sounded the voice of the goddess. "Uncover your

heads, ungird your garments and cast the bones of your mother behind


For a long time Deucalion and Pyrrha wondered over the puzzling words

of the goddess. Pyrrha was the first to break the silence. "Pardon me,

O noble goddess," she said, "if I do not obey you and cannot consent

to scatter the bones of my mother."

Then Deucalion had a happy thought. He comforted his wife. "Either my

reason deceives me," he said, "or the command of the goddess is good

and involves no impiety. The great mother of all of us is the Earth;

her bones are the stones, and these, Pyrrha, we will cast behind us!"

Both mistrusted this interpretation of the words, but what harm would

it do to try? Thereupon they uncovered their heads, ungirded their

garments and began casting stones behind them.

Then a wonderful thing happened. The stone began to lose its hardness,

became malleable, grew and took form--not definite at once, but rude

figures such as an artist first hews out of the rough marble. Whatever

was moist or earthy in the stones was changed into flesh; the harder

parts became bones; the veins in the rock remained as veins in the

bodies. Thus, in a little while, with the aid of the gods, the stones

which Deucalion threw assumed the form of men; those which Pyrrha

threw, the form of women.

This homely origin the race of men does not deny; they are a hardy

people, accustomed to work. Every moment of the day they remember from

what sturdy stock they have sprung.

Departed Devil's Lake facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail