“The Dolphin Rider” is Arion, who lives in Corinth, a city near the sea. He longs to go on great adventures, but an oracle warns that if he embarks on a voyage, he will never return. When Apollo, the god of music, gives Arion a golden lyre for his twentieth birthday, Arion ignores the oracle’s words and sets sail for Sicily. Everyone falls in love with his singing, and great treasures are heaped on him, but Arion is forced to contend with an unexpected foe: man’s greed.
“The Gift of Fire” introduces Prometheus, the young giant who fears no one, including Zeus, mighty ruler of gods and men. However, when Prometheus vows to bring his precious gift to every cave in the land, he makes multiple deadly enemies.
This collection also features stories about Narcissus, destined to fall in love with his own beautiful reflection; King Midas, who loves only gold; Cupid, who must suffer the consequences when he is struck down by love; and the fatally curious Pandora.
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About the Author
Bernard Evslin (1922–1993) was a bestselling and award-winning author known for his works on Greek and other cultural mythologies. The New York Times called him “one of the most widely published authors of classical mythology in the world.” He was born in New Rochelle, New York, and attended Rutgers University. After several years working as a playwright, screenwriter, and documentary producer, he began publishing novels and short stories in the late 1960s. During his long career, Evslin published more than seventy books—over thirty of which were for young adults. His bestseller Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths has been translated into ten different languages and has sold more than ten million copies worldwide. He won the National Education Association Award in 1961, and in 1986 his book Hercules received the Washington Irving Children’s Book Choice Award. Evslin died in Kauai, Hawaii, at the age of seventy-seven.
Read an Excerpt
The Dolphin Rider
And Other Greek Myths
By Bernard Evslin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1976 Bernard Evslin
All rights reserved.
The Dolphin Rider
This is the tale of Arion. He was a very talented young man who asked Apollo, the god of music, to teach him the lyre. Apollo was so amused by this bold request, which no one in the world had dared to make before, that he taught Arion to play the lyre most beautifully.
Now Arion lived in a city near the sea called Corinth. He was a bold, adventure- loving youth, and wanted very much to travel. But when he was a child an oracle, foretelling the future, had said, "Avoid the sea. For no ship will bring you back from any voyage you make." Arion's parents believed this, and made him stay at home.
But the boy grew more restless every day. He would go down to the harbor and watch the ships scudding out to the open sea, their sails spread to the wind. When he saw this he felt full of longing for far places. He would unsling his lyre and sing a song of ships and storms and castaways ... of giants and cannibals and sea-monsters, and all the adventures he had dreamed of.
His song was so beautiful that dolphins rose to the surface to listen. They sat there in the water, balancing themselves on their tails, listening. Sometimes they wept great salt tears. When Arion stopped singing, they clapped their flippers, shouting, "Bravo! Bravo! More ... More!" and he would have to sing again. Often he sang to them all night long. And when the stars paled he could see giant shadows gliding nearby — swordfish and sharks, devilfish and giant turtles, which had risen from the depths, not for an easy meal, but to listen to the enchanting sounds he was making.
Then, for his twentieth birthday, Apollo gave Arion a golden lyre. The youth was eager to try it out at the great music festival held in Sicily.
"Oracles and soothsayers are gloomy by nature," he told himself. "How often do they tell you anything happy? They try to scare you so that you'll come back and pay them again, hoping to hear something better. Anyway, that's what I choose to believe, for I must see the world no matter what happens."
So Arion took his lyre and set sail for Sicily. He played and sang so beautifully in the festival that the audience went mad with delight. They heaped gifts upon him — a jeweled sword, a suit of silver armor, an ivory bow and quiver of bronze-tipped arrows, and a fat bag of gold. Arion was so happy that he forgot all about the prophecy. In his eagerness to get home and tell about his triumphs, he took the first ship back to Corinth, although the captain was a huge, ugly, dangerous-looking fellow, with an even uglier crew.
On the first afternoon out, Arion was sitting in the bow, gazing at the purple sea, when the captain strode up and said, "Pity — you're so young to die."
"Am I to die young?" Arion asked.
"Are you sure?"
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because I'm going to kill you."
"That does seem a pity," said Arion. "When is this sad event to take place?"
"Soon. In fact, immediately."
"But why? What have I done?"
"Something foolish. You let yourself become the owner of a treasure that I must have — that jewelled sword, the silver armor, not to mention that delicious, fat bag of gold. You should never show things like that to thieves."
"Why can't you take what you want without killing me?"
"Too big a risk, my boy. You might complain to the king about being robbed, and that would be very dangerous for us. So you have to go. I'm sure you understand."
"I see you've thought the matter over carefully," said Arion. "Well, I have only this to ask: Let me sing a last song before I die."
At the music festival, Arion had composed a song of praise to be sung on special occasions. And he sang it now — praising first Apollo, who had taught him music, then old Neptune, master of the sea. He sang praise to the sea itself and those who dwell there — the gulls and ocean nymphs and gliding fish. He sang to the magic changefulness of the waters, which put on different colors as the sun climbs and sinks.
So singing, Arion leaped from the bow of the ship, lyre in hand, and plunged into the sea.
He had sung so beautifully that the creatures of the deep had swum up to hear him. Among them was a school of dolphins. The largest one quickly dived, then rose to the surface, lifting Arion on his back.
"Thank you, friend," said Arion.
"A poor favor to return for such heavenly music," said the dolphin as he swam away with Arion on his back.
The other dolphins danced along on the water, as Arion played. They swam very swiftly and brought Arion to Corinth a day before the ship was due. He went immediately to his friend, Periander, king of Corinth, and told him his story. Then he took the king down to the waterfront to introduce him to the dolphin that had saved his life. The dolphin, who had become very fond of Arion, longed to stay with him in Corinth. So the king had the river dammed up to make a giant pool on the palace grounds, and there the dolphin stayed when he wished to visit Arion.
When the thieves' ship arrived in port, captain and crew were seized by the king's guard and taken to the castle. Arion stayed hidden.
"Why have you taken us captive, oh king?" said the captain. "We are peaceable law-abiding sailors."
"My friend Arion took passage on your ship!" roared the king. "Where is he? What have you done with him?"
"Poor lad," said the captain. "He was quite mad. He was on deck singing to himself one day, and then suddenly jumped overboard. We put out a small boat, circled the spot for hours. We couldn't find a trace. Sharks probably. Sea's full of them there."
"And what do you do to a man-eating shark when you catch him?" asked the king.
"Kill him, of course," said the captain. "We can't let them swim free and eat other sailors."
"A noble sentiment," said Arion, stepping out of his hiding place. "That's exactly what we do to two-legged sharks in Corinth."
So the captain and his crew were taken out and hanged. The ship was searched and Arion found all that had been taken from him. He insisted on dividing the gifts with the king. When Periander protested, Arion laughed and said: "Treasures are trouble. You're a king and can handle them. But I'm a minstrel and must travel light."
And all his life Arion sang songs of praise. His music grew in power and beauty until people said he was a second Orpheus. When he died Apollo set him in the sky — and his lyre, and the dolphin too. They shine in the night sky still, the stars of constellations we still call the Lyre and the Dolphin.CHAPTER 2
The Gift of Fire
Prometheus was a bold young giant who insisted on finding things out for himself. He feared no one, not even Zeus, who ruled the gods on Mount Olympus and the men on earth, and kept everyone frightened with his mighty thunderbolt. Prometheus knew how much the powerful god hated questions about his rule, but the young giant asked them anyway when there was something he wanted to know.
One morning he walked up to Zeus and said, "Oh, thunderer, I do not understand. You have put men on earth, but you keep them in fear and darkness."
"Perhaps you had better leave all matters concerning man to me," said Zeus in a warning tone. "Their fear, as you call it, is simply respect for the gods. The 'darkness' is the peaceful shadow of my law. Man is happy now. And he will remain happy — unless someone tells him he is unhappy. Let us not speak of this again."
But Prometheus persisted. "Look at man!" he said. "Look below. There he crouches in cold dark caves. He is at the mercy of the beasts and the weather. He even eats his meat raw. Tell me why you refuse to give man the gift of fire."
Zeus answered, "Don't you know, Prometheus, that every gift has a price? And the cost of the gift is usually more than it is worth. Man does not have fire, true. He has not learned the crafts which go with fire. But he is lucky all the same. He does not suffer disease, or warfare, or old age, or that inward sickness called worry. He is quite happy without fire. And so, I say, he shall remain."
"Man is happy the way animals are happy," retorted Prometheus. "What was the sense of creating this race called man if he must live like the beasts, without fire? He doesn't even have any fur to keep him warm."
"He is different from the beasts in other ways," said Zeus. "Man needs someone to worship. And we gods need someone to worship us. That is why man was made."
"But wouldn't fire and the things that fire can do for him make him more interesting?"
"More interesting, perhaps, but much more dangerous. Like the gods, man is full of pride. It would take very little to make this pride swell to giant size. If I improve man's lot, he will forget the very thing which makes him so pleasing to us: his need to worship and obey. He will become poisoned with pride and begin to fancy that he himself is a god. Before we know it he will be storming Mount Olympus. You have said enough, Prometheus. I have been patient with you. Do not try me too far. Go now, and trouble me no more with your questions."
But Prometheus was not satisfied. All that night he lay awake making plans. When dawn came he left his bed and, standing tiptoe on Olympus, stretched his arm to the eastern horizon, where the first faint flames of the sun were flickering. In his hand he held a reed filled with dry fiber. He thrust it into the sunrise until a spark smouldered. Then he put the reed in his tunic and came down from the mountain.
At first, men were frightened by his gift. It was so hot, so quick. It bit sharply when you touched it, and set the shadows dancing. The men thanked Prometheus, but they asked him to take away his gift.
But instead Prometheus took the haunch of a newly killed deer and held it over the fire. When the meat began to sear and sputter, filling the cave with the rich smell of roasting venison, the people went mad with hunger. They flung themselves on the meat, and ate greedily, burning their tongues.
"That which cooked the meat is called fire," Prometheus told them. "It is an ill-natured spirit, a little brother of the sun, but if you handle it carefully it can change your whole life. You must feed it with twigs — but only until it is big enough to roast your meat or heat your cave. Then you must stop, or it will eat everything in sight, and you too. If it escapes, use this magic — water. If you touch it with water it will shrink to the right size again."
Prometheus left the fire burning in the first cave, and the children stared at it, wide-eyed. Then he went to every cave in the land, bringing his gift of fire.
For some time afterward, Zeus was kept busy with the affairs of the gods. Then, one day, he looked down from Mt. Olympus, and was amazed. Everything had changed. Zeus saw woodsmen's huts, farmhouses, villages, walled towns, even a castle or two. He saw men cooking their food and carrying torches to light their way at night. He saw forges blazing, men beating out ploughs, keels, swords, spears. They were making ships and raising white winds of sails, daring to use the fury of the winds for their journeys. They were even wearing helmets, and riding out to do battle — like the gods themselves.
Zeus was very angry. He seized his largest thunderbolt. "So men want fire," he said to himself. "I'll give them fire — more than they can use. I'll burn their miserable little ball of earth to a cinder."
But then another thought came to him and he lowered his arm. "No," he said to himself. "I'll attend to these mortals later. My first business is with Prometheus. And when I finish with him no one else — man, god, or giant — will dare to disobey me."
Zeus then called his guards and had them seize Prometheus. He ordered them to drag him off to the far north. There they bound Prometheus to a mountain peak with great chains specially forged by the god of fire. These chains were so strong that even a giant could not break them, no matter how hard he struggled. When the friend of man was bound to the mountain, Zeus sent two vultures to hover about him forever, tearing at his vitals, and eating his liver.
Men knew that a terrible thing was happening on the mountain, but they did not know what it was. They could hear the wind shriek like a giant in torment, and sometimes like fierce birds.
For centuries Prometheus lay there helpless — until another hero was born, brave enough to defy the gods. He climbed the mountain peak, struck the chains from Prometheus, and killed the vultures. His name was Hercules.
And so, at last, man was able to repay Prometheus for his great gift — the gift of fire.CHAPTER 3
The Mysterious Box
Zeus brooded. He could not forget how Prometheus had dared to break his law and teach man the use of fire. After the lord of the sky had punished Prometheus with an endless torment for giving man fire, he began to plan how to punish man for accepting the gift. He thought and brooded, and finally he hit upon a plan.
"A good scheme," he told himself. "It will give me vengeance and entertainment as well. Of course there is always a chance that the girl will resist temptation and save mankind. But I'll take that risk."
He ordered the fire god to mold a girl out of clay. Then Zeus breathed life into the clay girl. The clay turned to flesh, and a maiden lay sleeping before him. Then he called the gods together, and asked them each to give her a special gift, and told them what he wanted those gifts to be.
Apollo taught her to sing and play the lyre. Athena taught her to spin. Ceres taught her how to plant seeds and make things grow. Venus gave her the gift of beauty and taught her to dance. Neptune gave her the power to change herself into a mermaid so that she could swim in the stormiest seas without drowning. Mercury gave her a beautiful golden box. But he told her she must never, never open it. And, finally, Hera gave her the tricky gift of curiosity.
Mercury took her by the hand and led her down the slope of Mount Olympus. He led her to the brother of Prometheus and said, "Father Zeus regrets the disgrace which has fallen upon your family. And to show you that he doesn't blame you for your brother's crime, he offers you this girl to be your wife. She is the fairest maid in all the world. Her name is Pandora, the all-gifted."
So the brother of Prometheus married Pandora. She spun and baked and tended her garden, and played the lyre and danced for her husband. For a while they were the happiest young couple on earth.
But from the first Pandora could not help thinking about the golden box. She was very proud of it. She kept it on the table and polished it every day. But the box sparkled in the sunlight and seemed to be winking at her. She could not help wondering what was inside.
She began to talk to herself in this way: "Mercury must have been teasing. He's always making jokes; everyone knows that. Yes, he was teasing me, telling me never to open his gift. If it is so beautiful outside, what a treasure there must be inside! Diamonds and sapphires and rubies more lovely than anyone has ever seen. After all, it is a gift from the hand of a god. If the box is so rich, the gift inside must be even more splendid. Perhaps Mercury really expects me to open the box and tell him how delighted I am with his gift. Perhaps he's waiting for me to thank him. He probably thinks I'm ungrateful."
But even as she was telling herself all this, she knew in her heart that it was not so. The box must not be opened. She must keep her promise.
Finally, she knew she had to do something to stop herself from thinking about the box. She took it from the table, and hid it in a dusty little storeroom. But it seemed to be burning there in the shadows. It scorched her thoughts wherever she went. She kept passing that room and stepping into it and making excuses to dawdle there. Once she took the box from its hiding place and stroked it — then quickly shoved it out of sight and rushed from the room.
After some days of this torment, she locked the golden box in a heavy oak chest. She put great bolts on the chest, and dug a hole in her garden. Then she put the chest in the hole and covered it over — and rolled a boulder on top of it. When her husband came home that night, her hair was wild and her hands were bloody, and her tunic was torn and stained. But all she would tell him was that she had been working in the garden.
That night the moonlight blazed in the room. Pandora could not sleep. She sat up in bed and looked around. All the room was swimming in moonlight. Everything was different. There were deep shadows and bright patches of silver, all mixed, all moving. She arose quietly and tiptoed from the room.
Excerpted from The Dolphin Rider by Bernard Evslin. Copyright © 1976 Bernard Evslin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Dolphin Rider,
The Gift of Fire,
The Mysterious Box,
Narcissus and Echo,
Wild Horses of the Sun,
The Solid Gold Princess,
The Dragon's Teeth,
The Beautiful Witch,
Keeper of the Winds,
Cupid and Psyche,
The Man Who Overcame Death,
About the Author,