Friday, August 20, 2010

The Sea Nymph And The Cyclops

This story comes to us from Greece and was adapted by Mary Pope Osbourne in her fantastic book Mermaid Tales From Around The World.


Long ago, in ancient Greece, a Cyclops lived in an island cave.  The Cyclops was a hideous monster.  He had a hairy body as tall as a mountain, and in the middle of his forehead was one huge rolling eye.
        For centuries the Cyclops lived a lonely horrid life.  Even the forest dropped all its leaves in fright when the monster lumbered about the island. No humans ever willingly went near him-and with good reason: When a sailing ship strayed near his cave, the Cyclops caught the sailors and ate them for breakfast.
         But one day an astonishing thing happened to the Cyclops.  He fell in love with a sea nymph.  Her name was Galatea and she was the daughter of the sea god, Nereus.  Galatea was a charming and mocking nymph who spent her day swimming with her mermaid sisters or playing with her friend, Acis. Acis, the son of Pan, was a beautiful sixteen - year - old youth whom Galatea loved very much.
         As much as Galatea loved Acis, she despised the ugly Cyclops.  The Cyclops, however, yearned for the sea nymph, and his love for her made his personality change.  He became kinder and more tender.  He lost his taste for human blood.  Rather than try to capture the sailors who sailed near his shore, he waved to them cheerfully.  But most amazing of all, the Cyclops even began to care about his appearance.  He stared into pools of water, searching for his reflection.  He tried to comb his shaggy hair and cut his bushy beard.
        The Cyclops' only friends were his flock of sheep. One day they followed him about the island as he searched for Galatea.  Carrying a pine stick as tall as a ship's mast, he tramped along the shore.  When his enormous feet grew tired, he sat on a rocky peninsula that jutted into the sea. As the waves splashed the gray rocks, the Cyclops played his homemade reed pipe.  His music was so loud and hideous it made the mountains and waves tremble.
        Little did the Cyclops know that Galatea and Acis were nearby embracing behind a rock.  The Cyclops began to sing a love song.
0 Galatea, more lovely than the winter sun,


Sweeter than autumn grapes, 
Softer than a swan's down ...

        The Cyclops heard laughter. He stopped singing and listened. After a moment of silence, he began again:

0 Galatea, I'll give you anythmg. 
Every grape, every strawberry, 
All the little deer, rabbits, and bear cubs 
You can have them for toys.

        The Cyclops heard more laughter.  He stopped singing and his one eye rolled suspiciously as he searched the shore.  After a moment of silence, he began singing again:

0 Galatea, 
I've looked at myself in the pool water. 
The more I looked, the more I liked what I saw. 
       More laughter! The Cyclops was starting to get angry. He stood up and sang in a booming voice:

O Galatea, more stubborn than a cow.
Harder than an oak,
Vainer than a peacock,
Meaner than a snake 

        Again, the Cyclops heard mocking laughter. He shook his walking stick at the sky and roared:

Galatea, listen to me!
Do you know who I am?
I own this island!
Each cave is mine! Each tree!
         The Cyclops charged onto the shore. Huffing and puffing, he tramped all over the island, searching for the sea nymph.  He lumbered over pastures and through woodlands.
          The frightened couple tried to hide under a heap of rocks on the shore, but the Cyclops finally tracked them down.  He glared at them with his huge rolling eye, and bellowed at Galatea,  "I see you with him!  But this is the last time you will ever be together!"  His voice was so loud it shook Mt. Aetna with its echoes.
         As the Cyclops thundered towards them, the sea nymph escaped by diving into the sea.  But Acis was not a sea - born creature.  He had no choice but to take off running.  The Cyclops chased the boy along is the shore.  The monster tore a ton of rock from the mountain and hurled it at Acis.  The giant rock buried the boy, killing him instantly.
         When the Cyclops calmed down, he felt ashamed of murdering Acis. Furthermore, now he was certain he would never win the nymph, Galatea; so he hung his shaggy head and slouched away with his sheep. 
         Once the Cyclops was gone, Galatea crept out of the sea.  When she realized what had happened to Acis, she screamed and fell to the ground.  As she mourned the loss of her beloved, she regretted taunting the Cyclops.  She asked the gods to forgive her for using her charms unwisely. 
        As if in answer to Galatea's prayer, blood flowed from the rock that had crushed Acis.  Then melted snow and spring rains streamed out.
        The blood, snow, and rain all ran together until the mighty boulder cracked, and a river raged forth.  Then an even greater miracle occurred: A boy, as blue as the sea and as tall as a giant, stood waist - high in the flowing river.  The boy was Acis; and from that day on, he was a mighty river god. 

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