Tragedies and triumphs are memorable themes in this collection of thirty-five myths and legends from the ancient world. Including the lesser-known tales of Polynesia and the Americas alongside the greatest stories in Greek mythology, young readers will explore the folklore of past civilizations.
|Product dimensions:||5.65(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.88(d)|
|Age Range:||9 - 14 Years|
About the Author
Anthony Horowitz is an award-winning, best-selling author, well known for hispopular movie, theater, and television scripts. He has written more than 20 children books, including the best-selling Alex Rider series.
Read an Excerpt
ISIS AND OSIRIS
The fourth great pharaoh of Egypt was named Osiris. He was a god, the great-
grandson of Re, who, according to the Egyptians, created the world. Tall,
dark-skinned, and remarkably handsome, he was one of the very best of the gods. He was even known as Onnophris, which means "the Good One," for he never got drunk, he never chased women, and he was a sworn enemy of violence.
Osiris took as his wife the goddess Isis, who also happened to be his sister.
You might think this was not a particularly good thing to do, but in those days (around 4,000 years before Christ) nobody would have batted an eyelid.
In fact, all of the human pharaohs made a point of marrying their sisters too—
just to show how much they approved of the idea.
Isis was a very beautiful goddess, with slender arms, a lithe, elegant body,
and wonderful green eyes. She would have been easily recognizable because she liked to wear a tall helmet with a gold disk set between two horns.
Osiris, of course, wore a crown and carried a scepter and whip—which were the symbols of his high office.
For many years Osiris and Isis reigned over Egypt, doing good wherever they went. The first thing they did was stamp out cannibalism. For, at that time,
the people were no more than savages who didn't even know how to cultivate the land. Osiris showed them how. He also taught the men how to make bread and wine. He built the first temples and designed the first statues. He even invented two different types of flutes.
Meanwhile, Isis was just as busy. She showed the women of Egypt how to grind corn and how to weave cloth and instructed the men in the art of medicine. She bore Osiris a son, Horus, who had the head of a falcon and was later worshiped as a sun god. It was Isis who introduced the whole idea of marriage to the people. Before that, everyone had just lived together as they pleased.
Isis and Osiris couldn't have been more popular. Nobody could have ruled
Egypt more wisely. But still Osiris wasn't content.
"You know," he muttered one day, "I really think it's time I left Egypt."
"Left Egypt?" his wife cried. "Why?"
"Well, we've done a lot of good work here. But what about the rest of the world? I mean, look at Asia—just for starters. The people of Asia are still living in caves. They have the most disgusting personal habits. They never bathe. They grunt at each other. I think it's time I went and did some good over in Asia."
"You're very good," Isis said. "But who will look after Egypt while you're away?"
"You will. You'll do just as good a job as me."
"If you say so."
"Good. That's settled, then."
Osiris left for Asia the next day. He took no soldiers with him and no weapons. Instead he trusted that music and kind words would win over the natives. Meanwhile, Isis ruled Egypt, keeping everything in perfect order.
But Osiris had a younger brother named Seth, who was his complete opposite in every way. For a start, Seth was repulsively ugly, with chalk-white skin, violent red hair, and a pointed nose. He had pimples, and he spoke in a whiny voice. Seth was jealous of his older brother. He hated Osiris and wanted to be the king of Egypt himself.
"The trouble with Osiris is that he's so good," he remarked one day to the queen of Ethiopia, who happened to be a friend of his.
"What's wrong with that?" the queen asked.
"Well, it's so boring for a start. And take this business of cannibalism. Osiris may not like it, but why should that mean we all have to stop it? Personally, I
have always adored a young boy lightly poached with rice. Now I'm not even allowed a nibble. And what's the harm in eating people? That's what I want to know."
"I wouldn't like to be eaten," the queen said.
"That's not the point. I think things were much better the way they used to be. We used to have so much fun . . ."
Seth would have liked to have taken advantage of his brother's absence to take over the kingdom, but Isis was so watchful that it was almost impossible. Instead he got together with 72 accomplices and devised a horrible plot. He pretended that he admired Osiris. Whenever his brother's name was mentioned, he would smile sweetly and praise him endlessly. And when Osiris got back from Asia, he invited him to a celebratory banquet.
Because of Seth's performance, Osiris suspected nothing and happily joined the 72 other guests at his brother's palace. It was indeed a truly delicious banquet, with great heaps of food served on solid gold plates and the finest wines flowing from solid gold jugs. At the end of the meal, Seth clapped his hands, and four servants entered, carrying an ornate chest, lined with silver and gold and studded with jewels. Calling for silence, Seth got to his feet.
"I thought I would end this feast," he said, "with a little competition. I'm sure my dear brother (whose goodness cannot be praised quite enough) will join in. The chest is both the challenge and the prize. I will give it to whomsoever can fit inside it. If you can fit inside the chest, then it's yours."
Osiris smiled when he heard this. He had noticed from the very start that all of Seth's friends were on the fat side, although he had been much too polite to mention it. What he didn't know was that Seth had chosen them for that very reason. Now he watched as one after another tried to squeeze into the box, and he joined in the laughter as the task proved impossible. At last, he stood up himself.
"My dear brother," he announced, "I think that I have more chance than anyone of winning your precious box. Let me try."
He walked down to the chest, got in without difficulty, and lay on his back.
"There you are . . ." he began.
And at that moment all 72 guests leaped on the chest, slammed down the lid, locked it, wrapped it in ropes and chains, and nailed it shut. Then they carried it out of the palace and, ignoring the muffled cries of protest from inside, hurled it into the Nile river.
The coffin—for that was what the chest had now become—was carried out to sea by the Nile. At last it was washed up on the Phoenician coast and came to rest under a tamarisk tree. The tree reached out with its branches and embraced the chest, pulling it inside its trunk. And that is where it remained for many years.
Eventually the tamarisk tree was cut down by a local king who needed a pillar to support the roof of his palace. But when the tree was set in place, it was discovered that it gave off a marvelous scent. People could smell the tamarisk tree for miles around, a smell of summer, of honey, and of fresh blossoms. So remarkable was the phenomenon that news of it spread first across the country and eventually all the way to Isis in Egypt. Because of her knowledge of magic, she guessed that the tree must contain the body of
Osiris and slipped away at once to retrieve it.
After the death of her husband and brother, Isis had torn her clothes and cut her hair in mourning, as custom dictated. For a long time she had searched for his body, but without success. And, meanwhile, Seth had seized the throne of Egypt, ruling with cruelty where Osiris had shown only kindness,
enslaving the people, and once again encouraging cannibal feasts. Now Isis wasted no time in cutting open the pillar and removing the chest. Once it was in her possession, she carried it back to Egypt and hid it on the floating island of Chemmis in the middle of the Nile.
There she remained, bathing the chest in tears, while she prepared the necessary funeral rites. But her misfortunes were far from over. For it happened that Seth, who loved to go hunting at night, chanced to go to the island of Chemmis and, to his great surprise, stumbled on the chest.
"What is this?" he exclaimed. "My dear brother seems to love me so much that he has returned to plague me. Well, this time I must get rid of him once and for all."
And so saying, he opened the casket, drew his sword, and cut the body into
14 pieces. Then he scattered the pieces across the land of Egypt and went back to the palace to sleep.
Now, Isis had seen what had happened, and the next two years of her life were spent searching for the 14 pieces of Osiris. It was, you can imagine, a strange business. One day, in the middle of a clump of bulrushes, she might discover an arm and part of an elbow. Then, several months later, in a grove of palm trees, she would come across a foot or a knee. It was a complicated and gruesome jigsaw puzzle, but at last the time came when she had found
13 pieces of Osiris. The last piece had been eaten by a crab.
Using all of her powers of magic, Isis joined the 13 pieces together again so that the body was whole. The process that she discovered that day was called embalming, and afterward all of the great pharaohs and the wealthiest noblemen were embalmed in exactly the same way, which is why there have always been so many mummies in Egypt.
When Isis had finished her work, Osiris woke up as if from a deep sleep and embraced her. He could now have chosen to stay in Egypt in order to punish
Seth and regain the throne. But having been smothered in a chest, drowned in the Nile, swallowed up by a tree, and finally cut into 14 pieces, he was too tired and instead decided to descend to the Egyptian underworld.
And so it was that it was left to Horus, the son of Osiris, to avenge his father's death. He and Seth fought many battles, with Seth becoming stronger and crueler as every day passed. But finally Horus took a sharp harpoon and plunged it into Seth's brain, and that was the end of him.
Horus became the pharaoh of Egypt, the last god to rule in human form. And
Osiris remained with Isis in the underworld, where he ruled over the dead as kindly and as wisely as he had once ruled over the living.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book had an amazing story in each chapter! Some of the stories explain how the sun rises and sets, and why winter looks how it does. I read this as an assignment at school, and I didn't think it would be that good, but it was fantastic!
The only thing I can say is: The book is great.
This book had a boring story in each chapter! Some of the stories explain how the sun rises and sets, and why winter looks how it does.i just think that was all boring! Ist has made a loser out of the myth and legend writers of today. This author also made a book about how evil zeus was and how good hera was. that is just a bunch of lies
myths and legends i think is a great book about ancient greek and how some things today are told in ancient greek to explain why certain things happen