|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Mika Provata-Carlone is an independent scholar, translator, editor, photographer and illustrator. She is passionate about good books, old and new, for the young and for the old; also about old-fashionedpresses, smelling of paper and ink. She has also translated Pockety for Pushkin Children's Books.
Read an Excerpt
In which we witness the birth of Hermes
The sun was only barely beginning to rise when Hermes came out of his mother’s womb. He stretched himself, yawned and leapt right away to his feet. Then he ran to the entrance of the cave where he had just been born, in order to admire the world. “How beautiful it is!” he murmured.
It was indeed a very strange birth. Had anyone ever seen a child who had started to walk and talk the instant he was born? This child, however, lived in the land of the gods. This child lived in the beginning of time. In times of mystery when everything was possible. What Hermes discovered on this first morning of his birth was a landscape of rare beauty.
The cave where he had just seen the light of day had been dug out at the top of a very high mountain. Fine grassy hills extended below his feet. It was the fourth day of the month of May, and spring was bursting. The child put his hand over his eyes to shield them from the rising sun. He looked for a long time at the small white blotches on the green grass:
they were flocks of sheep. He looked for a long time at the small purple blotches on the green grass: they were budding trees. A bird flew in the sky above, tracing great circles. A fine perfumed smell wafted in the air. Hermes suddenly felt the urge to laugh, to burst into laughter: this is how beautiful life seemed to him as it began.
It was then that a gentle voice called to him from inside the cave. It was Maia, his mother. She had long, silky hair and her gaze was sweet like honey. She smelt good, she smelt of mummy.
Hermes went back inside the cave.
“Where is my father?” he asked.
Maia gave a strange smile. “He is everywhere and nowhere.”
Hermes pulled himself sharply away from his mother and stamped his foot on the ground: “But I want to see him, I want to!”
“Everything in good time,” replied Maia, running her fingers through her child’s curly hair.
The sun was already high up in the sky when Hermes realized that he was hungry. His mother had fallen asleep and he had followed her in her slumber, nestling tightly close to her. Without a sound, he freed himself from Maia’s arms and decided to go off in search of adventure. He really hoped that he would find on this beautiful earth something which would make him happy.
Noiselessly, Hermes clad himself with a sheepskin; he slung a bag over his shoulder and left the cave. Then he scampered down the slopes of the very high mountain without looking back.
He was whistling gaily and walked at a brisk pace. All of a sudden his foot struck what he took to be a great green stone.
The stone rolled some feet away from him. Hermes stopped and picked it up. It wasn’t a stone, but the shell of a tortoise! “It might always come in handy,” he told himself. And he slipped it into his bag.
A little farther, Hermes saw at the edge of the road some great shrubs with shiny leaves. A pungent scent which tingled his nose emanated from them. They were laurels, the sacred tree of the god Apollo. Hermes did not know this yet. But he liked the smell, so he broke off a laurel branch and slipped it into his bag. “It might come in handy,” he told himself. A little farther still, Hermes came near a pond. A forest of supple stalks swayed around him. He thought that he could hear them murmur:
“Good-day, day-good, good-day…” Since he was naturally polite,
he returned the greeting to the long reeds. Then he slipped a few of them into his bag, saying to himself: “They may always come in handy.” And he continued on his way. He was not yet very tall, and the forest of reeds concealed him almost completely.
This is how he arrived unseen before a herd of cows. These cows were magnificent. They possessed long, curvy horns.
Their skin glistened in the sun. With their heads held high,
they contemplated the world around them with astonishing elegance. They were so white and so nobly proud that Hermes was certain that he had discovered the most beautiful cows in the world. He felt a great urge to play with them. He dreamt of climbing on their backs for a royal jaunt. He dreamt of sliding underneath their udders to drink their milk. Hmm, how good that warm and frothy milk must be! Hermes, who was getting very hungry, felt his mouth water at the thought. He threw a few glances all around but there was no drover in sight. No one seemed to be keeping watch over this herd. So he made up his mind to serve himself. Yet he had to show cunning. Hermes lay down for a few moments on the mound of cool grass in order to think. The butterflies flitted about him, the sun tickled his neck. What would be the best way to steal these cows without getting caught?
To be continued…
In which Hermes invents fire
Previously: On the very day of his birth, Hermes
runs away from the cave where he was born, in order
to see the world. He discovers the most beautiful
cows on earth. And he decides to steal a few…
Hermes looked minuscule next to the immense cows of the herd he had discovered. He did not hesitate for an instant,
however. He edged his way among the beasts and approached the one with the longest horns. He was convinced that this particular cow was the leader of the herd. He stretched one hand gently towards her; the cow turned her head around sharply. Hermes flinched: was she going to give him a good, hard blow with her horns? The animal’s eyes were, however, full of kindness.
Hermes raised himself up on the tips of his toes and spoke into her ear for a long time. What was said between the child and the animal has remained secret. Yet the cow nodded her head thrice to tell Hermes that she had understood well. Then she assembled fifty or so of the most beautiful cows of the herd,
and walked them backwards out of the field. That’s right—the cows were all of them walking backwards! Hermes was skipping with joy all around them as he guided them along the way. He was very proud of his ruse: in this manner, they were fleeing in one direction, while their hoof prints gave the impression that they were heading in the opposite one. Hermes could not keep from laughing, very pleased with the trick he had just played on the owner of the cows. Hermes could not help but wonder who could possibly possess such beautiful beasts. A thought crossed his mind: what if these cows were the property of a god? There was a good risk that his anger might be terrible…
As the way was long, Hermes decided to take shelter with his cows in the recess of a valley. A small brook snaked its way through the hollow of the valley. The beasts drank and the child began to skim stones. He was so absorbed by the small pebbles he was throwing against the surface of the water that he did not notice the passage of time. All of a sudden he shivered.
“But what is happening? It is dark here and it is cold too,” he murmured, bewildered. Night had fallen soundlessly, and Hermes was discovering it for the first time. Very quickly he began to feel anxious. No matter how wide he opened his eyes, he could see nothing in the darkness. He could just barely make out the outline of his herd, if at all. “But where has the light gone? Will it come back? I cannot stay in the dark, I am too scared, I really am!” He approached the cows in order to feel more reassured.
The beasts had lain on the ground. The cow with the longest horns, however, was still standing. She was striking the rocky ground with her feet, staring hard at Hermes as she did so. She struck, and struck, and struck. All of a sudden a faint spark sprang from under her hoof. When he saw it, Hermes leapt to his feet.
Right away he began to look for a tender piece of wood. When he had found it, he took out of his bag the branch of laurel that he had picked up along the way. He took it between the palms of his hands and began to rub the branch against the piece of hard wood. The child rubbed, and rubbed, and rubbed. He rubbed so very much that after a while a thin plume of smoke emerged, then a flame leapt up. Immediately he added some dry grass, then some kindling wood, and soon there were great flames dancing. Hermes had just invented fire! The fire drove away the cold, the fire drove away the darkness, the fire drove away fear. Hermes was happy. He had just created on earth the invention which would prove the most useful to men.
Since that morning, he had still not eaten anything except strawberries and raspberries he had collected along the way, and some bitter-tasting fruit he had picked off an almond tree. His hunger was once again making itself felt. He went to see the cow with the long horns. As though she had understood, the fine beast laid herself down. Hermes lay next to her and drank all of her milk.
Once he had drunk to his heart’s content, Hermes resumed his way. A friendly moon had risen. Having reached the foot of the same mountain where he had been born that very morning, he hid away the stolen cows. He wished them good night, clambered up to his cave and slipped noiselessly into his crib. His mother Maia had, however, heard him. She had been waiting for him.
“Where do you come from in the middle of the night?” she said.
“You scold me as though I were a baby,” protested Hermes,
“but I am all grown up now.”
Maia was about to reply to Hermes that one should not go too fast in life, but she stayed silent. Hermes was tired. As he had been talking, he had taken hold of a rag with one hand and his tortoise shell with the other. The great adventurer looked once more exactly like a baby. So Maia approached the crib and began to hum softly:
Sweet baby Hermes, you will be the one most loved.
Great cuddly Hermes, you shall never fear a thing.
Because you are the son of the strongest of the strong,
The son of the master of the living gods.
With his thumb in his mouth, Hermes murmured: “Mummy,
who is my father?”
Maia leant down and whispered: “He is called Zeus, he is the king of the gods.”
But Hermes did not hear her. He had already fallen asleep.
And he would do well to rest, for on the following day a great surprise awaited him…
To be continued…