Gateway to the Classics: Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding
Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men by  Caroline H. and Samuel B. Harding

Hephaestus, the Smith-God

H EPHAESTUS, the god of fire and metal-working, was the son of Zeus and Hera. While he was a child, he lived with the sea-nymphs in an ocean cavern. From his very babyhood he could make all kinds of useful and beautiful things, and it was his constant delight to be planning some marvelous invention. When he was grown, he took his place on Mount Olympus with the other gods, and was always busy making things either for himself or for them. Among other wonderful things, he made magic shoes that could tread water or air as easily as earth; caps which made the persons who wore them invisible; and gold and silver dishes that would carry themselves away from the table, without the aid of servants.

Hephaestus had his forge and workshop in his own palace on Mount Olympus. He trained many servants to aid him in his work, and planned twenty great bellows for his forge, which would blow his fire into a fierce heat at a word from him. He had other workshops upon the earth; and wherever there was a volcano with smoke and fire coming from its summit, the people said that there Hephaestus was busy with his giant helpers making wonderful things for the gods.

As you have learned, the gods and goddesses were not always good and kind. One day Hera made her husband angry; and to punish her, Zeus fastened her hands and feet together, and hung her in the air midway between heaven and earth. This was a very cruel way to treat the beautiful and stately Hera, and all the gods pitied her. Hephaestus was so sorry for his mother that he tried to set her free. This made Zeus still more angry, and he struck him so heavily in his rage that poor Hephaestus was thrown headlong from the sky.

Down, down he fell for a whole day, and struck the earth at last upon a beautiful island The fall did not kill him, for he was one of the immortal gods, and could not die; but he fell with such force that he was lame ever afterwards.

Zeus was too deeply angry to allow Hephaestus to return at once to his home among the gods, so he was forced to remain upon his island. After he had recovered from his fall he used to wander about his new home, seeking something with which to busy himself. He found great quantities of gold and silver; but he had no furnace, and so could do nothing with them. But one day he heard a strange rumbling in the earth, and following the sound he came upon a newly formed volcano.

"Here is my furnace," he exclaimed, and immediately began to cut a hole in the mountain to get at the fire. There he set up his workshop, and brought to it some of the gold and silver which he had found. From this he made many wonderful and beautiful things. Among them he made some new thunderbolts, and sent them as a gift to Zeus. In return for these, Zeus recalled him to Mount Olympus.

Hephaestus must have looked very strange in the meetings of the gods after this; for he was ugly and crippled from his fall, while the others were straight and beautiful. But he was the kindest and best-natured of them all, and often served as peace-maker among them. Once while he was trying to settle a quarrel in the assembly of the gods, he took the place of the cup-bearer, and handed about the cup of wine from which they used to drink. But he was so awkward about it that the other gods burst into a shout of laughter as he went limping about. Hephaestus did not care, however; for he had succeeded in stopping the quarrel, and that was what he had wished to do.

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