How Troubles Came into the World
A very long time ago, in the Golden Age, every one was good and happy. It was always spring; the earth was covered with flowers, and only gentle winds blew to set the flowers dancing.
No one had any work to do. People lived on mountain strawberries, which were always to be had for the gathering, and on wild grapes, blackberries, and sweet acorns, which grew plentifully in the oak forests. Rivers flowed with milk and nectar. Even the bees did not need to lay up honey, for it fell in tiny drops from the trees. There was abundance everywhere.
In all the whole world, there was not a sword, nor any weapon by means of which men might fight with one another. No one had ever heard of any such thing. All the iron and the gold were buried deep underground.
Besides, people were never ill; they had no troubles of any kind; and never grew old.
The two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus, lived in those wonderful days. After stealing the fire for man, Prometheus, knowing that Jupiter would be angry, decided to go away for a time on a distant journey; but before he went, he warned Epimetheus not to receive any gifts from the gods.
One day, after Prometheus had been gone for some time, Mercury came to the cottage of Epimetheus, leading by the hand a beautiful young woman, whose name was Pandora. She had a wreath of partly opened rosebuds on her head, a number of delicate gold chains twisted lightly around her neck, and wore a filmy veil which fell nearly to the hem of her tunic. Mercury presented her to Epimetheus, saying the gods had sent this gift that he might not be lonesome.
Pandora had such a lovely face that Epimetheus could not help believing that the gods had sent her to him in good faith. So he paid no heed to the warning of Prometheus, but took Pandora into his cottage, and found that the days passed much more quickly and pleasantly when she was with him.
Soon, the gods sent Epimetheus another gift. This was a heavy box, which the satyrs brought to the cottage, with directions that it was not to be opened. Epimetheus let it stand in a corner of his cottage; for by this time he had begun to think that the caution of Prometheus about receiving gifts from the gods was altogether unnecessary.
Often, Epimetheus was away all day, hunting or fishing or gathering grapes from the wild vines that grew along the river banks. On such days, Pandora had nothing to do but to wonder what was in the mysterious box. One day her curiosity was so great that she lifted the lid a very little way and peeped in. The result was similar to what would have happened had she lifted the cover of a beehive. Out rushed a great swarm of little winged creatures, and before Pandora knew what had happened, she was stung. She dropped the lid and ran out of the cottage, screaming. Epimetheus, who was just coming in at the door, was well stung, too.
The little winged creatures that Pandora had let out of the box were Troubles, the first that had ever been seen in the world. They soon flew about and spread themselves everywhere, pinching and stinging whenever they got the chance.
After this, people began to have headaches, rheumatism, and other illnesses; and instead of being always kind and pleasant to one another, as they had been before the Troubles were let out of the box, they became unfriendly and quarrelsome. They began to grow old, too.
Nor was it always spring any longer. The fresh young grasses that had clothed all the hillsides, and the gay-colored flowers that had given Epimetheus and Pandora so much pleasure, were scorched by hot summer suns, and bitten by the frosts of autumn. Oh, it was a sad thing for the world, when all those wicked little Troubles were let loose!
All the Troubles escaped from the box, but when Pandora let the lid fall so hastily, she shut in one little winged creature, a kind of good fairy whose name was Hope. This little Hope persuaded Pandora to let her out. As soon as she was free, she flew about in the world, undoing all the evil that the Troubles had done, that is, as fast as one good fairy could undo the evil work of such a swarm. No matter what evil thing had happened to poor mortals, she always found some way to comfort them. She fanned aching heads with her gossamer wings; she brought back the color to pale cheeks; and best of all, she whispered to those who were growing old that they should one day be young again.
So this is the way that Troubles came into the world, but we must not forget that Hope came with them.