Gateway to the Classics: Myths and Enchantment Tales by Margaret Evans Price
Myths and Enchantment Tales by  Margaret Evans Price

Front Matter


The Foreword

A LL the world loves a story. Millions of children, in all countries, in all ages, have lifted eager faces—white, black, yellow, brown—to the grandmother telling of a runner swifter than the wind, like Atalanta, or a young hero slaying the dragon that would have devoured a lovely maiden, as Perseus rescued Andromeda, or of a tiny people no bigger than clothespins, like the Pygmies, who fought the cranes.

But how did the first story-telling grandmother, in India, in Africa, in America, in Iceland, know these stories? Who had told them to her?

Some of their stories these first of all story-telling grandmothers learned from pictures, as babies read stories to this day. But their picture books were not made of paper or of cloth; they were wrought of light and shade and color, for the sky is the first and best picture book of all. And these far-away grandmothers, gazing up at the heavens from the mouths of dim caves or the doors of rude huts, saw the sun and moon as brother and sister, shining twins, the one shooting golden arrows and the other silver. Different names were given them in different languages; the Greeks called them Apollo and Diana. From the gleaming clouds of sunset, hanging yellow in the west, sprang the story of the Golden Fleece. Grandmothers in the tepees of our American Indians still tell their little redskins that the Sun canoes through the sky from east to west every day and walks back at night across the prairies. The Greeks had him ride in a golden chariot. To the Moon they gave a silver chariot, and told many a romance of this "goddess excellently bright."

Not the sky alone, but all the earth beneath, taught these wise old grandmothers their wonder tales. As often as the spring blossoms up from the ground, so often the stolen Proserpina returns from darkness to the light. What happens down there in the dull, unlovely ground that from it should break forth all manner of entrancing forms, colors, fragrances? Not all the spades that have been tapping at the brown doors of the earth for hundreds and thousands of years have entered into her mystery.

There are hints of legend in these stories. It would have been a very ancient grandmother indeed who remembered how chill and damp it was in the cave before Prometheus brought to man the gift of fire. When we read of Daedalus and Icarus with their feather wings fastened on with beeswax, we realize that all through the centuries man has been trying to learn the secret of the birds.

But a great many of these stories are written not only in skies and flowers and trees and rocks, not only in the growth of civilization; they are written in the heart itself. Even children, in their own dawn of life, know what some of these stories tell. It is good to be strong like Hercules, though the strong must weary themselves with labor upon labor and bear heavy burdens. It is not well to play the spy, like Actaeon, nor to be overcurious, like Psyche. It is glorious to ride the winged Pegasus on brave adventure like Bellerophon, but it is wretched to be greedy for gold, like poor King Midas, whose touch turned all that was warm and tender into metal.

Do not say these stories are too beautiful to be true. They are too beautiful not to be true. Let them persuade you that the lives you live, and the world in which you live them, are made up of beauty and marvel and splendor. The only thing that does not exist is the commonplace.


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