Stories of the Ancient Greeks - Charles D. Shaw

The Magic Box

So far, man lived alone upon the earth. He gathered some animals about him,—the horse to ride, the ox for the plow, the dog for friendship. But none of these could talk to him. They had voices and made noises, but they could not speak as he could. He was lonely in his wide and beautiful world.

Zeus, the father of the gods, called his family together. "Look down to earth," he said. "Do you see that creature walking upright there?"

They answered, "Yes, great Father! We see him."

"He is lonely," said Zeus. "Let us give him a companion. He is man. I will form a woman to be with him, and each of you shall give her something that shall be a part of her life."

The gods and goddesses were pleased. Zeus created the woman, but she had yet no life. Aphrodite bent down and kissed her on cheeks and lips. A lovely flush appeared on her face, her mouth became rosy and smiling, she had received the gift of beauty.

Athene drew near, and gently laid her hand upon the woman's brow. "My gift is wisdom," she said. "This woman shall be wise to spin, to weave, to do all manner of household work, and to train up children in goodness."

The shining god Apollo came up, and touched her lips and her fingers.

"I give her the power of music," he declared. "She shall be able to sing sweet songs of love and home and hope and heaven. From reeds and strings she shall be able to draw pleasant sounds to cheer man when he is tired, and to comfort him when he is sad."

Then Ares, the god of war, looked at her and said, "She will not be a fighter herself, but she shall be the cause of many wars. That is my gift. I have no other."

Hephæstus, the blacksmith, limped up and said, "I will put iron in her blood. That will make her strong to bear trouble and endure hardship. Smaller and finer than man, she shall be more patient and steadfast than him."

Eros brought for his gift a warm and tender heart. "She is lovely and shall be loving," he said.

Last of all came Hermes, the swift-running god. His eyes twinkled as he touched her ears, her eyes and her nose.

"My gift is curiosity. To see everything, to hear everything, and to know everything, that shall be her wish," he said. Then he touched her tongue, but did not say anything more.

Zeus stretched forth his golden scepter, and laid it lightly upon her head.

"Arise, woman!" he exclaimed. She arose and stood upon her feet.

"The gods have given you their gifts," he declared.

"Your name shall be Pandora," which means "All-gifts."

"Hermes," he called, "take this woman down to earth and give her to man, to be his companion for better and for worse, for sorrow and for joy. Take with you also this box, her wedding present, which must never be opened. Go, perform your duty."

Hermes took Pandora by the hand, and soon they were on the earth. They entered the man's hut, and Hermes said, "This is your wife, sent to you by Zeus. Her name is Pandora. Here is your wedding present, this box which must never be opened. Farewell."

The man was very happy with his new companion. She was beautiful, kind, gentle, and cheerful. He showed her his knives and hammers, axes and saws, his bow and spear, arrows and fishhooks, his plow and hoe, and everything that he had made of bronze. She told him how to make a distaff and spindle for spinning, and how to build a loom for weaving. She asked him to make hairpins for her hair, and needles to sew with, and knitting needles that she might knit stockings and caps.

When the man went out to work she stayed in the house. In one corner of the room stood the magic box, her wedding present. If she was spinning or weaving, or sewing or knitting, she was always looking at that. It was of ivory, beautifully carved.

She often said, "I do wonder what it holds. It is so handsome outside that the inside must be very lovely."

Sometimes she laid down her work and went to the box. She looked at it with her eyes, listened at it with her ears, sniffed at it with her nose. But she could never be sure that there was any sound or any odor. She began to be worried. The gift of Hermes was giving her a great deal of trouble.

Often at night she would wake up and say to her husband, "I do wonder what is in the box."

He would answer, "It is not to be opened. Go to sleep. I am tired."

But she could not rest day or night. Always she wondered what was in that strange box. Why it given if it must never be opened?



At last she could bear it no longer. She lifted the lid just a little. There was a stir and rush in the box, the lid was thrown wide open, and out flew a multitude of things with wings. They seemed like wasps and hornets and stinging insects, but they were worse. They were trouble, sorrow, sickness, distress, pain, anger, envy, hatred, malice, falsehood, everything ugly and dreadful.

Pandora clapped down the lid, too late. These creatures buzzed in her ears, settled in her hair, filled the hut, and flew out of the window over all the world.

Pandora sank down, crying as if her heart would break. Then she heard a knocking in the box, and a little voice saying, "Let me out."

She raised the lid, and a charming little creature came out of the box.

"Poor Pandora!" she said. My name is Hope. I will stay with you and comfort you. You can never get rid of the trouble you have caused by opening the box but I was sent to cheer you and to help you bear your trials."

That was all the good that Pandora got from the magic box. When everything else was against her she still had hope.