Deucalion and Pyrrha
The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha
The mythical story of Deucalion and Pyrrha
by Lilian Stoughton Hyde
The Myth of Deucalion and Pyrrha
After the Golden Age there came a time when men began to quarrel with one another. Then the gods sent hot summers and cold winters. Men made themselves places in which to live, in caves and grottos, where they might be protected from the hot sun in summer, and from cold winds in winter. They ploughed the ground and grew grain, which they laid away for food during the cold season.
As the world grew older, men became more and more quarrelsome. At last they dug gold out of the ground, where it had lain for so long a time; and they dug out iron too. They quarrelled more sadly than ever over the possession of the bright yellow gold they had found; and, what was worst of all, they made sharp knives and other weapons out of iron, and fought fiercely with each other.
After this, robbery, murder, and many other crimes were common on the earth. Things grew worse and worse, till a man's life was not safe anywhere. Finally, in all the whole world there were only two people who continued to sacrifice to the gods. These two were Deucalion and Pyrrha, who were good and gentle, like the people who had lived in the Golden Age.
Jupiter, the father of the gods, looking down from Mount Olympus and seeing how wicked the people of the earth had grown, made up his mind that he would destroy them all. So he shut up the North Wind in the caves of Aeolus, and sent forth the South Wind, for the South Wind was the wind that would bring the rain.
Clouds gathered over all the earth, and great drops of rain began to fall, slowly at first, then faster and faster. It rained till the grain was laid flat in the fields, still the clouds did not lighten, nor the rain cease falling. The rivers overflowed their banks, and rushed in over the plains, uprooting great trees, and carrying away houses and cattle and men. The sea, as well as the rivers, flowed in over the land, till dolphins played among the branches of forest trees. Sea-nymphs, too, might have been seen peeping out from among great oaks. Still the rain never stopped, and the water rose higher and higher.
Men and animals made their way to the hills as well as they could, wolves, lions, and tigers swimming side by side with sheep or cattle, all in one common danger. They made their way first to the hills and then to the mountains, but the water came creeping up, up, till all but the tops of the highest mountains were out of sight. At last, when the rain stopped, and the clouds broke away a little, only the top of Mount Parnassus, which was the highest mountain of all, remained above water.
Picture of Deucalion and Pyrrha
Deucalion and Pyrrha were sailing in a little ship, which they had managed to keep afloat. When they saw that the top of Mount Parnassus was still out of water, they anchored their ship there, and sacrificed to the gods.
Now, as you know, Deucalion and Pyrrha had not become wicked like the rest of mankind. When Jupiter saw that only these two were left, he sent out the North Wind to blow away the clouds. Then Neptune, the god of the sea, sent his chief Triton, to blow a long, twisted horn, and the sea heard, and went back to the place where it rightfully belonged.
As the waters rapidly fell away, the earth appeared again, but what a change! Everything was covered with a dismal coating of yellow mud. And it was so very still - not a sound from any living thing! Deucalion and Pyrrha felt as if even the sound of quarrelling would be better than such perfect silence.