The scorching sun’s rays baked the dry earth, and every animal sought the comfort of shade. Every shadowed spot sheltered a fury creature. Every overhang protected beasts, large and small, from the blaze. Only with the setting of the sun did the animals find relief. Only when Apollo guided his chariot toward the western horizon did any dare to move. The drought dragged on day after day, and eventually the protecting leaves curled and dried.
Two small creatures, who loved the sun’s gentler warmth from before the drought, spent each evening and night on a quest for Mount Olympus. They toiled through the darkness even though they couldn’t see clearly. They traveled under moonlight using the stars as their guides. For these creatures, the night became a friend.
Eventually, the fury animals climbed onto the highest point of Mount Olympus. They went straight to Demeter, goddess of grains and crops.
“Demeter?” one of the diminutive creatures clicked in its tiny voice. “Why have you allowed Apollo to ride his chariot so closely to the earth? All of the animals and plants suffer under the hot beams of the sun’s rays.”
Demeter looked sadly upon the pocket-sized mammals. “I miss my daughter, Persephone. I may only visit her once a year, so I miss her with all my heart.”
“But Demeter, all the animals and plants count upon you to keep the earth growing green! We suffer cruelly under this drought. You are a mighty goddess. Can you not set aside your feelings for a while and take care of us? We, too, are your children.”
Now Demeter felt guilty when she realized she’d let her own grief cause harm to the plants and animals under her care. But she also resented the two little creatures that came to her. They had no right to tell her how to do her duties!
“I will go to Apollo and tell him he travels too closely to the earth,” Demeter said, and then she continued sternly, “but I am upset that you two creatures believe you can tell me, a goddess, how to do my job! Such insolence cannot go unpunished!” Demeter glared at the two little animals with passion. “Your punishment will be never to see the sun again! You will scurry through the night like lost children.” With a wave of her hand, she dismissed the tiny fur balls.
The small animals’ eyes welled with tears, for they truly loved the soft sunshine when it caressed their fur. They know the moonlight and stars had befriended them on their journey, but their eyes strained in the dimness. They knew night contained unseen predators, so fear filled their hearts.
Aphrodite and Dionysus sensed their despair. They took pity upon these creatures and appeared before them as they scurried away from Mount Olympus.
Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, reached the animals first. “Friends,” she said softly,” it is not fair that you should be punished because you wanted to help all of the animals and plants. I cannot undo what Demeter has set into motion. I can ease your sorrow, though.”
Aphrodite leaned down and picked up the two animals, cupping them gently in her hands. She caressed their front legs, and they turned into skin-covered wings! She blew softly into their ears, and their ears grew sensitive sound collectors.
“With these wings,” Aphrodite explained, “you can soar through the night. You can dance from star to star. With these ears you can hear the smallest sound. You can locate food and sense danger.”
Aphrodite handed the animals to the god, Dionysus. His jolly smile warmed the animals’ hearts. They knew they were safe in his hands. He grinned broadly and announced for all the gods t hear, “These creatures of the night will fly from flower to flower. They will pollinate my grapes to help me create the best of wines. They will feed upon insects that harm the crops. They will become the friends of all that grow and bloom.”
Dionysus gently tossed the creatures into the air. They stretched their skin-covered wings in experimentation and began their first flight. They flitted through the night air with a feeling of exuberance because the hands of the other gods had softened Demeter’s punishment.
So now, when the sun sets in the west, and evenings’ glow begins to descend, when the cooling breeze caresses the earth, the descendants of these two animals fill the sky like black fluttering clouds. They pollinate flowers; they protect crops by eating harmful insects; they sing in high pitched clicks only their sensitive ears hear; and they dance in the moonlight under the stars.
Copyright 2007 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman
Seventh graders love Greek mythology. When I challenged my students to create their own myths, I decided to write my own as well.