A Bag Of Winds
A Greek Legend
"Oh, Grace, do see that man with all those little balloons! Don't they look like a bunch of big cherries?"
"Yes, they do, Carrie, but cherries are all of one color, and some of his balloons are red and some are blue. Oh, here is one that has burst. See, it is only a little rubber sack that was once full of air."
"That makes me think, Carrie, of a story I read the other day about a bag of winds. It was about the King of the Winds and his kindness. It was this way:
"Once a man named Ulysses was sailing over a great sea, and he came to an island. He and his sailors were so tired and hungry that they stopped for food and rest. The King of the Winds--his name was Aeolus--was very kind to them, and they feasted for fifteen days; then they had to go forward on their journey again. King Aeolus thought so much of Ulysses that he told him that he would see that he had good sailing weather all the way home, if Ulysses would promise to take charge of what he would give him.
"King Aeolus went alone to the great cave in the mountains where he kept the four strong winds and some of the weaker ones. He pounded on the door with his heavy key to let them know he was there, and that they must wait his call. Then he unlocked the door and let out the strong East Wind, but caught the others in a great bag made of a whole ox-hide. This he tied with a stout cord, and the East Wind took it on his shoulders and carried it to the boat that was about to sail.
"Then King Aeolus told Ulysses how to fasten it to the mast, and the East Wind had great frolics with the queer bag in which were his brothers.
"King Aeolus told Ulysses never to sleep unless his faithful watchman was guarding this treasure. Ulysses thanked him and promised faithfully. Such beautiful weather had never been known before for so long a time. The East Wind had no one to quarrel with, and the boat flew like a bird for nine long days.
"The captain grew weary the tenth night and went to sleep while his watchman was off duty. That was just the chance the sailors wanted. Slyly up to the mast crept a strong sailor, thinking he would cut down this treasure which he thought was gold. As soon as the string snapped, he found out his mistake, and so did everyone in the boat.
"The mighty North Wind felt the loosening strings and rising from the corner of the ox-hide bag, into which he had been thrust, rushed past his brothers and escaped first into the open air. The West Wind came after, screaming hoarsely, while the South Wind, roused to anger by such rough treatment, whistled fiercely as his brother, North Wind, grappled with him. The clouds were twisted into curious shapes as the winds wrestled above the sea. The strong East Wind strove to drive back the West Wind, but found that nine days of rest had given his brother great strength, and the waves rose like mountains under their feet. For seven hours the winds fought, while the waters were black, for not one star dared to watch the battle. The boat of Ulysses was tossed like a seaweed, and the sailors longed for the sunlight that they might see if the storm had taken anyone from the ship. When the light came and the fury of the winds grew less, it was found that not one sailor had been lost; not even the traitor who had cut down the bag. His punishment was to live.
"The boat drifted back to the land of King Aeolus, and Ulysses begged for help. 'I cannot help you,' he said. 'You have done this by your carelessness, and you must now toil at the oars, as before, while I seek my lost winds.'
"When the winds were tired with their roaming, they came back and were willing to be led to their cave, but the stout ox-hide bag was lost, and King Aeolus never made another."
Sources And Further Reading
Project Gutenberg Classic Myths Retold by Mary Catherine Judd with drawings entirely from classic sources