How Fire Came To Earth
A Greek Legend
Once the earth was but a ball of dead, cold rock and barren sand. Once the waters were nothing but a mass of icy waves.
Two great giants, Titans the Greeks called them, were given the task of making the earth what it had been planned to be.
Epimetheus and Prometheus were the names of these giants. Epimetheus took upon himself the task of making the lower animals and man. Prometheus overlooked the work and gave hints if he saw that anything was lacking.
Epimetheus made the fishes. He set them afloat in the water, and taught them to swim. He made the lion and gave it courage. He gave wings to the bird and showed it how to fly swiftly through the air. He covered the crab with its shell and taught it how to creep.
Man came last. Epimetheus had nothing to give him. Claws, wings, shelly covering, fur, everything had been bestowed on the creatures which he had made first. Epimetheus saw how weak man was with all the fierce animals around him. He went to Prometheus for help, and said:
"I have clothed this last creature which I have made with robes from the garments the immortals have cast aside. The thorns cannot tear him, but the wild beast can take his life in a moment. Help me to make him conqueror of everything in earth and sea and sky."
Prometheus sought Minerva for wisdom. She gave him a golden torch, whose wood was cut from the pines that grew nearest heaven on the earth's highest peak, and said:
"Follow what this branch of pine is seeking. It will take and hold the gift reserved for man."
When Prometheus grasped the torch, it leaped upward through the sky past the pale, cold moon; past flashing stars; upward, till the torch and its bearer stood in the high heavens by the burning chariot of the sun.
The pine kissed the leaping flames and a fire was kindled in its own heart. Prometheus sprang backward from the sun chariot, and, bearing the flaming torch in his hands, brought down to man, from the sun, the gift of fire.
No creature but man can possess or use this gift. Man would not part with it for all the treasures below the earth's surface, nor for all the gifts that birds, beasts, and fishes can boast.
With fire, weapons are made that can subdue the strongest beast that ever fought for its life. Tools with which man tills the earth and blasts the rock are made with the aid of fire. With fire man warms his dwelling. While the wild creatures shiver in the ice and snow man makes summer within the four walls of his home.
Man walks the earth a conqueror, but should the gift of fire be taken from him, how would he then teach the lower animals that he is their master? Having this gift he excels all other creatures. Without it he would be poor indeed.
Go where you will, the gift Prometheus brought is known to the race to whom it was given. There is no savage so ignorant but that he has the art of making fire.
Fire gleams from the eyeballs of the beasts when they are in anger, but this fire is cold compared with the burning blaze of wood and coal.
No beast will attack mankind when protected by a blazing torch. The gift of Prometheus shows the wisdom of Minerva.
Sources And Further Reading
Project Gutenberg Classic Myths Retold by Mary Catherine Judd with drawings entirely from classic sources