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Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

    “As’mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
     Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
     Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes
     Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
     Looked into stone the raging fray; so rose,
     But with no magic arms, wearing alone
     Th’ appalling and control of his firm look,
     The Briton Samor; at his rising awe
     Went abroad, and the riotous hall was mute.”

CHAPTER XVI

MONSTERS

Giants, Sphinx, Pegasus and chimaera, centaurs, griffin, and pygmies

Monsters, in the language of mythology, were beings of unnatural proportions or parts, usually regarded with terror, as possessing immense strength and ferocity, which they employed for the injury and annoyance of men.  Some of them were supposed to combine the members of different animals; such were the Sphinx and Chimaera; and to these all the terrible qualities of wild beasts were attributed, together with human sagacity and faculties.  Others, as the giants, differed from men chiefly in their size; and in this particular we must recognize a wide distinction among them.  The human giants, if so they may be called, such as the Cyclopes, Antaeus, Orion, and others, must be supposed not to be altogether disproportioned to human beings, for they mingled in love and strife with them.  But the superhuman giants, who warred with the gods, were of vastly larger dimensions.  Tityus, we are told, when stretched on the plain, covered nine acres, and Enceladus required the whole of Mount Aetna to be laid upon him to keep him down.

We have already spoken of the war which the giants waged against the gods, and of its result.  While this war lasted the giants proved a formidable enemy.  Some of them, like Briareus, had a hundred arms; others, like Typhon, breathed out fire.  At one time they put the gods to such fear that they fled into Egypt and hid themselves under various forms.  Jupiter took the form of a ram, whence he was afterwards worshipped in Egypt as the god Ammon, with curved horns.  Apollo became a crow, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Juno a cow, Venus a fish, Mercury a bird.  At another time the giants attempted to climb up into heaven, and for that purpose took up the mountain Ossa and piled it on Pelion. [Footnote:  See Proverbial Expressions.] They were at last subdued by thunderbolts, which Minerva invented, and taught Vulcan and his Cyclopes to make for Jupiter.

THE SPHINX

Laius, king of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that there was danger to his throne and life if his new-born son should be suffered to grow up.  He therefore committed the child to the care of a herdsman with orders to destroy him; but the herdsman, moved with pity, yet not daring entirely to disobey, tied up the child by the feet and left him hanging to the branch of a tree.  In this condition the infant was found by a peasant, who carried him to his master and mistress, by whom he was adopted and called OEdipus, or Swollen-foot.

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