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From Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 to 10.
Eurylochus and his followers now passed under a lofty portal, and looked
through the open doorway into the interior of the palace. The first
thing that they saw was a spacious hall, and a fountain in the middle
of it, gushing up towards the ceiling out of a marble basin, and falling
back into it with a continual plash. The water of this fountain, as it
spouted upward, was constantly taking new shapes, not very distinctly,
but plainly enough for a nimble fancy to recognize what they were. Now
it was the shape of a man in a long robe, the fleecy whiteness of which
was made out of the fountain's spray; now it was a lion, or a tiger, or
a wolf, or an ass, or, as often as anything else, a hog, wallowing in
the marble basin as if it were his sty. It was either magic or some very
curious machinery that caused the gushing waterspout to assume all
these forms. But, before the strangers had time to look closely at
this wonderful sight, their attention was drawn off by a very sweet and
agreeable sound. A woman's voice was singing melodiously in another room
of the palace, and with her voice was mingled the noise of a loom, at
which she was probably seated, weaving a rich texture of cloth, and
intertwining the high and low sweetness of her voice into a rich tissue
By and by, the song came to an end; and then, all at once, there were
several feminine voices, talking airily and cheerfully, with now and
then a merry burst of laughter, such as you may always hear when three
or four young women sit at work together.
"What a sweet song that was!" exclaimed one of the voyagers.
"Too sweet, indeed," answered Eurylochus, shaking his head. "Yet it
was not so sweet as the song of the Sirens, those bird-like damsels who
wanted to tempt us on the rocks, so that our vessel might be wrecked,
and our bones left whitening along the shore."
"But just listen to the pleasant voices of those maidens, and that buzz
of the loom, as the shuttle passes to and fro," said another comrade.
"What a domestic, household, home-like sound it is! Ah, before that
weary siege of Troy, I used to hear the buzzing loom and the women's
voices under my own roof. Shall I never hear them again? nor taste those
nice little savory dishes which my dearest wife knew how to serve up?"
"Tush! we shall fare better here," said another. "But how innocently
those women are babbling together, without guessing that we overhear
them! And mark that richest voice of all, so pleasant and so familiar,
but which yet seems to have the authority of a mistress among them. Let
us show ourselves at once. What harm can the lady of the palace and her
maidens do to mariners and warriors like us?"
"Remember," said Eurylochus, "that it was a young maiden who beguiled
three of our friends into the palace of the king of the Laestrygons, who
ate up one of them in the twinkling of an eye."
No warning or persuasion, however, had any effect on his companions.
They went up to a pair of folding doors at the farther end of the hall,
and throwing them wide open, passed into the next room. Eurylochus,
meanwhile, had stepped behind a pillar. In the short moment while the
folding doors opened and closed again, he caught a glimpse of a very
beautiful woman rising from the loom, and coming to meet the poor
weather-beaten wanderers, with a hospitable smile, and her hand
stretched out in welcome. There were four other young women, who joined
their hands and danced merrily forward, making gestures of obeisance to
the strangers. They were only less beautiful than the lady who seemed to
be their mistress. Yet Eurylochus fancied that one of them had sea-green
hair, and that the close-fitting bodice of a second looked like the bark
of a tree, and that both the others had something odd in their aspect,
although he could not quite determine what it was, in the little while
that he had to examine them.
The folding doors swung quickly back, and left him standing behind the
pillar, in the solitude of the outer hall. There Eurylochus waited until
he was quite weary, and listened eagerly to every sound, but without
hearing anything that could help him to guess what had become of his
friends. Footsteps, it is true, seemed to be passing and repassing, in
other parts of the palace. Then there was a clatter of silver dishes,
or golden ones, which made him imagine a rich feast in a splendid
banqueting hall. But by and by he heard a tremendous grunting and
squealing, and then a sudden scampering, like that of small, hard hoofs
over a marble floor, while the voices of the mistress and her four
handmaidens were screaming all together, in tones of anger and derision.
Eurylochus could not conceive what had happened, unless a drove of
swine had broken into the palace, attracted by the smell of the feast.
Chancing to cast his eyes at the fountain, he saw that it did not shift
its shape, as formerly, nor looked either like a long-robed man, or
a lion, a tiger, a wolf, or an ass. It looked like nothing but a hog,
which lay wallowing in the marble basin, and filled it from brim to
But we must leave the prudent Eurylochus waiting in the outer hall, and
follow his friends into the inner secrecy of the palace. As soon as the
beautiful woman saw them, she arose from the loom, as I have told you,
and came forward, smiling, and stretching out her hand. She took the
hand of the foremost among them, and bade him and the whole party
"You have been long expected, my good friends," said she. "I and my
maidens are well acquainted with you, although you do not appear to
recognize us. Look at this piece of tapestry, and judge if your faces
must not have been familiar to us."
So the voyagers examined the web of cloth which the beautiful woman
had been weaving in her loom; and, to their vast astonishment, they saw
their own figures perfectly represented in different colored threads. It
was a life-like picture of their recent adventures, showing them in the
cave of Polyphemus, and how they had put out his one great moony eye;
while in another part of the tapestry they were untying the leathern
bags, puffed out with contrary winds; and farther on, they beheld
themselves scampering away from the gigantic king of the Laestrygons,
who had caught one of them by the leg. Lastly, there they were, sitting
on the desolate shore of this very island, hungry and downcast, and
looking ruefully at the bare bones of the stag which they devoured
yesterday. This was as far as the work had yet proceeded; but when the
beautiful woman should again sit down at her loom, she would probably
make a picture of what had since happened to the strangers, and of what
was now going to happen.
"You see," she said, "that I know all about your troubles; and you
cannot doubt that I desire to make you happy for as long a time as you
may remain with me. For this purpose, my honored guests, I have ordered
a banquet to be prepared. Fish, fowl, and flesh, roasted, and in
luscious stews, and seasoned, I trust, to all your tastes, are ready to
be served up. If your appetites tell you it is dinner time, then come
with me to the festal saloon."
At this kind invitation, the hungry mariners were quite overjoyed;
and one of them, taking upon himself to be spokesman, assured their
hospitable hostess that any hour of the day was dinner time with them,
whenever they could get flesh to put in the pot, and fire to boil it
with. So the beautiful woman led the way; and the four maidens (one of
them had sea-green hair, another a bodice of oak bark, a third sprinkled
a shower of water drops from her fingers' ends, and the fourth had some
other oddity, which I have forgotten), all these followed behind, and
hurried the guests along, until they entered a magnificent saloon. It
was built in a perfect oval, and lighted from a crystal dome above.
Around the walls were ranged two and twenty thrones, overhung by
canopies of crimson and gold, and provided with the softest of cushions,
which were tasselled and fringed with gold cord. Each of the
strangers was invited to sit down; and there they were, two and twenty
storm-beaten mariners, in worn and tattered garb, sitting on two and
twenty cushioned and canopied thrones, so rich and gorgeous that the
proudest monarch had nothing more splendid in his stateliest hall.
Then you might have seen the guests nodding, winking with one eye, and
leaning from one throne to another, to communicate their satisfaction in
"Our good hostess has made kings of us all," said one. "Ha! do you
smell the feast? I'll engage it will be fit to set before two and twenty
"I hope," said another, "it will be, mainly, good substantial joints,
sirloins, spareribs, and hinder quarters, without too many kickshaws. If
I thought the good lady would not take it amiss, I should call for a fat
slice of fried bacon to begin with."
Ah, the gluttons and gormandizers! You see how it was with them. In the
loftiest seats of dignity, on royal thrones, they could think of nothing
but their greedy appetite, which was the portion of their nature that
they shared with wolves and swine; so that they resembled those vilest
of animals far more than they did kings--if, indeed, kings were what
they ought to be.
But the beautiful woman now clapped her hands; and immediately there
entered a train of two and twenty serving man, bringing dishes of the
richest food, all hot from the kitchen fire, and sending up such a steam
that it hung like a cloud below the crystal dome of the saloon. An equal
number of attendants brought great flagons of wine, of various kinds,
some of which sparkled as it was poured out, and went bubbling down the
throat; while, of other sorts, the purple liquor was so clear that you
could see the wrought figures at the bottom of the goblet. While the
servants supplied the two and twenty guests with food and drink, the
hostess and her four maidens went from one throne to another, exhorting
them to eat their fill, and to quaff wine abundantly, and thus to
recompense themselves, at this one banquet, for the many days when they
had gone without a dinner. But whenever the mariners were not looking at
them (which was pretty often, as they looked chiefly into the basins
and platters), the beautiful woman and her damsels turned aside, and
laughed. Even the servants, as they knelt down to present the dishes,
might be seen to grin and sneer, while the guests were helping
themselves to the offered dainties.
And, once in a while, the strangers seemed to taste something that they
did not like.
"Here is an odd kind of spice in this dish," said one. "I can't say it
quite suits my palate. Down it goes, however."
"Send a good draught of wine down your throat," said his comrade on
the next throne. "That is the stuff to make this sort of cookery relish
well. Though I must needs say, the wine has a queer taste too. But the
more I drink of it, the better I like the flavor."
Whatever little fault they might find with the dishes, they sat at
dinner a prodigiously long while; and it would really have made you
ashamed to see how they swilled down the liquor and gobbled up the food.
They sat on golden thrones, to be sure; but they behaved like pigs in a
sty; and, if they had had their wits about them, they might have guessed
that this was the opinion of their beautiful hostess and her maidens. It
brings a blush into my face to reckon up, in my own mind, what mountains
of meat and pudding, and what gallons of wine, these two and twenty
guzzlers and gormandizers ate and drank. They forgot all about their
homes, and their wives and children, and all about Ulysses, and
everything else, except this banquet, at which they wanted to keep
feasting forever. But at length they began to give over, from mere
incapacity to hold any more.
"That last bit of fat is too much for me," said one.
"And I have not room for another morsel," said his next neighbor,
heaving a sigh. "What a pity! My appetite is as sharp as ever."
In short, they all left off eating, and leaned back on their thrones,
with such a stupid and helpless aspect as made them ridiculous to
behold. When their hostess saw this, she laughed aloud; so did her four
damsels; so did the two and twenty serving men that bore the dishes, and
their two and twenty fellows that poured out the wine. And the louder
they all laughed, the more stupid and helpless did the two and twenty
gormandizers look. Then the beautiful woman took her stand in the middle
of the saloon, and stretching out a slender rod (it had been all the
while in her hand, although they never noticed it till this moment), she
turned it from one guest to another, until each had felt it pointed at
himself. Beautiful as her face was, and though there was a smile on it,
it looked just as wicked and mischievous as the ugliest serpent that
ever was seen; and fat-witted as the voyagers had made themselves, they
began to suspect that they had fallen into the power of an evil-minded
"Wretches," cried she, "you have abused a lady's hospitality; and in
this princely saloon your behavior has been suited to a hog-pen. You are
already swine in everything but the human form, which you disgrace, and
which I myself should be ashamed to keep a moment longer, were you to
share it with me. But it will require only the slightest exercise of
magic to make the exterior conform to the hoggish disposition. Assume
your proper shapes, gormandizers, and begone to the sty!"
Uttering these last words, she waved her wand; and stamping her foot
imperiously, each of the guests was struck aghast at beholding, instead
of his comrades in human shape, one and twenty hogs sitting on the same
number of golden thrones. Each man (as he still supposed himself to be)
essayed to give a cry of surprise, but found that he could merely grunt,
and that, in a word, he was just such another beast as his companions.
It looked so intolerably absurd to see hogs on cushioned thrones, that
they made haste to wallow down upon all fours, like other swine. They
tried to groan and beg for mercy, but forthwith emitted the most awful
grunting and squealing that ever came out of swinish throats. They would
have wrung their hands in despair, but, attempting to do so, grew all
the more desperate for seeing themselves squatted on their hams, and
pawing the air with their fore trotters. Dear me! what pendulous ears
they had! what little red eyes, half buried in fat! and what long
snouts, instead of Grecian noses!
But brutes as they certainly were, they yet had enough of human nature
in them to be shocked at their own hideousness; and still intending to
groan, they uttered a viler grunt and squeal than before. So harsh and
ear-piercing it was, that you would have fancied a butcher was sticking
his knife into each of their throats, or, at the very least, that
somebody was pulling every hog by his funny little twist of a tail.
"Begone to your sty!" cried the enchantress, giving them some smart
strokes with her wand; and then she turned to the serving men--"Drive
out these swine, and throw down some acorns for them to eat."
The door of the saloon being flung open, the drove of hogs ran in
all directions save the right one, in accordance with their hoggish
perversity, but were finally driven into the back yard of the palace. It
was a sight to bring tears into one's eyes (and I hope none of you will
be cruel enough to laugh at it), to see the poor creatures go snuffing
along, picking up here a cabbage leaf and there a turnip top, and
rooting their noses in the earth for whatever they could find. In their
sty, moreover, they behaved more piggishly than the pigs that had been
born so; for they bit and snorted at one another, put their feet in the
trough, and gobbled up their victuals in a ridiculous hurry; and, when
there was nothing more to be had, they made a great pile of themselves
among some unclean straw, and fell fast asleep. If they had any human
reason left, it was just enough to keep them wondering when they should
be slaughtered, and what quality of bacon they should make.
Meantime, as I told you before, Eurylochus had waited, and waited,
and waited, in the entrance hall of the palace, without being able to
comprehend what had befallen his friends. At last, when the swinish
uproar resounded through the palace, and when he saw the image of a hog
in the marble basin, he thought it best to hasten back to the vessel,
and inform the wise Ulysses of these marvelous occurrences. So he ran as
fast as he could down the steps, and never stopped to draw breath till
he reached the shore.
"Why do you come alone?" asked King Ulysses, as soon as he saw him.
"Where are your two and twenty comrades?"
At these questions, Eurylochus burst into tears.
"Alas!" he cried, "I greatly fear that we shall never see one of their
Then he told Ulysses all that had happened, as far as he knew it, and
added that he suspected the beautiful woman to be a vile enchantress,
and the marble palace, magnificent as it looked, to be only a dismal
cavern in reality. As for his companions, he could not imagine what had
become of them, unless they had been given to the swine to be devoured
alive. At this intelligence, all the voyagers were greatly affrighted.
But Ulysses lost no time in girding on his sword, and hanging his bow
and quiver over his shoulders, and taking a spear in his right hand.
When his followers saw their wise leader making these preparations, they
inquired whither he was going, and earnestly besought him not to leave
"You are our king," cried they; "and what is more, you are the wisest
man in the whole world, and nothing but your wisdom and courage can get
us out of this danger. If you desert us, and go to the enchanted palace,
you will suffer the same fate as our poor companions, and not a soul of
us will ever see our dear Ithaca again."
"As I am your king," answered Ulysses, "and wiser than any of you, it
is therefore the more my duty to see what has befallen our comrades, and
whether anything can yet be done to rescue them. Wait for me here until
tomorrow. If I do not then return, you must hoist sail, and endeavor to
find your way to our native land. For my part, I am answerable for the
fate of these poor mariners, who have stood by my side in battle,
and been so often drenched to the skin, along with me, by the same
tempestuous surges. I will either bring them back with me, or perish."
Had his followers dared, they would have detained him by force. But King
Ulysses frowned sternly on them, and shook his spear, and bade them stop
him at their peril. Seeing him so determined, they let him go, and sat
down on the sand, as disconsolate a set of people as could be, waiting
and praying for his return.
It happened to Ulysses, just as before, that, when he had gone a few
steps from the edge of the cliff, the purple bird came fluttering
towards him, crying, "Peep, peep, pe--weep!" and using all the art it
could to persuade him to go no farther.
"What mean you, little bird?" cried Ulysses. "You are arrayed like a
king in purple and gold, and wear a golden crown upon your head. Is it
because I too am a king, that you desire so earnestly to speak with me?
If you can talk in human language, say what you would have me do."
"Peep!" answered the purple bird, very dolorously. "Peep, peep,
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