8. Phoebus and Daphne

Once upon a time, Phoebus saw the winged Cupid, the son of Venus, bending his small bow. Phoebus had recently killed the Python and filled with pride, he chaffed at Cupid. In contempt, Phoebus told that bow and arrows were used to slay beasts like the Python, and they were not toys for small boys to play with. The undaunted Cupid, the god of love, replied that Phoebus might conquer all the world with his strong arrows, but he, with only a small arrow, could pierce the vaunting breast of Phoebus. Thus, his arrow was stronger and likewise, his glory was greater than the glory of Phoebus, the Python slayer.

So saying, Cupid expanded his wings and flew to the lofty peak of Parnassus. There, from his quiver he plucked two arrows. One arrow was golden with a glittering sharp tip, capable of exciting love; while the other arrow had a dull blunted tip of lead, capable of repelling love. In vengeful spite, Cupid shot Phoebus with the golden bright arrow and the nymph Daphne, daughter of a river-god, with the dull lead arrow. As a result, Phoebus fell in love with Daphne, but Daphne repelled the love of Phoebus.

Phoebus pursued the rose-cheeked Daphne, while the virgin Daphne fled swift as the wind. One chased with love while the other fled with fear, until Phoebus came so close that his hot breath mingled with her perfumed hair.

Pale and faint, Daphne prayed to her father for help. She prayed to mother Earth to cover her, or to destroy her beauty, or to change her body. Even before her prayer ended, her slender body changed to a graceful laurel tree.

The grieving Phoebus, while fondling the tree, declared that the laurel tree shall be his chosen tree. With its leaves, he adorned his quiver, lyre, and wore a crown. Further, he proclaimed that heroes shall wear a laurel crown, and the laurel tree shall remain evergreen. In gratitude, the laurel tree bent her slender branch, and Phoebus felt the graceful nod, as Daphne’s acceptance of his love.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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