107. Achelous and Perimela

Once upon a time, Theseus and his friends stayed as guests, in the home of the river-god Achelous, who treated them hospitably with a lavish banquet. Achelous recounted the story of the Echinades, and how the five islands were previously five Naiads. Theseus and all his companions were greatly amazed at this story. Then pointing beyond the Echinades, to a far withdrawn and beautiful island, Achelous said that mariners called the island as Perimela.

Sorrowfully, Achelous related that he fell in love with the fair nymph Perimela, the daughter of Hippodamas, and secretly consorted with her. When Perimela was heavy with child, Hippodamas was enraged and from a rock jutting out in the sea, cruelly pushed her to perish amidst the deep waves of the pitiless sea.

Achelous saved the drowning Perimela by helping her to keep afloat on his tide, while she struggled to swim. Imploring Neptune, the trident-wielder and ruler of the flowing deep, Achelous fervently prayed that may Neptune grant his desire of saving Perimela. Achelous had been the cause of Perimela’s suffering and now, Achelous desired to alleviate her suffering by saving her.

He wished that if only her father Hippodamas, would have known of his deep love for her daughter, then he would have been just, kind and forgiving. Achelous beseeched Neptune to find a safe place for Perimela, the helpless nymph abandoned to the mercy of the deep waves. If it was not possible to find a safe place for her, then let her herself become a place of safety.

With such pleading words, Achelous prayed to Neptune, who granted his prayer. Achelous was supporting Perimela from drowning when he found her soft body turning hard, her supple limbs becoming stiff, and new soil enclosing her entire body. Perimela had been transformed to a hard new soil, from which grew up the safe island, as fair and lovely as beautiful Perimela was.

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