Okay, technically, this should be called “Zeus tries to get revenge” but…I’m tweaking the story a lot to make it less misogynistic, and because I was hoping to give Prometheus more of a hand in how it turned out, so…sticking with this title. Anyway, this picks up right from the end of part one.
“That was a pretty clever trick,” Hermes said, looking at the smoke rising from the mortal village. “Maybe I could actually learn from this guy…” It wasn’t often that he met someone who was almost as accomplished a thief as he was!
“Don’t pick up any more bad habits, little brother,” Apollo said, glaring at him. “I don’t want you stealing any more of my possessions.”
“I’ll steal from someone else, then,” Hermes laughed.
“I won’t let him get away with this outrage,” Zeus growled. “He must be punished!”
“It’s only a tiny flame,” Hestia said, stroking his arm consolingly. “And fire always grows to make up for the loss. The winter’s coming on, and the mortals must be cold down on the surface. I’m sure he only wanted to protect them.”
“I had the fire taken away from them to protect Demeter’s forests from those foolish mortals!” Zeus bellowed, making Hestia back away from her brother in terror. “I won’t allow that prattling Titan to get away with defying my will!”
“You were eager enough to listen to him when you thought he had a warning for you about how to keep your uncontrollable lust from getting us all locked up in Tartaros,” Hera snarled at him. “How quickly you change your tune!”
“Maybe if you really want to punish him, you should give him a wife,” Apollo commented, shaking his head. After seeing what his step-mother was like, Apollo had quickly decided that he was never going to marry. In fact, he had decided to stop himself from ever reaching full physical maturity, so no one would ever expect him to marry. If he always looked like a youth, then he’d never look old enough to be a husband. Plus he’d look prettier, which was always nice.
“That’s not a bad idea,” Zeus agreed, with a cold glare at his own wife.
“I don’t think he was serious,” Athene pointed out, but her father wasn’t listening, having immediately leaped upon and embraced the idea.
“We’ll need to create a bride for him! Who can make one?” Zeus asked.
But no one there had the artistic ability to create anything that looked even slightly like a woman.
Hera grinned in a sickly self-satisfied way. “Well, well, well, aren’t you in a pickle, my dear?” she beamed at her husband. “Are you going to give up on your horrible insult to the institution of marriage–to my institution–or are you going to give up and accept back our son even though he’s ugly and crippled? Because despite his appearance, Hephaistos can create the most beautiful works of art, and creating a beautiful woman is child’s play to him.”
“I don’t remember fathering that hideous monstrosity,” Zeus muttered peevishly.
“Whether you remember it or not, you did,” Hera insisted, “unless you’re going to claim that I’ve been unfaithful?” Her words were light, but her tone was a threat.
“No, I’m not going to claim that,” Zeus said, setting a hand to his throat. He had a sudden feeling that Prometheus’ prediction was entirely wrong, and it was his own sister/wife who was going to undo him and send him down to Tartaros…or it might be, if he wasn’t careful. He sighed deeply, then turned to Hermes. “Go to the home of Nereus and fetch your brother Hephaistos. Tell him he can come back to Olympos.”
“Oh, this should be interesting,” Hermes laughed, then raced out of the throne room.
“Father, I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Athene said. “Punishing Prometheus for going against your will is fine, but doing it in this manner…it’s quite unseemly.”
“Can’t we just kill him?” Ares suggested. “We haven’t had any good wars yet!”
“He’s immortal, just as you or I,” Zeus pointed out. “All we could do is throw him into Tartaros. And that one…no, he’d not suffer enough just being thrown into Tartaros. In fact, no matter what happens, we must never throw him there. He’d probably find a way out of it.”
“Do you have some past history with him or something?” Artemis asked. “Your anger seems too much for the crime.”
“Any defiance of my will must be punished, or everyone will defy me!” Zeus roared.
Athene was quite sure that such behavior would only fuel the Titan’s disrespect, but she knew all too well that arguing with her father while he was in such a state of mind would only make him angrier, so she held her tongue, and kept her siblings from voicing their own obvious worries as well. Better to tamper with the Titan’s new “bride” to ensure that things didn’t go as badly awry as they were likely to if their father’s temper held sway than to try and force him to see reason, surely.
Once Hermes returned with Hephaistos, the procedure had to be put on hold while Hera lavished kisses and affection on her long-absent son, a display of motherly love that none of the gods were fooled by–not even Hephaistos himself–that was intended only as a knife in Zeus’ back, and did nothing to sweeten his disposition. Once the nauseating display was finally over, Zeus began to give Hephaistos his instructions for the creation of the bride for Prometheus.
“Make her surpassingly beautiful, to rival even your sisters, so he can’t possibly resist her,” Zeus started out by saying. “Give her the cunning of a vixen, with the wiles of a snake, and the lust of a–of a–”
“Of a husband?” Hera suggested, with a cold laugh.
“Of a woman,” Zeus finished, shaking his head. “There’s nothing lustier than that.”
“News to me,” Artemis muttered.
“Agreed,” Athene said, nodding. Hestia also nodded her assent. Who did he think he was fooling?
“Give her insatiable greed, but disguise it with a veneer of innocence and sweetness,” Zeus finished. “Then send her down to Prometheus to be his bride. The perfect punishment for what he’s done!” Infinitely proud of himself, Zeus left the room.
Hera walked over to her son, who was busily carving the woman’s body out of clay, and set a hand on his shoulder. “If you give her a personality like that, I shall never speak to you again,” she informed him coldly.
“No goddess will,” Artemis added. “Let her have a decent personality. If Father wants to see Prometheus punished, let the punishment be something Prometheus himself initiates.”
“But all those terrible things…I mean…”
“Let’s put them in a casket and send them with her,” Hermes suggested. “As a wedding gift. Then when Prometheus opens it, he still gets the punishment, but it doesn’t come inside his wife. Father still gets what he wants, but Prometheus isn’t actually having to sleep with it.” He did, after all, admire Prometheus’ cunning…
“That’s acceptable,” Hera agreed.
“I’ll make the container myself while you’re working on the bride,” Athene said. “The rest of you round up the terrible things to put inside.”
“I should have kept my mouth shut,” Hermes sighed.
While Hephaistos continued crafting the bride, and Athene made a lovely chest, large enough and strong enough for two people to sit in, the others of the younger generation of gods began to round up the hideous little beings that were the embodiments of every nasty vice. No one was entirely sure where they had come from, but seeing how many there were, they all agreed it was just as well they were going to round them all up and send them to pester Prometheus. Better him than the gods, they all agreed!
Once the horrible little things were locked in the chest, and the bride had been finished, each of the gods gathered round to bring her to life and give her her mind and knowledge. Hephaistos could only imbue her with the basic skills of ambulation and language, being still new to being a god, after all. Hestia gave her the gift of knowledge of hearthcraft, the domestic skills that Hestia herself practiced daily. Athene taught her to weave, and Artemis taught her to be nimble and quick on her feet, capable of catching a small animal herself in need be, even if only a mouse in her pantry. Apollo taught her to play the lyre and sing, and Ares taught her a war dance, which was the closest he could come to teaching her anything that she might actually find useful.
Hermes did as his father had asked him to, and taught her how to lie. Not because his father had asked him to, he explained, but because everyone ought to know how to lie, especially mortals. The goddesses were furious with him, and his sisters began to berate him for undermining all their hard work.
While everyone else was thus distracted, Hera took the bride aside, and quietly taught her what she most needed to know, a bride’s most important duty: the secret relations between husband and wife. The bride was quite red-faced by the time they rejoined the others.
They were almost ready to send her down to meet her new husband when the bride herself asked the most important question: “Who am I?”
None of the gods had thought of that. “Well, you’re the bride of–” Hera started, then stopped, shaking her head. “Your name is Pandora, my dear, because we’ve all given you gifts. You’re the first mortal woman.”
“Why am I the first mortal woman?”
“You just are. Now hurry down to the mortal plane and find yourself a husband,” Hera told her, shooing her towards the door.
“I’ll lead you down,” Hermes offered, taking her hand. “Come with me. Oh, and let’s not forget this! It’s your dowry. Sort of like a wedding present for your husband. But it’s only for your husband to open, not for you,” he added, picking up the chest in his other hand.
“I’m surprised you can carry that with one hand,” Pandora commented, looking at the massive chest.
“Well, I am a god!” Hermes laughed.
“But you’re so scrawny!”
Pandora’s innocent comment made Ares laugh so hard he nearly hurt himself. A scowling Hermes dragged a confused Pandora down from Mt. Olympos and towards the shack occupied by Prometheus and Epimetheus.
Once they reached the hut, Hermes set down the chest, released Pandora, and knocked on the door. “I’m sure you’ll find your husband within,” he said, then dashed off even before the door could be opened.
However, it was Epimetheus who opened the door. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “You’re not my brother.”
“No, I’m Pandora,” she replied, confused. “Are you my husband?”
“No, I’m Epimetheus. Who’s your husband?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t married him yet,” Pandora explained.
“So am I,” Pandora admitted. “I was only just born.”
Epimetheus, touched by her sad eyes and beautiful face, let Pandora inside the house, and she told him all about her troubles–such as they were–and he told her all about his troubles, and by the time the telling was over, they were deeply in love.
The next morning, when Prometheus returned from the village of the bronze men, he was surprised to see a wooden chest with ornate carvings outside his door. Going inside, he found a strange woman in bed with his brother.
“What’s going on in here?” he asked. “I told you not to open the door until I got back!”
“I know, but it’s all right,” Epimetheus said.
“Who is this woman?”
“This is my wife, Pandora,” Epimetheus explained.
“Your what?! Since when are you married?!”
“Since last night.”
Prometheus grimaced, and massaged his temples with his hand. “Brother, what were you thinking? After I told you not to let anyone inside, you let in a strange woman and now you think you’ve married her?”
“Oh, but I did! We–”
“Yes, I know what you did, but that doesn’t–”
“It’s all right,” Pandora suddenly said. “The gods told me to get married.”
“The gods?” Prometheus repeated, looking at her with a new alarm. “Which gods?”
“All of them. They gave me gifts and told me to come here and get married.”
“She has to leave right now,” Prometheus said, pointing at the door. “This is some kind of trap.”
“Are you jealous, brother?” Epimetheus laughed. “Because I have a beautiful wife and you don’t?”
Prometheus scowled. Trying to make his idiot brother understand anything was like pulling nostril hairs: slow, painful and pointless. “What were these gifts the gods gave you?” he asked Pandora. “They’re in that chest out there, right? What are they?”
“I don’t know,” Pandora replied. “They called it my dowry and said I wasn’t to open it. I suppose it must be very valuable if only my husband is allowed to open it.”
“Valuable,” Prometheus repeated slowly. “Probably not the right word for it, if the gods sent it down here for your husband,” he said, shaking his head. The question even he couldn’t answer, of course, was why the gods would want to saddle his idiot brother with a wife; just what treachery was Zeus plotting through this woman? “Neither of you is to touch that chest,” he told them both firmly. “No matter what you do, leave it alone.”
“Of course, brother,” Epimetheus assured him, with a good-natured smile. “I always do just as you say.”
“Except when you open the door to strange women and let them in to marry them,” Prometheus grumbled, leaving the shack again. This was no good. He needed an ally. He needed someone to look after things when he wasn’t around to babysit his brother.
He needed a wife of his own.
As Prometheus headed off in search of a bride, Zeus looked down at the shack and scowled. “That idiot woman married the wrong one!” he exclaimed. “Hermes, why weren’t you more careful?!”
“If I’d hung around, they’d never have even opened up the door,” Hermes pointed out. “Those two don’t trust us an inch, Father.”
Zeus shook his head. “What’s in that chest, anyway?”
“Oh, some of the, ah, negative character flaws you wanted for the bride didn’t quite fit inside a mortal woman’s frame,” Hermes explained smoothly, “so we stuck them in there instead. They’ll get out as soon as the chest is opened, and then they’ll plague Prometheus just as neatly as they would have even if he’d married her himself.”
“Well, get down there and make sure they open it, then!”
“Yes, you!” Zeus roared at him.
“Why do I have to do all the work around here?” Hermes sighed miserably, even as he took on the illusion of being one of the bronze men, and headed down towards the mortal plane. Since they thought he was one of the bronze men from the village, Epimetheus and Pandora were completely at ease around him, and allowed him to walk right up to them. “What’s this chest?” he asked them.
“Oh, it’s my dowry,” Pandora told him, smiling sweetly.
“What’s inside?” Hermes asked.
“I don’t know. Only my husband can open it.”
“It must be valuable, don’t you think?” Hermes prompted. “You should open it and find out.”
“My brother told me not to open it,” Epimetheus said, nodding his head firmly. “I’m a good brother. I do what I’m told.”
“Why does your brother get to tell you what to do?” Hermes asked as the bronze man. “Did he make you the way he made us?”
Epimetheus laughed. “No, no, our father made us–er, well, no, I guess our mother made us? Well, I guess you’d say that my brother and I are like–well, my brother is to me what the other bronze men are to you.”
“Then there’s no reason you should have to do as he tells you to,” Hermes replied smoothly.
“That does make sense,” Pandora agreed. “After all, if you’ve got a wife and he doesn’t, doesn’t that make you better than him?” She was, after all, rather curious as to what was in the chest. Hermes had given her curiosity as well as the ability to lie, because that, too, was something he felt that all mortals needed.
“Well…I…I don’t know…” Epimetheus looked at the chest hesitantly.
Hermes was about to press the issue, but suddenly heard Prometheus returning, and quickly excused himself. His disguise was easily able to fool the dimwitted Epimetheus, but Prometheus? Never. Even if Prometheus hadn’t personally crafted each of the bronze men, he still would have seen through Hermes’ disguise easily enough, through his sheer wit.
“I planted the seeds of curiosity in them,” Hermes told his father as he returned to Mt. Olympos, “so I think it’s just a matter of time now. Sooner or later, one of them is bound to open that chest.”
Zeus didn’t seem to share his son’s optimism, however, and was deeply angered that Prometheus had managed to procure himself a beautiful and devoted wife who seemed in every way to be the complete antithesis of everything that Zeus had wanted Pandora to be.
For some time, the chest lay untouched by the door to the shack, and although both Epimetheus and Pandora cast longing looks at it, no one dared speak of it, because Prometheus and his wife were always watching, and they would scowl at the foolish pair if they came anywhere near the chest.
But then–as will happen in a marriage–Prometheus’ wife became pregnant.
As soon as she was ready to give birth, Epimetheus was booted out of the shack, told he would only get in the way. But Pandora, too, soon saw she was not needed, and slipped outside, closing the door behind her.
“This is our only chance to see what the gods gave us,” she whispered to her husband. “If we only open it a crack, I’m sure Prometheus won’t find out.”
“You really think so?”
“You don’t want to know?”
“Well, yes, of course I do, but…I told him I wouldn’t open it,” Epimetheus answered. “And the gods are our enemies.”
“But what if that’s their peace offering? After all, didn’t they send me down here to marry you? Wasn’t that the reason why, to show that they’re not mad anymore? I don’t see any other reason they could have made me just for you.” Even though Prometheus would have accused her of lying, Pandora was telling the honest truth: she believed that she had been created just to make Epimetheus happy, just as he made her happy. She was, after all, still very young, and very naive.
“I suppose that’s true,” Epimetheus admitted. “And a little peek can’t hurt, surely…”
“I’ll even help you with it, so he can’t be mad at you alone,” Pandora offered.
Epimetheus smiled at his pretty wife, and they held hands for a moment, then together they opened the lid on the chest just a tiny bit. But tiny as it was, that was enough. The horrible things inside–impatient after their long confinement–burst forth and all escaped at once, flying off this way and that, mostly towards the village of bronze men.
The horrible little vices tried to bite the bronze men, but they couldn’t, because their stingers couldn’t pierce the bronze skin. The stingers could go through the skin of Epimetheus and Pandora, though, and they rushed inside the shack instantly, shrieking.
Once inside, they had to explain, shame-facedly, what they had done.
Prometheus was disgusted by his brother’s behavior, but not terribly surprised by it.
“Frankly,” he admitted, “I’m just relieved it wasn’t anything worse than that in the chest. Perhaps they underestimated the hardiness of my mortals.”
“I don’t think our son will be hardy enough to stand up to those things,” his wife said, cradling the newborn infant to her chest.
Prometheus glanced at her, and nodded. “Yes, you and Deucalion had better stay inside from now on,” he agreed. “You as well, Pandora; you’re mortal, and thin-skinned, unlike my bronze men.”
“You’re not mad, brother?” Epimetheus asked.
“Of course I’m mad, but there’s no point doing anything about it,” Prometheus sighed. “Better to store up my anger and vent it at Zeus next time I have a chance. This is all his doing, after all.”
“You’re going to get yourself into serious trouble, my love,” his wife said. “You shouldn’t do anything to anger him further.”
“I’m going to do whatever I please, and then revel in it when he brings about his own downfall!” Prometheus announced. “And as far as I can tell, that’s still quite on schedule. It will be an entertaining show, I’m sure.”
Okay, abrupt ending, I know. Sorry about that. Anyway, I’m also sorry to make so many huge changes, but…well, I had to remedy the misogyny somehow! (If you are, somehow, unaware of the misogyny of which I speak, consult Hesiod’s Theogony regarding the tale of Pandora, and cringe in horror at the depths of misogyny to which that man could sink. I mean, I know the culture itself was misogynistic, but I do think that Hesiod himself was more misogynistic than most of his fellows. Maybe that’s just me, but that’s the impression I got from…I think I got that impression from the Works & Days rather than the Theogony? Well, I got it somewhere, and very firmly.)
As was probably painfully obvious, I left out Aphrodite in the “giving Pandora gifts” sequence. This was in order to avoid having any excessive conflicts with the various stories in “Tales of Aphrodite“. Admittedly, none of those were being presented as “true” for this version of the myths, but if we’re to take any of those as even possibly true, then one or more of them might conflict with her being present for Pandora’s creation. I thought it best to just sidestep the whole issue by leaving her out, even though ideally she would be present here. But if the most familiar version–the one in the Odyssey–is the one we’re going with, then she can’t be here, y’know? As always, these stories really aren’t all supposed to be lined up into one giant whole…
Anyway, you may have also noticed that I didn’t mention the name of Prometheus’ wife. This was not accidental, nor was it due to my own personal ignorance. It was, rather, due to modern scholarship having no freakin’ clue what his wife’s name was…because even the ancient Greeks weren’t quite sure. For a very comprehensive discussion of the subject, check out this recent blog post. I could have just picked one of the possible names and gone with it, but…given how little mention she actually got, it seemed simplest just not to use a name.
Anyway, next week we’ll get to the part of the story I actually wanted to tell in the first place.