Who was Tantalus? Tantalizing, right? You know it and you don’t.
Well, eternal tantalizing torment was the lot of Tantalus, mythical
Greek king of Phyria. It is said that Tantalus once cut his son and
presented the flesh to the Gods, in a desire to test their
knowledge. Of course, the Gods guessed right and were outraged by
the act. After restoring the son to life, they condemned Tantalus to
an eternity of suffering in Tartarus, the lower depths of the
underworld, said to be reserved for those who defied the gods.
Tantalus was forced to stand up to his neck in water surrounded by
trees overflowing with juicy fruits. Every time he reached for a
fruit, the trees would roll back just out of his reach. Similarly,
whenever he bent to have some water, the water level would drop,
again just low enough for him not to reach. Tantalising. And that’s
how the word came.
There are stories in Greek mythology,
explaining certain phenomena in nature, like the echo and the onset
of summer and winter.
Echo was a young mountain nymph, who was cursed by Hera, the
Queen of the heavens and wife of the supreme ruler, Zeus. Once, in a
fit of anger, Hera cursed that Echo would have the power only to
repeat the last words that were spoken to her. And hence the echo.
As for the fading effect of the echo, there
is an explanation too. Narcissus was the son of the river god
Cephisus. He was said to have been extremely good looking. He was
also very proud and vain. Many women fell in love with him, but he
was too vain to reciprocate. It is said that Echo also fell in love
with Narcissus but was deeply hurt by his coldness. She was so hurt
that she faded away until only her voice remained. Later, Aphrodite,
the goddess of beauty and love punished him by causing him to fall
in love with his own image, which he could not possess. He pined for
the image until he turned into a flower.
The Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud
coined the modern psychological term ‘narcissism’. Narcissists are
people who are obsessed with their looks.
Summer and winter:
Aphrodite was the daughter of Zeus, the supreme ruler of the
gods and human beings. She is said to have been so beautiful and
powerful that she was revered as the goddess of beauty and love.
There once lived a young, handsome young man named Adonis. One day,
a boar injured the young man and he died. His death plunged
Aphrodite into deep sorrow. Moved by her plight, Zeus is said to
have decreed that Adonis could leave the underworld for six months
in the year to return to the earth. According to legend, during the
six months that Adonis returned to earth, the leaves unfurled and
flowers blossomed, while during the six months of his absence the
land remained dead and barren. The coming to earth and the return to
the underworld of Adonis marks the onset of summer and winter,
according to Greek mythology.