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Retold by Padric Colum

The ILIAD has been called “the greatest war story ever written.” Can you tell why?
The war described here as between Greece and Troy. The Trojan prince Paris had stolen Helen from her husband Menelaos, and the Greeks declared war against Troy, which as ruled by Priam. Achilles, one of the most valiant warriors of the Greek army, lost his dearest friend Patroklos who was slain by Priam’s eldest single, Achilles challenged Hector to a single combat, An account of the combat and it’s consequences is given here.
King Priam on his tower saw Achilles come raging across the plain and he cried out to Hector,” Hector, beloved son, do not await this man’s onset but come within the City’s walls. Come within that thou mayst women of Troy, And within that thou mayst save thy father who must perish if thou art slain.”
But Hector would not come within the alls of the City. He stood holding his shield against a jutting tower in the wall. And all around him were the Trojans, who came pouring in through the gate without waiting to seek to each other to ask who were slain. And as he stood there he was saying in his heart, “The fault is mine that the Trojans have been defeated upon the plain. I keep them from entering the City last night against the counsel of a wise man for in my pride I thought would be easy to drive Achilles and the Greeks back again and defeat them utterly and destroy their hopes of return. Now are the Trojans defeated and dishonored and many have lost their lives through my pride. Now the women of Troy will say, “Hector, by trusting to his own might, has brought destruction upon the whole host and our husbands and sins and brothers have perished because of him.” Rather than hear them say this I shall face Achilles and slay him and save the City, or, if is must be, perished by his spear.”

When Achilles came near him Hector spoke to him and said, : My heart bids me stand against thee although thou art a mightier man than i. But before we go into battle let us take pledges, one from the other, with the gods to witness, that, if I should slay thee, I shall not carry thy body into the City but shall not carry thy body into his hands his own great spear, “ and he stood guarding himself with his shield and watching Hector for a spot to strike him on. Now in the armor that Hector wore – the armor that he had stripped off Patroklos – there was a point at the neck where there was an opening. As Hector came in Achilles drove at his spear and struck him and Hector fell in the dust.
Then Achilles stripped from him the armor that Patroklos had worn. The other captains of the Greeks came up and looked at hector where he lay and all marveled at his size and strength and goodliness. And Achilles dragged the body at his chariot and drove away towards the ships.

Hector’s mother, standing on hw tower on the wall, saw all that as done and she broke into a great cry. And all the women of Troy took up the cry and wailed for Prince Hector who had guarded them and their city from the terrible thing that had happened. She was in the inner chamber of Hector’s house, weaving a great web of cloth and bordering it with flowers, and she had ordered her handmaidens to heat water for the bath, so that Hector might refresh himself when he came in from the fight. But now she heard the wail of the women of Troy. Fear came upon her, for she knew that such wailing was for the best of their warriors.

She ran from her chamber and out into the street and came to the battlement where the people stood watching. She saw the chariot of Achilles dashing off towards the ships and she knew that it dragged the dead body of Hector. Then darkness came before her eye’s and she fainted away. Her husband’s sisters and his brother’s wives thronged round her and lifted her up. And at last her life came back to her and she wailed for Hector, “O my husband,” she cried, “ for misery were we two born! Now thou hast been slain by Achilles and I am left husbandless? And ah, woe for our young child! Hardhearted strangers shall oppress him hen he lives among people that care not to him or his. And he will come weeping to me, his widowed mother, who will live forever sorrowful thinking upon where thou liest, Hector, by the ships of those who slew thee.”
So Andromache spoke and all the women of Troy joined in her grief and wept for great Hector who had protected their City.”
Now that Hector was dead, King Priam, his father, had only one thought in his mind, and that was to get his body from Achilles and bring it into the City so that it might be treated with the honor befitting the man who had been the guardian of Troy. And while he sat in his grief, thinking of his obles son lying so far from those who would have wept over him, behold! There appeared before him Iris, the messenger of Zeus, the greatest of the gods. Iris said to him, “King, thou myst ransom from Achilles the body of Hector, thy noble son. Go thou mayst bring back in it the body, and let only one old henchman go with thee to drive the mules.”
Then Priam, when he heard this arose and went into his treasure chamber and took out of his chests twelve beautiful robes; twelve bright colored cloaks; twelve soft coverlets and then ten talents of gold’ he took, too, four cauldrons and two tripods and a wonderful goblet that he men of Thrace had given him when they had come on an embassy to his city. Then he called upon his sons and he bade them make ready the wagon and loaded it with the treasures he had brought out of his treasure chamber.
When the wagon was loaded and the mules were yoked under it, and when Priam and his henchman had mounted the seats, Hekabe, the queen of Hectorm, came with wine and with a golden cup that they might pour out an offering to the gods before they went on their journey; that they might know whether the gods indeed favored it, or whether Priam himself was not going into danger. King Priam took the cup from his wife and he poured out wine from it, and looking towards heaven he prayed, “O Father Zeus, grant that I may find welcome under Achilles’ roof and send, if thou wilt, a bird of omen, so seeking it with mine own eyes I harm will befall on me.” He prayed, and straightaway a great eagle was seen with wide wings spread out above the City, and when they saw the eagle, the hearts of the people were glad for they know that their King would come back safely and with the body of Prince Hector who had guarded Troy.
Now Priam and his henchman drove across the plain of troy and came to the river that flowed across and there they let their mules drink. They were greatly troubled, for dark night was coming and they knew not the way to the hut of Achilles. They were in fear too that some company of armed men would come upon them and slay them for the sake of the treasures they had in the wagon.
The henchman saw a young man coming towards the. And when he reached them he spoke to them kindly and offered to guide them through the camp and to the hut of Achilles. He mounted the wagon and took the reins in his hands and drove the mules. He brought them to the hut of Achilles and carried the gifts they had brought within the hut. “ Know, King Priam,” he said, “that that I am not mortal, but that I am sent by Zeus to help and companion thee upon the way. Go now within the hut and speak to Achilles and ask him, for his father’s sake, to restore to thee the body of Hector, thy son.”
So he spoke and departed and King Prim went within the hut. There great Achilles as sitting and King Prism went to him and knelt before him and clasped the hands of the man who had slain his son. And Achilles wondered when he saw him there, for he did not know how one could have come to his hut and entered without being seen. He knew then that it was one of the gods who had guided this man. Priam spoke to him and said, “Bethink thee, Achilles, upon his own father. He is now of an age with me, and perhaps even now, in thy faraway country, there are those who make suffer pain and misery he may suffer he is happy compared to me, for he knows that thou, his, art still alive. But I no longer have him who was the best of my sons. Now for thy father’s sake have I come to thee, Achilles, to ask for the body of Hector my son, I have come through dangers to take in my hands the hands that slew my son.”
Achilles remembered his father and felt sorrow for the old man who knelt before him. He took King Priam by the hand and raised him up and seated him on the bench beside him. And he wept, remembering old Peleus, his father.
He called his handmaids and bade them take the body of Hector and ash it and wrap it in two of the robes that Priam had brought. Hen they had done all this he took up the body of Hector and laid it himself upon the wagon.
Then he came and said to king priam , “ Thy son is laid upon a brier, and at the break of day thou mayst bring him back to the City. But now eat and rest here for this night.”
King priam ate, and he looked at Achilles and he saw how great and how goodly he was. And Achilles looked at Priam and he saw how noble and how kingly he looked. And this was the firat time that Achilles and Priam the King of Troy really saw each other.
When they gazed on each other King Priam said, “ When thou goest to lie down, lord Achilles, permit me to lie down also. Not once have my eyelids closed in sleep since my son Hector lost his life. And now I have tasted bread and meat and wine for the firt time since, and I could sleep.”
Achilles ordered that a bed be made in the portico for King Priam and his henchman, but before they went Achilles said, “Tell me, King, and tell me truly, for how many days thou desire to make a funeral for Hector? Or so may day’s space I will keep back the battle from the city so that thou mayst make the funeral in space.”
“For nine days we would watch beside Hector’s body and lament fro him; on the tenth day we would have the funeral; on the eleventh day we would make the barrow over him, and on the twelfth day we would fight,” King Priam said.
Even for twelve days I will hold the battle back from the City,” said Achilles.
Then Priam and his henchman went to rest. But in the middle of the night the young msn who had guided him to the hut of Achilles – the god Hermes he was- appeared before his bed and bade him arise and go to the wagon and yoke the mules and drive back to the City with the body of Hector. Priam aroused his henchman and they wagon and with Hermes to guide them they drove back to the City.
And Achilles 9on his bed thought of his own fate – how he too would die in battle, and how for him there would be no father to make lament. But he would be no father to make lament. But he would be laid where he had asked his friends to lay him – beside Patroklos – and over them both the Greeks would raised barrow that would be wondered at in aftertimes.
So Achilles thought and afterwards the arrow fired by Paris struck him as he fought before the gate of the City, and he was slain even on the place where he slew Hector. But the Greek carried off his body and his armor and brought them back to the ships. And Achilles as lamented over, though not by old Peleus, his father. From the depths of the sea came Thetis, his goodness mother, and with her came the Maidens of the Sea. They covered the body Achilles with wonderful raiment and over it they lamented for seventeen days and seventeen nights. On the eighteenth day he was laid in the grave beside Patroklos, his dear friend, and over them both the Greeks raised a barrow that was wondered at in the aftertimes.

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Pedro D. Alarcon
Translated by Armando Zegri

Before Pedro de Alarcon died in 1891 his reputation as an outstanding Spanish writer was firmly established. One of the most popular of his many fine stories “The Stub – Book.’ With his customary delightful humor, De Alarcon tells about a farmer who took so much joy in the fruits of his labor that he actually fell in love with his pumpkins!
“Uncle Buscabeatas’ back began to curve during the period of which I am going to relate, and the reason was that he as sixty years old, forty of which had been spent working in a piece off ground that bordered the banks of the Costilla.
The year he had cultivated on his farm a crop of prodigious pumpkins, as large as those decorative balls on the railing of monumental bridges; and these pumpkins had attained an orange color, both inside and outside, which fact signified that it was now the month of June. “Uncle” Buscabeatas knew each one f them most perfectly by its name, especially the forty specimens that were fattest and richest in color, and which seemed to be saying, “Cook us.” And he spent all his days gazing on them tenderly and sadly exclaiming:
“Soon we shall have to part!”
In the end, he decided, one fine afternoon, on the sacrifice, and pointing to the ripest among his beloved pumpkins, which had cost him so much effort, he pronounced the terrible sentence:
“Tomorrow,” he said, “I will cut this forty, and bring them to the Cadiz market. Happy that man ho will eat them!”
And he talked back into his house with slow steps, and spent the night with the anguish of a father who is going to marry off his daughter on the following day.
“My poor dear pumpkins!” he sighed time and time again, unable to fall asleep. But he then reflected and came to a decision with these words.
“What else can I do but sell them. I cultivated them with that end vie. At least I will realize fifteen duros on them.”
Imagine, then, his extreme astonishment, his unmitigated fury, and his desperation when, going the following morning to the farm, he discovered that he had been robbed during the night of his forty pumpkins. To save further explanation, I will merely say that, like Shakespeare’s Jew, he attained the most sublimely tragic fury, frantically repeating those terrible words of Shylock:
“Oh, if I catch you, if I catch you!”
Then he began to reflect, coldly, and decided that his beloved objects could not yet be in Rota, his native village, where it would be impossible to put them on sale, and where, in addition, pumpkins fetch a very low price.
“They are in Cadiz, as sure as I live!” he deduced, after pondering. “The infamous rogue, robber, robbed me last night at nine or ten o’clock and escape with them at midnight in the cargo boat I will leave this very morning for Cadiz in the hour boat, and I shall be very much surprised if I do not catch the daughters of my labor.”
So saying, he yet remained about twenty minutes in the vicinity of the scene of the catastrophe, as though caressing the multilted plants or counting the missing pumpkins, or planning a species of dire punishments on the culprit, until it was eight o’clock, and he left in the direction of the pier.
The hour boat was almost ready to sail. This humble boat leaves every morning for Cadiz promptly at nine o’clock, conducting passengers just as the cargo boat leaves every night at midnight, with cargo of fruit and vegetables.
It is called the first hour boat, because in this space of time and sometimes even in forty minutes, when the wind is at the stern, it makes the three leagues that separate the ancient town of Duque de Arcos and the old town of Hercules.
That morning at ten-thirty, “Uncle” Buscabeatas paused in front of a vegetable counter in the Cadiz market place, and said to a bored policeman who was standing by:
“Those are my pumpkins. Arrest that man!”
And he pointed to the merchant, utterly surprised and enraged. “Those pumpkins are mine. I brought them…”
“You’ll be able to tell that to the alcalde,” “Uncle” Buscabeatas
“I won’t.”
“You will.”
“You are a thief.”
“You’re a rascal.”
“You should speak with more politeness, less indecency. Men should not talk to each other in this fashion,” the policeman said with extreme calm, punching each of the contestants on the chest.
Meanwhile a crowd had collected, and it was not long before there appeared the police inspector of the public market, the judge of provisions.
The policeman resigned his charges to his superior, and informed the latter of the matter at issue. With a pompous expression, the judge questioned the merchant.
“From whom did you buy those pumpkins?”
“From ‘Uncle’ Fulano, the old man from Rota,” the merchant answered.
“That would be the man!” cried Uncle Buscabeatas. “That’s the fellow I suspected! When his farm which is poor, produce little, he begins to rob his neighbors,”
“But admitting the theory that you have been robbed last night of forty pumpkins,” pursued the judge, turning to the old farmer how could you prove that these, and no others, are yours?”
“Why?” replied “Uncle” Buscabeatas. “Because I know them as well as you kmow see that I have raised them? Look there! This one is called ‘the round fellow,’ and this one, ‘the big belly,” and that one, ‘the red one,’ that one,’ that my youngest daughter.”
And the poor old man began to cry bitterly.
“All this very good,” answered the judge. “But the law does not rest satisfied with the fact that you recognize your pumpkins. It is necessary that authority should be convinced at the same time of the pre-existence of the thing in question, and that you should identify it with indisputable proofs.. Senores, you needn’t smile. I’m a lawyer.
“Well, you will soon see the proofs without leaving this place, that these pumpkins were raised on my farm!” said “Uncle” Buscabeatas, to the great astonishment of the spectators.
And dropping on the ground a package, which he had been carrying in his hand, he knelt till he was able to sit on his feet and then tranquilly began to unite the knots of the handkerchief that held the package.
The astonishment of the judge, the merchant, and the by-standers reached its climax.
“What is he going to take out?” everybody asked.
At the same time, a new curiosity seeker augmented the crowd. Seeing him, the merchant exclaimed:
“I am glad you are here, Uncle’ Fulano1 this man says that the pumpkins which you sold me last night, and which are on this very spot were stolen, you can explain…”
The newcomer turned more yellow than was and tried to escape; but circumstances materially prevented him, and in addition the judge suggested that he remain.
Meanwhile, “Uncle” Buscabeatas confronted the supposed thief, and said:
“You will now see what it good!”
“Uncle” Fulano recovered his composure and explained:
“We will see which of us can prove. For if you cannot prove, and you will not be able to prove your charge, I will have you sent to prison for libel. These pumpkins were mine. I raised them on my ejido farm as I did all the rest I brought this year to Cadiz, and no one can prove the contrary.”
“Now you will see!” repeated “Uncle” Buscabeatas, finishing the untying handkerchief, and opening it.
“Then he scattered on the floor a quantity of pumpkins stalks, still green and exuding sap, while the old farmer, seated on his feet, and half dead with laughter, addressed the following speech to the judge and the spectators:
“Gentlemen, have you ever paid taxes? If you have, have you seen that green book that the tax collector carried, from which receipts are cut, leaving a stub by which it can be proved if such and such receipt is counterfeit or not?”
“What you are about is the stub book,” gravely observed the judge.
“That is what I am carrying with me, the stub book of my garden. That is, the stalks that were attached to these pumpkins before they were attached to these pumpkins before they were stolen from me. And if you do not believe me, look at them. This stalk belonged to this pumpkin. Nobody can doubt it. This one, which is wider, must belong to this other one. Exactly and this one... And that one.. And that one!”
And as he said these words, he fitted a stalk to he hollow remaining in the pumpkin when it was plucked, and with astonishment the spectators perceived that the irregular base of the stem exactly fitted the white and small form of the concavity, which represented what we might call the scars of the pumpkins.
Then all the spectators, including the policeman and the judge himself, crouched low and began to assist “Uncle” Buscabeatas in this singular verification, al’ saying at one and the same time, wit childish glee.
And the laughter of the men blent wit the whistling of the street gamins, with the imprecation of the women, with the tears’ triumph and happiness of the old frame and the shoves given the robber by he policeman anxious to lead hi off to jail.
It is unnecessary to say that this pleasant was granted them: that “Uncle” Buscabeatas returned to Rota with deep satisfaction, though he kept saying all the way.
“How beautiful they looked in the market place! I should have brought back Manuela, so that I might eat her tonight and keep the seeds.”

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Bjornstjerne Bjornson

The Father was the wealthiest and most influential man in town. But there was some thing wanting in his life of which tragedy alone made him aware.
“I think your son has at last brought you a true blessing.”
“Yes. I think so myself.” Said the Father, looking up, while two big tears coursed slowly down his cheeks.
What this blessing was that his son brought him at last is something every man should consider in life.
THE MAN whose story is here to be told was the wealthiest and most influential person in his parish; his name was Thord Overaas. He appeared in the priest’s study one day, tall and earnest.
“I have gotten a son,” said he, “and I wish to present him for baptism.”
“What shall his name be?”
“Finn after my father.”
“And the sponsors?
They were mentioned, and proved to be the best men and women of Thord’s relations in the parish.
“Is there anything else?” inquired the priest.
“There is nothing else?” and the peasant twirled his cap, as though he were about to go.
Then the priest rose. “There is yet this, however,” said he, and walking toward Thord, he took him by the hand and looked gravely by the eyes.
“God grant that the child may become a blessing to you!”
One day sixteen years later, Thord stood once more in the priest’s study.
“Really, you carry your age astonishingly well, Thord,” said the priest; for he saw no change whatever in the man.
“That is because I have no troubles.” Replied Thord.
To this the priest said nothing, but after a while he asked: “What is your pleasure this evening?”
“I have come this evening about that son of mine who is to be confirmed tomorrow.”
“He is a bright boy.”
“I did not wish to pay the priest until I heard what number the boy would have when he takes his place in church tomorrow.”
“He will stand number one.”
“So I have heard; and here are ten dollars for the priest.”
“Is there anything else.”
Thord went out.
Eight years more rolled by, and then one day a noise was heard outside of the priest’s study, for many men were approaching and at their head was Thord, who entered first.
The priest looked up and recognized him.
“You come well attended this evening, Thord,” said he.
“I am here to request that the banns may be published for my son; he is about to marry Karen Storliden, daughter of Gudmund, who stands here beside me.”
“Why, that is the richest girl in the parish.”
“So the say,” replied the peasant, stroking back his hair with one hand.
The priest sat a while as if in deep thought, them entered the names in his book, without making any comments, and the men wrote their signatures underneath. Thord laid three dollars on the table.
“One is all I am to have,” said the priest.
“I know that very well; but he is my only child, I want to do it handsomely.”
The priest took the money.
“This is now the third time, Thord , that you have come here on your son’s account.”
“But now I am through with him,” said Thord, and folding up his pocket book he said farewell and walked away.
The men slowly followed him.
A fortnight later the father and son were rowing across the lake, one calm, still day, to Storliden to make arrangements for the wedding.
“This thwart is not secure,” said the son, and stood up to straighten the seat on which he was sitting.
At the same moment the board he was standing on slipped from under him, he threw out his arms, uttered a shrek, and fell over board.
“Take hold of the oar!” shouted the father, springing to his feet and holding out the oar.
But when the son had made a couple of efforts he grew stiff.
“Wait a moment,” cried a father, and began to row toward his son. Then the son rolled over on his back, gave his father one long look, and sank.
Thord could scarcely believe it; he held the boat still, and stared at the spot where his son had gone down, as through he must surely come to the surface again. There rose some bubbles, the some more, and finally one large one that burst; and the lake lay there as smooth and bright as a mirror again.
For three days and three nights people saw the father-rowing round and round the spot, without taking either food or sleep; he was dragging the lake for the body of his son. And toward morning of the third day he found it, and carried it in his arms up over the hills to his guard.
It might have been about a year from that day, when the priest, late one autumn evening, heard someone in the passage outside of the door, carefully trying to find the latch. The priest opened the door, and in walked a tall, thin man, with bowed form and white hair. The priest looked long at him before he recognized him. It was Thord.
“Are you out walking so late?” said the priest, and stood still in front of him.
“Ah yes! It is late,” said Thord, and took a seat.
The priest sat down also, as though waiting. A long, long silence followed. At last Thord said:
“I have something with me and I should like to give to the poor; I want it to be invested as a legacy in my son’s name.”
He rose, laid some money on the table, and sat dawn again. The priest counted it.
“It is a great deal of money,” said he.
“It is half the price of my grade. I sold it today.”
The priest sat long in silence. At last he asked, but gently:
“Something better.”
They sat there for a while, Thord with downcast eyes, the priest with his eyes fixed on Thord. Presently the priest said, slowly and softly:
“I think your son has at last brought you a true blessing.”
“Yes, I think so myself,” said Thord looking up, while tow big tears coursed slowly down his cheeks.
Modern Norwegian literature reached in full flowering and international status with two of Norway’s literary luminaries. One of the two was Bjornsonstjerne Bjornson.
Bjornson’s writing is characterized as buoyant and cheerful. Never critical in his interpretation of human weaknesses, he seems to be full of understanding and vigor in his treatment of them.
His stories of peasant life reveal his understanding of their natural reserve and their taciturn nature.
As a poet Bjornson is regarded by his own people as the poetic spokesman of Norway.

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“Oh, Father,” said as little Frog to he big one sitting by the side of a pool, “I have seen such a terrible monster! It as as big as a mountain, with horns of its head, and a long tail, and it had hoofs divided in two.”

“Tush, child, tush” said the old frog. “That was only Farmer White Ox. It isn’t so big either; he maybe a little bit taller than I, but I could easily make myself quite as broad; just you see.” So he blew himself out. “Was he as big as that?” asked he.

Oh, much bigger than that,” said the young frog.
Again the old frog blew himself out, and asked the young one if the ox was as big as that.

“Bigger, father, bigger,” was the reply.

So the Frog took a deep breath, and blew and blew, and swelled and swelled. And then he said: “I’m sure the Ox is not as big as– ” But at this moment he burst.

Self-conceit may lead to self-destruction.

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A man and his son were once walking with their Donkey to market. As they ere walking along by its side, a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the man put the boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But as soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster; he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the Man ordered the Boy to get of, and got on himself. But hadn’t gone far when they passed two women. One of them said to the other: “Shame on the lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along!”

Well, the Man didn’t know what to do; but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passerby began to jeer and point them. The Man stopped and asked hat they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of yours – you and your hulking son?”

The Man and the Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought, till at last they cut down a pole and tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to the Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy drop his end of the pole. In the struggled the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his forefoot being tied together, he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:

“Please all, and you will please none.”

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