Greek Myths - Pygmalion and Galatea Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Greek Myths - Pygmalion and Galatea

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Greek Myths: The Origins | Centaurs | The 12 Olympians | Achilles
Gods of Greek Mythology | Heroes of Greek Mythology | The Trojan War
Heracles | Sirens | Prometheus | Perseus | Pygmalion and Galatea
Jason and the Argonauts | The Children of Nyx | Death and the Underworld

Pygmalion was a young sculptor from Cyprus. He was a misogynist and scorned the company of women, preferring to dedicate himself to his art. He saw women as flawed creatures and vowed never to waste any moment of his life with them.

The Statue

Instead he devoted his time, ironically enough, to a statue of a woman. Perhaps he sought to correct in marble the flaws he saw in women of flesh and blood. Whatever the case, he worked so long and with such inspiration on this statue, that it became more beautiful than any maiden that had ever lived or been carved in stone. As he finished the statue's features, they became exquisitely lovely, and he found himself applying the strokes of hammer and chisel with increasing affection. When his chisel finally stopped ringing, there stood before him a woman of such perfection that Pygmalion, who had professed his disdain of all females, fell deeply in love.

His statue seemed not to be of stone, but of flesh temporarily still, as though at any moment it might turn its head and smile at him. But stone it was, and it could not return his kisses or respond to his loving caress. In bitter frustration he embraced the cold marble maid; what irony that he who had scorned women should fall in love with a woman who could never love him in return! He pretended, as a child would, that she was real. He would dress her in fine cloths, and bring her flowers and gifts. He would take her into his bed at night and fall asleep with the sculpture clasped to his body.

Aphrodite's Gift

Such a passion could not go unnoticed by the goddess of love, Aphrodite. She took pity on the young man and, when he went to her temple to sacrifice a bull, Aphrodite gave him a sign. As the offering burned on the temple, the flames shot up one, two, three times. Pygmalion went home, wondering what to make of the manifestation he had seen. When he entered his studio, however, and saw Galatea, all other thoughts were banished from his mind. He ran to his statue and embraced it. Did she seem warm to his touch, or was it just residual heat from the sunset that had warmed the stone? He kissed her. Did the statue's lips seem soft? He stood back and regarded her. Did there appear the glow of life from within the marble form? Was he imagining it? No.

He watched in amazement as Galatea began to move. She stretched her arms above her head as though she were waking from a deep sleep. She turned toward him and smiled, and stepped off her pedestal into his arms.

The goddess Aphrodite herself attended their wedding.

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